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Multilingual Education

Clare Desmelik | Brevard, NC

Part of Mountain Sun Community School’s mission is to cultivate a love of learning through a challenging academic curriculum grounded in mutual respect and a sense of belonging.  Our students, all of us actually, are citizens of the world. So, naturally, challenging our students with language learning fits into our mission perfectamente.  Not only does learning a second, third, or fourth language have cognitive and academic benefits,  it also supports a greater appreciation for other cultures and their people. New languages open doors to life’s rich experiences, broader opportunities, and special relationships. Learning new languages builds bridges and connections to people and places far away, and right here within our community.

Learning a new language improves your attention span, memory, and the ability to multi-task.  Children tend to adjust better to changes in their environment when they are acquiring a new language or if they are multilingual.  Language learning fosters a more open-minded way of thinking and multiplies your perspectives. It also helps you understand the mechanics of your first language better.  

I am excited to be teaching Spanish to all of the Mountain Sun classes. The younger the children are when they are exposed, the better! The younger a language learner is, the less effective filter they have going off in their brain saying, “No…That’s not right, that’s not how it is said or done or pronounced.” There is less fear of giving it a try or feeling like you are going to mess it up or mispronounce. The younger a learner is, the better their pronunciation will naturally be. There are a few students at MSCS who have lived or traveled extensively in Spanish speaking countries and their immersion totally paid off. Hearing the Spanish just roll off their tongues drives home the importance of starting to learn other languages at an early age, although it is never too late to start!  

We certainly have some multicultural loving families here at Mountain Sun. While discussing the countries where Spanish is spoken, I was amazed to learn that in the Acorn class alone there were students who had lived or traveled to Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Panama and one on his way to visit the exchange student who was with Mountain Sun last year from Guatemala! When I asked who wanted to travel to a Spanish speaking country, every hand in the room went up! Si si si si si!

Certainly being able to speak foreign languages will help increase your employment opportunities in the global world we have at our fingertips, but the importance and value reachers way deeper than that. Being able to communicate with people from other backgrounds and cultures creates more empathy, respect, and more global unity. We are ‘all one’ even if we use different words and sounds to communicate with. Consider these intriguing quotes…

“The limits of my language are the limits of my world.”- Ludwig Wittgenstein

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” – Nelson Mandela

“To have another language is to possess a second soul.” – Charlemagne

“The more languages you know, the more you are human.” – Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk

Becoming fluent in a target language can take a long time, lots of dedication, practice, and immersion. We must keep in mind that language is constantly evolving and we all continue to learn our native language as we navigate life’s journey. We do widen our map of pathways with each language we set out to learn. Setting realistic and achievable goals is a rather important component.  This always starts with exposure, with the planting of a seed… will it germinate? That depends on the curiosity of an individual. An individual may wish to be proficient enough to travel to a foreign country, order a coffee or meal, use grace and courtesy while getting from place to place, show culturally accepted respect and kindness to the locals.  Another person may have loftier goals of being able to converse about religion, philosophy, or global warming with a local over that cup of coffee. Being able to speak a different language can mean different things to different people. We definitely have to plant the seed of curiosity and tend to it if we expect it to bloom.

Here at Mountain Sun, our Spanish classes offer exposure to the language in a fun, supportive, patient environment. The seed gets planted and the children are encouraged to water that seed. The first week of school I was walking by the Otter Classroom and I waved and said several greetings in Spanish to the group of children, many who were new faces in Miss Annie and Miss MacKenzie’s class.  I had only had the pleasure of one short Spanish lesson with these children thus far. As I was walking away I heard one of the children get really excited and say, “Hey you guys- there went our ‘Gracias Teacher.’” Hearing a three-year-old refer to me as their ‘Thank you Teacher’ instead of ‘Miss Clare’ or their ‘Spanish Teacher’ was just fine by me.  Kindness has no borders~nor do languages. The more, the merrier. It blends it well and it blooms.