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Kids just want to say hello and hola! ^ | 11-7-08 | Erin Anderson

Posted on 11/07/2008 1:06:25 PM PST by stan_sipple

The children gather around “Miss Danielle” Buehner.

“Good morning. Buenos dias," she welcomes the preschoolers.

“Buenos dias, Miss Danielle,” they chime.

In this class of 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds, the children come to learn social skills and practice their numbers, colors and thinking skills. They also come to learn a second language — Spanish.

Of the 14 students enrolled in Irving Recreation Center’s dual language preschool, two live in Spanish-speaking homes, two have a bilingual parent, and another with Latino ethnicity was adopted into an Anglo home. All the rest are English-speaking youngsters whose previous exposure to the Spanish language came primarily from a cherub-cheeked cartoon characters — “Dora the Explorer” and “Go Diego Go.”

At the Irving preschool, Spanish words and phrases such as por favor and gracias are just as common as “please” and “thank you.”

The dual language preschool, a first for the Lincoln Parks and Recreation Department, started in September and concludes at the end of the month.

A second session begins in December and runs through May. Families may enroll on a month-to-month basis.

Center Director Dan Payzant pitched the dual language preschool in response to Lincoln’s increasing diversity.

“Our children are raised among an array of cultures, languages and forms of expression,” Payzant said.

Lincoln Public Schools’ 2007-08 Statistical Handbook identifies 50 languages spoken by students. Spanish, by far, is the most prevalent. According to LPS, half of the English Language Learners in the district speak Spanish as their primary language.

Most LPS students don’t take a foreign language class until middle school — which scientists say is well after the window of opportunity to best acquire another language has closed.

Early childhood research shows that between birth and age 7, children will acquire a second language more easily than those who are older. The reason has to do with brain development and the ability of neurons to hear and replicate different sounds.

Children tend to lose that ability between the ages of 8 and 12; learning a new language then becomes more difficult, and their accents sound more foreign than natural.

But the dual language preschool is about much more than learning a second language. Research finds that children who are exposed to more than one language as young children tend to have better cognitive, creative and problem-solving skills than their single-language counterparts.

But most importantly, a dual language preschool introduces children to diversity and teaches them how to understand, accept and tolerate different cultures and different forms of expression, Payzant said.

Stefanie Flodman’s adopted son, Joe, 5, is part Latino. She feels strongly that Joe must grow up knowing and appreciating his heritage. While she and Joe watch television shows that intermingle English and Spanish languages, such as “Dora,” “Diego” and “Handy Manny,” she felt he needed more — especially since Flodman’s Spanish skills are limited. She had to consciously remind herself to use Spanish around Joe.

But at preschool, it’s all very natural.

Miss Danielle leads them in counting: one, two, three, four, five ... and then repeats it in Spanish: uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco ...

“It’s fun for him now,” Flodman said.

In fact, it’s fun for both of them. Flodman greets him every day with hola, and Joe quickly responds with si.

Each week Buehner and her assistant, “Miss Valerie” Hernandez, send home a schedule of planned activities and lessons, along with the Spanish translations that accompany it.

Jodi and Jorge de la Concha use those lists not only to practice with 4-year-old daughter Janessa, but also with their 8-year-old daughter, Josie.

“Josie doesn’t get Spanish at her elementary school, so this helps her also,” says Jodi de la Concha, adding that she wishes there were a similar program for older children.

Jorge de la Concha is from Mexico and speaks fluent Spanish. Jodi de la Concha speaks fluent English.

“It is not the easiest to teach her (Janessa) Spanish when only one parent knows the language,” her mother says.

Janessa really likes preschool. And every day she repeats her new Spanish words to her family when she gets home.

The week of Halloween they learned the colors orange — anaranjado, and yellow — amarillo; and the numbers three (tres) and four (cuatro).

Students use Spanish in every activity. Three-year-old Chandler Dabbs is the day’s official greeter. He welcomes each student with a buenos dias and a handshake. They each respond with buenos dias, Chandler.

“Moy bueno,” Buehner proclaims. “Very good.”

Conner Miller, 3, brings the day’s show-and-tell item and hides it inside a pink-and-purple Dora the Explorer pillow case. His classmates try to guess what’s inside, before Conner excitedly pulls it out.

“I knew it was a book," squeals Josie Marin, 5.

“A picture book. A photo album. Album de fotos,” explains Hernandez.

Inside are pictures of Conner and his family. His mother, Jessica Miller, is from Mexico City. His father, Dan Miller, is American. Both English and Spanish are spoken in the home.

Although Conner could understand Spanish, he had no desire to speak it, Jessica Miller says.

That is, until he started the dual language preschool,

“He’s doing great,” Miller says. “Maybe he needed to see more little kids talking in Spanish. I think that is what made the difference.”

In fact, now it’s time for his dad, Dan Miller, to learn to speak the language.

“Because if Conner wants to be sneaky, he talks in Spanish,” Miller said.

Payzant had high hopes for the program, but his expectations have been exceeded. He recalls a visit during snacktime.

“The children were saying: más jugo, por favor (more juice, please).

“That was not what I was expecting. I walked in and they were throwing out sentences. I thought it would be one word here or there,” Payzant said.

The program’s success gives him high hopes for Lincoln’s youngest generation.

“In the end,” Payzant said, “perhaps the most valuable outcome of a dual language experience in early childhood is that our children might grow up better understanding and accepting one another.”

TOPICS: Education; Local News; Society
KEYWORDS: englishonly; irving; language; lategreatusa; lincoln; multiculturalism; ne; nebraska

1 posted on 11/07/2008 1:06:26 PM PST by stan_sipple
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To: stan_sipple
“Our children are raised among an array of cultures, languages and forms of expression,” Payzant said.

Bullsh-t. You're focusing on Spanish only.

I'll give 'em more cred if they include Mandarin, Arabic, or Dutch.

Yes, Dutch. :)

2 posted on 11/07/2008 1:10:53 PM PST by CE2949BB (Fight.)
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To: CE2949BB

Hopefully we will still get ballots in English when we hand ourselves over to the North American Peace and Prosperity Sphere.

3 posted on 11/07/2008 1:14:34 PM PST by stan_sipple
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To: CE2949BB

an old college buddy studied Afrikaans

4 posted on 11/07/2008 1:15:23 PM PST by stan_sipple
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To: stan_sipple

What a great idea. Din Spanish into their little heads, in fact make it their one and only language. The fact that Spanish speaking people are for the most part mired in poverty because they don’t learn the language of opportunity...English...doesn’t seem to have occurred to these so called educators.

5 posted on 11/07/2008 1:16:48 PM PST by hershey
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To: stan_sipple

There are many Koreans, Chinese, Russians, Germans, Indians, and many others. Why just Spanish? Indoctrination.

6 posted on 11/07/2008 1:18:17 PM PST by CodeToad
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To: stan_sipple

It’s exactly these xenophobic reactions that caused Hispanics to vote in large numbers against Republicans.

7 posted on 11/07/2008 1:20:21 PM PST by SoothingDave
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To: CodeToad

because the parents of those kids kick them in the A** to achieve and learn English

8 posted on 11/07/2008 1:23:42 PM PST by stan_sipple
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To: stan_sipple; All

Oakland, CA, USA

9 posted on 11/07/2008 1:24:27 PM PST by CE2949BB (Fight.)
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To: stan_sipple

You are soooooo right! There isn’t an issue with them learning a second language at home because the parents take time with their children and ensure their children learn English.

10 posted on 11/07/2008 1:36:15 PM PST by CodeToad
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To: SoothingDave

like the “xenophobic” bob dole? clinton creamed him on the Hispanic vote.

11 posted on 11/07/2008 1:39:45 PM PST by stan_sipple
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To: stan_sipple

Irving ‘In Custody’ list. how many are ‘immigration holds’?

12 posted on 02/23/2009 5:48:25 PM PST by GeronL (Hey, won't you be my Face Book friend??)
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