Learning ABCs in Another Language

1 decade 2 years 3 months ago Thursday, July 06 2006 Jul 6, 2006 Thursday, July 06, 2006 7:58:59 PM CDT July 06, 2006 in News

If you listen carefully in this class, you'll hear something foreign going on. It's French before first grade at La Petite Ecole Preschool.

That threw student Charlie Monroe for a loop on his first day of class. "I was like, 'What's going on here? Isn't this an English school or what?'" he asked.

Teacher Joelle Quiorin speaks only in French. The concept is called immersion: talking to kids exclusively in one language. Experts say it's the best way to learn another language.

And, Stephens College education professor Leslie Willey said, research shows immersion puts young kids ahead of their peers because when they pass the age of seven or eight, it's more difficult to learn another language.

For preschoolers, Quiorin makes it sound easy.

"They understand it, much before they can actually produce it and speak it," she explained.

But, learning doesn't end in the classroom. Research also shows these kids have a better chance of learning more later in life.

The greatest advantage is not learning French, Spanish or Swahili. It's about the brain and how it develops. Studies show these kids have a better chance than others their age of thinking outside the box, which convinced Libby Cleavinger's mom.

"People always worry about how we're going to pay for college," said Kate Cleavinger. "But, I think, if you make your investment early in your kid's education, that it pays off big later on."

That investment costs about $3,600 per year at La Petite Ecole Preschool.

"One of the goals is that, to eventually have this be available to a wider segment of the population, to offer scholarships and things of that nature," added Quiorin.

She hopes her students learn their second language this year.

From the sound of it, they're off to a good start.

The French school is the first immersion model in mid-Missouri. It's accepting applications for next year.

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