education

Legislative updates regarding second language learning

“One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way.” —Frank Smith, psycholinguist

 

An article written by Tom Torlakson, California Superintendent of Public Instruction, summarizes California’s current efforts to increase access to foreign language education amongst K-12 students.

The importance of early total immersion in another language cannot be understated. Dual language immersion programs, often beginning in Kindergarten, are designed to deliver instruction in both English and another language in the school setting. While some states offer English/Spanish dual immersion, dual language programs in California also exist with a variety of other languages, including Mandarin, Korean, Vietnamese, and Portuguese. Displaying the public’s interest in dual language immersion programs, Proposition 58 was passed by a large margin in the state in 2016, which aimed to remove many barriers to setting up dual immersion programs. Despite this, establishment of these programs has been limited, partially due to a shortage of bilingual teachers. As there remain not enough programs to meet the need of all families in California, a lottery system often has to be used, ultimately leaving out many other families who would otherwise be interested in dual immersion enrollment.

Torlakson’s initiative, known as Global California 2030, has goals including: 

  • quadrupling the number of dual language immersion programs by 2030.

  • doubling the number of world language classes taught in California schools

  • more than doubling the number of bilingual teachers authorized each year

  • more than tripling the number of graduating high school students who receive a state seal of biliteracy on their diplomas.

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Recently passed in the Senate, Assembly Bill 2514 aims to provide 10 grants of $300,000 to be used for additional funding for dual-language immersion programs. As the benefits of learning a second language at an early age are well known, it is hopeful the current legislative efforts will set a standard for improving foreign language acquisition across the country to our youth.

 

For more information, see the following references:

https://www.sacbee.com/opinion/op-ed/soapbox/article216851715.html: Accessed 09/19/18

https://www.cde.ca.gov/eo/in/documents/globalca2030report.pdf: Accessed 09/19/18

Little Pim's Winter Coloring Pages

It's a cold, rainy day here in New York City, which is the perfect time to cozy up with the little ones and do some coloring activities. We've got you covered for the entire Winter season with our latest coloring pages. Simply click on the links below to print out the pages. We'd love to see your creations. Post of photo on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram using the hashtag #LittlePim and we will share it across our networks. Happy coloring and we hope you're enjoying the glorious holiday season! ¡Adiós Amigos!...

Don't Put the Brakes on Bilingualism this Holiday Season

It's that time of year again! The holidays are just around the corner. If you're raising a bilingual child, it also seems like an unproductive time for language learning. You're busy with orchestrating the perfect "winter wonderland" at home and carrying out all of the family traditions. Grandma's visiting and you're taking off work. Who has the time to sit down for language lessons? Even if you do have the time, who wants to do book work while Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is on? The kids are out of school for most of the month, after all! Why make them study during their break?

Hold your horses. Even during the season of cheer, your kiddos shouldn't "pause" their language learning efforts. We know that kids lose some (alright, a lot) of the progress they made during the school year over the summer. Kids lose two months worth of reading skills and computational math skills over the summer. As for that Spanish class? You can forget about it. Literally. But, what's the difference when your kids are off in December as opposed to the two month break that most kids in North America get from June to September?

Although experts at the college-level agree that it's not as significant as the "summer dump," it's still worth it to continue learning into the winter to avoid a total information brain freeze. From Thanksgiving to New Years, your child will have a lot of down-time. There are lots of simple things you can do to keep their mind engaged in language learning over the holidays.

Here are a few fun ideas that will help keep your children's' minds active this winter:

Foreign Language Journaling

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Depending on the age of your child, encouraging them to keep a physical journal over the break actually helps retain and improve the skills learned in school. Inspire their creativity with response prompts in both English and their target language. To gain their interest, suggest prompts related to the season at hand. For elementary students, here's 77 prompts to inspire their winter writing.

Journaling in another language is actually a great way to advance in it. There's a well documented link between handwriting and knowledge acquisition. Some college professors ban electronic note taking for this reason. There's also the freedom to make mistakes without being made fun of; a common anxiety among those who wish to speak another language. Encourage them to practice their new language, reminding them that a journal is a safe place to express themselves without fear of having their mistakes overanalyzed.

Dual-Language Reading

According to experts, reading is the number one action students should take in order to avoid a mental deep-freeze. If they're too young to take the initiative themselves, you can read with and to them to reap the benefits. Encouraging your child to read over the holidays is one of the easiest ways to keep them engaged, as books are accessible through local libraries, create meaningful interactions with the family, and are portable for holiday travels. Getting lost in a good story is also just plain fun!

To encourage language learning, you can purchase (or borrow) dual language books, which allow your child to read a story in both languages side-by-side. Dual language books are available in many languages and improve language acquisition and vocabulary in bilingual children. There are even some available for free on Trilingual Mama's website.

It's not just beneficial for learning another language, either. According to a study done at the University of Calgary, the introduction of dual-language books into classrooms improved overall literacy skills.

Cultural Field Trips

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Field trips shouldn't just be left to the school. A recent study from the University of Arkansas indicated that students learn more about a subject when exposed to it on a field trip versus the classroom. In particular, the empathy and cultural understanding of disadvantaged students was shown to improve after being taken on field trips. Since field trips offer an opportunity to expose children to different cultures, they're an excellent way to foster bilingualism. We know that language isn't just about conjugation, nor is culture all about tradition. Culture influences language and vice versa. Consider visiting a museum or other cultural exhibit with your children during the holiday season, like a local Hispanic heritage museum.

Multicultural Holiday Traditions

This time of year is an excellent one for cultural immersion, as every culture has its own holiday traditions. Attend a festival, or guide your child in an activity that relates to the traditions of another culture. If you're teaching your child Spanish, consider attending a Posada party. If they're learning Russian, participate in the New Year's tradition of Father Frost and discuss the similarities and differences between Father Frost and Santa Claus. This will get your child fired up about another culture - something that's important for success in another language.

At Little Pim, we offer amazing products that will help your young child learn a new language. Consider beating those winter woes by starting your child on one of our 12 language programs today.

Little Pim Supports Universal Pre-K

All children deserve a smart start in life. National and local momentum has built behind universal pre-K, an international movement to make quality preschool education accessible to all children in the United States. Several states including Georgia, Oklahoma and Florida already offer pre-K to all children, and 40 states, overall, offer at least some publicly funded pre-K programming. Here in New York City, where Little Pim is based, a recent state budget agreement has enabled the mayor, Bill de Blasio, to begin working to add 53,000 new full-day pre-K seats to the city's public school system.  President Obama and Washington lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are pushing for Congress to approve federal support and we can hope to see more states follow suit in the upcoming years.

Progress is underway, but the United States must continue to expand access to ensure its children remain competitive in the global marketplace. Many other industrialized countries, including France, Sweden, Canada, India and Australia have long offered government-funded public preschool programs – and it's easy to see why.

Research indicates that high-quality early childhood education offers enduring benefits – benefits similar to those brought by early bilingualism. It has been found to improve children's long-term cognitive abilities, boosting language, literacy and mathematics skills, and to positively affect behavioral traits including sociability, motivation and self-esteem.

What's more, studies show, the benefits of pre-K for kids continue into adulthood, leading to greater college success, higher incomes and lower rates of incarceration. These benefits are most pronounced for disadvantaged kids but there are undeniable benefits to early education for children from all socio-economic backgrounds.

The growing support for expanding access to pre-K is exciting – and the result of parents and lawmakers taking action to level the playing field for kids and provide each and every one of them with the tools they need to succeed in school and beyond.  We applaud their efforts and are in lock step with this important movement.

At Little Pim, the idea of democratizing education has always been one of our most important guiding principles. We believe strongly that all young children should have the opportunity to learn a second language when they can learn it best – in that critical window, from birth to age 6. These children will be better positioned to achieve success in an increasingly global world. In the wake of the Universal PreK movement, we would love to see a greater national focus on early world language education for all children.

National Teacher Day Memoirs

Guest blogger Thea Hogarth currently works in product development in Little Pim, and today shares some of her experiences as an English teacher in France.  She taught in France during the 2011-2012 academic year. Today is National Teacher Day, and it’s hard to imagine that almost exactly a year ago today, I was preparing to leave behind a year of teaching English in France.  This time last year, I was attempting to pack an entire bedroom’s worth of stuff into a suitcase.  I had spent the previous eight months assistant teaching English in three primary schools in the French city of Angers with the French Éducation Nationale’s TAPIF program… and I was exhausted.  Mind you, I had no reasonable excuse: I worked 12 hours a week and got two weeks of vacation for six weeks of school (totaling a whopping two full months!).  Plus I was living smack in the middle of a wine region in the Loire Valley; I was living, by definition, the good life.

But many of my students weren’t.  Two out of my three schools were officially classified as being in the ZEP (Zone d'Education Prioritaire), the French classification for high poverty schools - the kind of environment that can really wear a teacher down.  I entered the school year expecting my students to be little French angels, enchanted by the idea of meeting an American straight from New York.  And, indeed, my first few classes were peppered with adorable questions along the lines of, “Do you have to take an airplane home after school everyday?” but my novelty quickly wore off.  Many of my students were born outside of France and were already familiar enough with the experience of the foreigner.  Class time with me quickly became an opportunity to throw paper at the back of my head, imitate me to my face, and kick me in the shins (who knew how easily Simon Says could become a contact sport!).  By the beginning of my second week, I was taking breaks to secretly cry between classes.

Yes, I was basically living the first half of “Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit,” but with 8-year-olds… and in France.  And, yes, my story also has a reasonably happy ending.  By the end of the year, we had grown accustomed to each other; we had learned each other’s boundaries, but more importantly, we had learned to laugh together.  Teachers in the ZEP and in schools around the world work hard to create safe, supportive classroom environments – becoming masters of the alchemy of turning aggression and frustration into laughter and trust.

As I said goodbye to the kids who made me cry, one boy came up to me on the playground and pulled this note out of his sleeve (transcribed exactly as written): “Dear Théa, We miss you already, you are fantastic.  We were happy end when you were in our class room.  We wish you good holidays.  Hello Théa good bay thea!”  Undoubtedly, he and his classmates had put their heads together to compose this masterpiece (with outside help, I’m sure), and I was grateful.  Of course I was thrilled by this somewhat unexpected display of affection, but more than that, I was gratified that they had created something for me in English even though they knew I understood French.  They had reached across a gulf much larger than that between teacher and student.

Today, of all days, I’m thinking back not only on my year in France, but also on all the amazing teachers who made my experience in France possible.  My engaging, imaginative French teachers ultimately enabled me to apply (and be accepted) to this teaching program, and inspired me to smile through the tears.  Today, let’s all think about the amazing educators in this country and around the world who practice patience and compassion to create a classroom environment that is both supportive and inspiring.

Remarks at 2011 CES by Cisco's John Chambers, GE's Jeffrey Immelt and Xerox's Ursula Burns

The Consumer Electronic Tradeshow gave me a great chance to meet other mommy entrepreneurs in the Mommy Tech Summit**, and to hear the provocative remarks of Fortune 500 Chief Executive Officers of Cisco, Xerox and GE on a keynote panel. Of all the issues they could have spoken about, they wanted to address the need for better education of our students to prepare them to work in a global economy.

This is a topic that resonates with most parents raising their children to speak a second or third language, often doing so for some combination of cultural heritage and desire for their children to have that extra advantage in the future.

All three CEOs said our educational system is not doing enough to prepare our children for the global marketplace. Their companies need people who are able to work across borders, engage in cross-cultural teamwork and communicate with people of other cultures. Ursula Burns also noted that we are closing down our borders in the U.S. (accepting fewer immigrants and asking international students to leave) right at the time we need more international brainpower to drive innovation and execute on the entrepreneurial abundance here in the U.S. "The future of big tech is going to be compromised if we keep pushing out international talent."

The fact that fewer students from abroad can get educated here will also mean fewer bridges between our country and others. Two CEOs pointed out that they do business with people running major companies in other countries who were educated in the U.S. and therefore understand the American way of working. Personal relationships are key, and many are formed in undergrad, grad and business schools, when international students study abroad. Fewer international students today may mean fewer American CEOs at international tables in the future.

CEOs love facts and numbers and these CEOs were no different. They reminded us that there are 6 billion people in the world, only 300 million of whom are in the U.S.

    • All successful big businesses are selling to and working with the international marketplace.

 

    • Over 50% of the revenues collected by their three mega corporations (total of over $80 billion) came from OUTSIDE the U.S.

 

    • International sales are currently the biggest growth area for most U.S. Fortune 500 corporations.

Our K-12 schools are not doing enough to prepare our kids in math, reading, science and language, so what can we do to prepare for this shift?

    • Globalization is here to stay (Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of GE, notes he revived the entire company by going global), so as leaders we need to have a "healthy paranoia" about getting left behind in the global economy. We need to pay better attention to what is happening in other countries and make sure we remain competitive.

 

    • Companies in the U.S. need to step up and partner with the government to improve schools and provide more educational opportunities (one such example is the "Change the Equation Foundation" that helps kids improve in science and is funded by the private and public sectors)

 

    • We need to rethink how we teach kids using new technology at our disposal (John Chambers of Cicsco mentioned his two year old granddaughter's seamless use of the iPad and questions how tablets, e-readers, and other new such devices are going to be integrated into the classroom)

Ursula Burns ended the keynote panel by saying she felt the most important question we need to be asking as a nation is "what are we going to do prepare our children to participate in the global economy?" She feels this means more science and math, and more exposure to the tools that will help our kids become global citizens.

We know that speaking a foreign language will give our kids at least one of the tools they will need... Do you agree with their take on where things are going? You can post your comments to our Facebook or Twitter page.

** Mommy Tech Summit http://www.mommytechsummit.com/

Digital moms' influence as the “chief decision maker” for their families, extended families and friends continues to grow. In turn, the Mommy Tech market has grown into a $90 billion dollar marketplace driven by tech-savvy women who are recognized as both powerful consumers and advocates for new technology.