Ask the deans of Language University

What kind of program is Language University?        (back to top)

We at Language University seek to impart to children basic foreign language skills and the cultural elements surrounding the language. Language University intends to lay the initial groundwork for today’s youth to become citizens of the world. As serious as we are about our program and what we hope to achieve for our students, we are not striving for a traditional, austere classroom setting. We want to cultivate in children an affection for and understanding of foreign language and culture through a combination of fun, interactive teaching methods in an positive and stress-free environment.

What do you hope to achieve for yourself and for your students?        (back to top)

We want to open the eyes of future generations to a world they cannot see from their own backyard. We want to close the cultural gap. We want children to become part of an increasingly globalized world and welcome it. We want to make a difference not just by teaching classes in our immediate area, but by expanding our program so that we can reach out to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of children. We want to help families and communities to grasp how vital it is to introduce foreign languages into preschool and elementary curricula because foreign languages are not spoken only in foreign countries.

What can parents and students expect from your lessons?        (back to top)

We've designed each lesson to feature vocabulary and imagery centered around a particular theme. Each lesson acquaints children with new words or phrases and includes songs, activities, worksheets, props and games in order to facilitate the retention of new material while creating an environment that is far removed from the traditional classroom setting. We maintain flexibility with our curriculum and tailor our lesson plans to each particular group of students. This allows our lessons to evolve as we gauge student interest and comprehension.

What roles do you play?        (back to top)

We are not just the founders of Language University; we’re also teachers. We maintain involvement in every aspect of the program by developing lessons, teaching classes, providing materials, creating newsletters, and in some cases offering feedback to students and parents via progress reports. However, due to the number of schools that offer our program, we cannot necessarily be present in every classroom at all times. We ensure that any teachers we hire are trained according to our standards and are fully cognizant of the goals and intentions of Language University before taking charge of a particular classroom. 

What is Language University's approach to teaching?        (back to top)

Language University doesn’t just introduce foreign languages to children. It is also an ideal way for children to become accustomed to new cultures in a fun, low-pressure setting. In our program, children continuously interact with one another as well as with the teachers so that they can learn together, build friendships, and improve their confidence. We also use a variety of sensory input to bolster the language material such as music, dancing, activities, props, images, cultural food items and real world objects. Our approach avoids overly structured methods; there are no verb charts or sentence diagrams. We do not subscribe to one codified teaching system, but rather we pick and choose elements from a variety of methodologies, such as Engage-Study-Activate, Total Physical Response, communicative language teaching, and the “natural approach.” New material is always presented in a fun, stress-free manner, and no more than ten minutes at a time is dedicated to any segment of each lesson, ensuring than children are constantly engaged. 

Who pays for the program and how much does it cost?        (back to top)

Language University contracts with its customers in a variety of ways. Some of the schools we deal with offer our program to students as a standard service that the school’s administration includes in their yearly budget and for we invoice monthly. Other schools advertise Language University as an optional extracurricular program, and those parents who choose to enroll their children pay us directly for one semester or session at a time. We also teach groups of children either in private homes or predetermined public facilities.

The price of our program varies depending on its length (full year, semester, or customized session), the duration of each class, and the extent of services provided (e.g., whether or not a craft is included with the song and game in each class). In general, when school includes Language University's weekly classes in its own standard year-long curriculum, we charge around $50 per 30-minute class. When we contract directly with parents we generally charge between $15 and $18 per student per class. However, we are willing to be flexible and are amenable to tailoring our program to any budgetary constraints. Contact us for more information regarding our pricing.

Will my child be bilingual after completing the Language University curriculum?        (back to top)

Fully communicating in a second language is an involved process that requires a great deal of time, constant input and reinforcement. As such, we cannot claim to produce a fluent speaker by the end of one year; however, our program lays the groundwork for fluency in a second language at the time that matters most: precisely when children’s brains are in the early stages of development. If our students continue with us throughout preschool and/or elementary school and then maintain exposure to their chosen language as they progress through the remainder of their educational careers, they stand a far better chance of becoming and remaining fluent bilinguals.

What are the benefits of being bilingual?        (back to top)

The benefits inherent in bilingualism are myriad and complex. Studies in this area have strongly suggested that children who develop proficiency in two or more languages exhibit increased creativity, literacy and cognitive awareness and cross-cultural understanding. Much of this relates to increased test scores, higher grade point average and greater competitiveness in a progressively globalized job market. According to Dr. Ellen Bialystok at York University in Toronto, bilinguals also have a “stronger executive control system in the brain,” which allows them to better focus during school and while studying without becoming distracted. It is also important to remember that as the world gets “smaller” there is an increasing need for cross-cultural understanding and communicative skills. Although English is in no danger of disappearing, one in five American households today use a language other than English in the United States, which makes the competition all the more intense for monolingual children.

Why is language important in general?        (back to top)

Language is one of the so-called “cultural universals.” Every group of human beings on the planet communicates with some form of language. Innovations like sign language and Braille allow the deaf and blind to do what comes so naturally to all of us, that is, to maintain a communicative bond with our fellow humans. There’s a reason that the word “communicate” shares a root with the word “community.”   

Why is it important to include music and other sensory input with language learning?        (back to top)

Music is generally considered to be another “cultural universal.” Just as there is no culture on Earth that does not utilize some kind of language, there is essentially no society on the planet that does not use music as an innate method of strengthening and maintaining cultural bonds. Music is itself sometimes called the “universal language” because it is a form of communication that seems to be able to cross cultural boundaries. Current research has suggested that music and language are processed in the same areas of the brain. Thus, Language University takes advantage of this theory and provides auditory and visual stimuli in addition to the base language input in order to reinforce and give more context to the material we teach.

Which language should I choose for my child to learn?        (back to top)

According to Dr. Kendall King and Dr. Alison Mackey, the advantages afforded to bilinguals are the same regardless of which two languages are spoken. Thus, in terms of the cognitive and social benefits of being bilingual, there is no difference in languages. That being said, certain languages are more useful in today’s world, whether in the United States or in other countries. In the US, Spanish follows English as the most frequently and widely spoken. Other major languages in American households are Mandarin and French. It is important to decide whether you want your child to learn a language of real practical utility (such as Spanish) or of heritage (such as Italian). In some cases these categories coincide. Learning a heritage language (i.e., one spoken by a person’s family or ancestors) can provide cultural links, which can in turn grant a child higher self-confidence. Yet, when all is said and done, the neurological, psychological and sociological benefits of learning a second language will be present in any case.

Why should my child begin learning a second language at such an early age?        (back to top)

It has been suggested by many linguists and researchers that there is a “Critical Period” during which a child is receptive to learning his or her native language and, by extension, a second language. Learning a second language becomes significantly more difficult as a person ages, but this does not mean there is a point at which a second language can no longer be learned successfully. Nonetheless, it is undeniable that the best time to begin the process is at a young age, when the brain is developing rapidly. The book The Bilingual Edge suggests that “adolescents and adults have to deal with higher expectations and more sophisticated social situations while learning a second language.” Moreover, linguist and USC professor Stephen Krasher posits that young children have what he calls a low “affective filter,” meaning that they are not yet consumed with what their peers think of them the way so many adolescents are. Younger children are much less likely to be apprehensive and fearful of learning a new skill since they are not yet so daunted by the threat of embarrassing themselves. All in all, young children are typically ready and willing to learn, especially when education can be repackaged in an entertaining and engaging way. This willingness and fearlessness is precisely what Language University seeks to capitalize on—providing continual language input without students even realizing that they are with us to learn.

As a parent, do I have to be bilingual in order for my child to learn a second language?        (back to top)

Parents do not have to be bilingual in order to raise bilingual children; they only have to make sure that the language material is consistently available to their children, and take on an active role in maintaining continuous exposure to the target language.

Wouldn’t learning a second language at a young age prevent my child from learning English?        (back to top)

It’s important to remember that in most of the world multilingualism is actually the norm. In many cultures, and in fact in most countries, children are exposed to two or more languages growing up, and they tend to pass through the same grammatical and vocabulary milestones as monolingual children with almost no difficulty in distinguishing these languages. For example, most children in Switzerland are raised speaking a combination of German, French or Italian (some even speak all three), and then proceed to learn English later in school. Many Indian children grow up speaking English plus the language of their particular state or region, often in addition to Hindi. No modern study has shown that learning two languages in childhood can cause a significant delay in the development of either one. Some studies have even suggested that strong skills in a first language will encourage—not hinder—the acquisition of a second.

My child is shy and more sensitive; can he/she still benefit from this program?        (back to top)

The most crucial element in catering to more sensitive children is predictability. Shy or sensitive children often expend much of their mental energy being nervous, reducing their aptitude for language learning in the moment. In order to alleviate anxiety, Language University provides a curriculum with a great deal of repetition with familiar routines and activities (such as our "hello" and "goodbye" songs framing every class) so that all children feel safe and secure without fear of a drastic change in environment or procedure. 

Can’t I just let my child watch Dora the Explorer?        (back to top)

Quite a bit of research is suggesting that so-called “edutainment” is next to useless, at least when it comes to learning a language. Listening to Dora or Diego or Kai-lan teach a few vocabulary words in their respective languages only slightly develops receptive language skills, and does not produce productive skills. In order for a child to develop real workable skills in a second language, he or she must receive input from another live human who can provide consistent, interactive and reciprocal communication. Even if you let your child watch and listen to a foreign language program every day, he or she may learn to understand quite a bit of that language, but will most likely remain unable to utter a single word. Continued human interaction is key.

What is the significance of Language University's mascots?        (back to top)

Each of Language University’s mascots is an animal representing a particular language that we offer, as well as the culture associated with that language’s country of origin. 

The mascot of our Spanish School (Facultad de Español) is Bravo the Bull. The bull is the national animal of Spain, and the toro bravo is the specific variety of bull that has occupied the Iberian Peninsula for centuries. The word bravo can mean “fierce,” “rugged” and “skillful” as well as “brave”. The name of our Spanish team is Los Toritos and the team color is yellow.  

The mascot of the French School (Faculté de Français) is Cocorico the Rooster. The so-called Gallic rooster or cockerel has been the traditional symbol of France for hundreds of years, and the French translation of “cock-a-doodle-doo” is cocorico. This word was also used as a battle cry during the French Revolution and is still occasionally employed today to express French national pride. The name of our French team is Les Coquelets and the team color is blue. 

The mascot of the Italian School (Facoltà di Italiano) is Lupa the Wolf. The word lupa means “female wolf” and refers to the ancient legend of the she-wolf that discovered and nursed the twins Romulus and Remus, who had been abandoned and thrown into the Tiber River by their hostile great uncle Amulius. According to Roman mythology, Romulus would go on to found the city of Rome. The name of our Italian team is I Lupetti and the team color is green.

The mascot of the Chinese School (Zhongwen Xueyuan) is Mei Mei the Panda. The giant panda is widely recognized as the national animal and cultural symbol of China, as pandas are indigenous to that country and do not naturally live anywhere else on Earth. The name mèimei means “little sister” in Mandarin and is reminiscent of the reduplicative names typically given to famous pandas, such as Bao Bao, Hsing-Hsing and Tian Tian. The name of our Chinese team is Xiongmao (Pandas) and the team color is red.

What are the colors of Language University?        (back to top)

Language University’s colors are amaranth and indigo. Both colors take their names from a historically significant flowering plant of great importance to a variety of cultures.

Amaranth is a red-rose color similar to fuchsia or magenta but redder. The amaranth plant has been cultivated for approximately 8,000 years and was a staple of the Aztec diet prior to the Spanish Conquest. The Aztecs, believing that amaranth gave them supernatural power, used it extensively in religious ceremonies. Because of its pagan associations, the Spanish forbade the cultivation of amaranth. Today in Mexico, it is often mixed with honey to make a candy known as alegría, which is featured in many celebrations, such as the Day of the Dead. In Ancient Greece, amaranth was considered a symbol of immortality, as the flowers retain their freshness long after being picked, and the Greeks would use them to adorn tombs and statues of gods. The name amaranth itself is derived from the Greek word for “unfading.” Over the centuries it has been employed as a symbol of immortality and eternity by such literary figures as Aesop, John Milton, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats. 

Indigo is a color between blue and violet, and is one of the colors of the visible spectrum as codified by Isaac Newton. For many hundreds of years, a deep blue dye has been extracted from the plant Indigofera tinctoria, which was originally cultivated in India. This plant was so associated with India at the time that the Greeks called it indikón, hence its modern common name. Though Indigo was a prized trading commodity in Europe long before the 16th century, at that time its demand rose significantly. It was so highly valued in the West that it was often known colloquially as “blue gold.” The so-called “sumptuary laws” in England restricted the wearing of indigo-dyed clothing only to royalty and nobility. In the early days of the American Revolution, Benjamin Franklin brought 35 barrels of indigo to France in order to help finance the war effort. These days synthetic dyes have largely replaced it, though it is still highly regarded by the Yoruba and Mandinka tribes of West Africa, as well as the Tuareg nomads of the Sahara. The color indigo is often considered a symbol of integrity and loyalty. It is also commonly associated with the ajna (third-eye) chakra in Indian and new-age religions and thus connotes intuition and perception.