School Teaches Foreign Tongues To Children

Thursday, April 28, 2005

For many years, parents often have remarked that teenagers speak a different language. These days, it's the toddlers, preschoolers and young elementary school-age children who are speaking differently. However, they're not using the slang of the day: they're actually using a foreign language.

Teaching children to speak foreign languages fluently and accurately is the goal of a relatively new business in Geneva. Language Leaders, a foreign language school for children ages 1 to 10, opened its doors in January at 416 W. State St.

Founders Melissa Beitz of Elburn and Robin Piquette of West Dundee formed the business to give parents the ability to introduce their children to a foreign language at the most opportune time in their young lives.

"Research shows the optimal time to learn a foreign language is between birth and age 10," Beitz explained. "At this time in a child's development, they can store second language learning in the same part of the brain as the first language they learn. It's the perfect learning window for learning a foreign language." Beitz, who grew up in South America and was bilingual at a young age, also noted that children who are taught a second language learn it at a faster rate and retain it better than those who wait until the traditional time of the high school years in which to study it. At Language Leaders, all instructors are native speakers of the language they teach. This fact was important to Beitz and Piquette, who wanted their instructors to possess native accents. "There is more to learning a language than just learning words," Beitz said. "You need to be able to pronounce them correctly, and that includes using the proper native accent." Using the theory that children mimic adults, Language Leaders classes are immersion based, in that the only language spoken during most of the classes is the target language. Teachers use visual aids, act out words and phrases, and try to incorporate as many of the senses as possible, in order to get their learning across without explaining in English.

"We also do a lot of teaching with songs," Beitz said. "Studies have shown that children and adults learn at a faster rate if things are put to music in a song format." Beitz had been offering foreign language lessons to young children through private schools, day care facilities, preschools and park district programs for five years, but decided to open the independent storefront location in order to offer the programs to all families.

Language Leaders classes are presented in 10-week sessions, with each session focusing on a specific theme, such as friends and family, or going on a trip. Classes are one hour a week, with very young students meeting in the mornings and school-age children meeting after school. All lessons are supplemented by home study, with the use of a workbook and accompanying CD.

"It's important that parents help the children practice during the week," Beitz said. "I've even had parents tell me that they play the CDs at bedtime, since much of the CD features song lessons." While helping their children learn, parents are learning some as well, she noted.

For those adults who are not attending classes with children but who wish to learn a foreign language, classes are offered from 6 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday evenings.

Summer day camps featuring two-week sessions are slated to begin in June. A bilingual preschool also is being set up to begin in the fall.

With adults showing a high level of interest in signing up their children for classes, the two owners hope to expand their business through franchise opportunities. "We believe the need to learn foreign language is out there," Beitz said. "We'd like to open up more facilities to better serve our young students."

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Language Leaders Franchising LLC
401 W. State St.
Geneva, IL

Phone: (630) 232-2001

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