Language Leaders Helps Kids Say It All

Friday, September 01, 2006

Foster Jackey's morning in preschool is like any other.

His teacher played games that taught him about counting and colors. At snack time, he munched on goldfish crackers and cupcakes. And, of course he enjoyed playtime.

The main difference between his preschool class and any other is that 5-year-old Foster and his classmates speak a foreign language while in class.

"Jugo por favor," he says in Spanish as he asks his teacher for a glass of juice.

Foster is one of four students in class that day speaking in Spanish to their teacher - Vicky Gomez. He first started taking Spanish classes at Language Leaders in Geneva three years ago. The school specializes in teaching young children a foreign language.

In addition to his numbers, Foster knows enough to understand when his teacher and in many cases, respond. He can even roll his r's with the best of them.

"When they're so young, they're like sponges; they absorb everything," Foster's mother, Linda said. "It's so hard for an adult to learn (another language). It's easier for him." In addition to Spanish, the school, which opened three years ago, also teaches French, German, Italian, Mandarin and Russian. The school also will find teachers for other requested languages if needed.

"With our society becoming more and more global, the need to speak more than one language is becoming a necessity," said Language Leaders owner and founder Melissa Beitz.

And, she said, research shows that learning a second language is easier for people before a child is 10 years old. She explained that the information needed to speak a foreign language is stored in the same part of the brain as the information needed for the primary language until the age of 10. Afterwards, that information is stored in a different part of the brain and more difficult to recall.

Thus, she takes children as young as one-year old as students. As those students are learning how to speak English at home, they can learn another language at Beitz' school.

"It's really amazing, whatever language you're speaking to them, they'll speak back," she said.

She noted one student started just after her first birthday, and Beitz and the parents were concerned that she didn't seem to be picking up on anything. Then one day, as she was leaving she turned to say "adios" to Beitz.

"The first stage to them learning another language is for them to understand, and then they'll start speaking," said Beitz, who learned Spanish at the age of four.

Though young children learn easier, the school offers classes for students ages 12 months to adult. Tutoring also is available for high school foreign language classes.

Beitz recently opened her second Language Leaders location at 401 Country Club Road in Crystal Lake. She also is offering franchise opportunities for those wishing to open a Language Leaders near them.

The Geneva Language Leaders is located at 416 W. State Street. Fall classes begin Sept. 11. For information on classes call (630) 377-8794 or visit the school's website at www.language-leaders.com. Vicky Gomez, a Spanish teacher at Language Leaders, works with a group of children on learning their numbers in Spanish in Geneva.

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401 W. State St.
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Phone: (630) 232-2001

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