Lisa S. Lenkiewicz CTLatinoNews
The day a child suddenly announces the count “one, two, three,” is a proud moment for parents. Imagine the pride when that same English-speaking child also can say “uno, dos, tres.”
With the philosophy that exposing young children to a new language is beneficial to their brain development, longtime educator Maria Sierra has opened the De Colores Language Center for Spanish language enrichment classes.
Opening on Saturday, Jan. 24, the Center will offer elementary Spanish classes (ages 6-10) along with “Mommy & Me” Spanish classes (ages 18 months-2 years) and a preschool drop-in program (ages 3-5 years old). All classes are held on Saturdays in rented space at First Baptist Church, 90 North Main Street, in West Hartford.
Sierra used to operate the De Colores Early Learning Center, which was on Flagg Road in West Hartford. But Sierra decided to suspend classes there and reopen with a new name and new location.
This winter’s Spanish enrichment programs at the Language Center will introduce the language in a playful manner, through music and movement, art and games, all while interacting with a Spanish teacher. In the elementary Spanish classes, simple conversation and everyday vocabulary are stressed, along with grammar, reading and writing.
Why learn a second language at an early age?
“Studies have shown learning a foreign language improves a child’s creativity, flexibility and critical thinking skills,” notes Sierra, an educational consultant. “Children who learn a new language gain academic advantages over children who only know a single language. Children who are exposed to a second language at an early age achieve much better academic results, not only in language, but also in math, science and music.”
In a packet of information provided to CTLatinoNews, Nancy Rhodes, director of foreign-language education at the Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington, D.C., notes: “A young child’s brain is wired to pick up language naturally.” Starting at a very young age, “children can learn multiple languages and echo accents easily.”
Allison Barasz of Old Saybrook and formerly of Farmington, is one Connecticut parent who believes in the benefits of raising children as global citizens. A native English speaker, she enrolled her three-year-old in the preschool at the De Colores Early Learning Center a year ago.
“I loved the school so much,” says Barasz. “It was unique and a wonderful experience for my daughter. The preschool was total immersion and my daughter caught right on,” adds Barasz. “The staff is so good at creating enthusiasm.”
Barasz studied abroad during college in Ecuador and has always loved the Spanish language. But, she also believes studying another language helps a child focus better and strengthens learning skills as the child grows.
Plus, Barasz notes, “Spanish is so important in today’s economy.”
Sierra expects to draw students not only from the Greater Hartford area, but as far away as Durham and Manchester. Families are her target audience, with a mix of those with Spanish as their first language and those who are native English speakers. She says those who attend her classes from English-speaking families typically have some connection to the Spanish language or simply want to give their children an advantage in developing awareness in our multicultural society.
“Inspiring enthusiasm for a second language and knowledge of other cultures is one of the best gifts you can give your child,” Sierra concludes. “I truly believe that all children, given the opportunity to learn a second language as early as possible, will have an academic, social and cultural advantage.”
An open house for the De Colores Language Center will be held on Saturday, Jan. 10, 1:30-3 p.m., at 90 North Main Street, in West Hartford. Guests will be able to meet the music and movement teacher and watch the Spanish language enrichment model in action. Classes begin on Saturday, Jan. 24. For more information, call (860) 236-4773 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.