Encourage Kids to Learn a Second Language
By Stephen Muff
Americans are notorious for not learning another language. Roughly three-quarters of Americans have no foreign language. Yet, a nation to the North speaks French, a nation to the south speaks Spanish, and we can see Russia approximately 55 miles from Alaska.
The benefits of learning a second language is overwhelming. It doesn’t just improve job prospects, but improves multitasking, helps prevent Alzheimer’s, and even improves your understanding of English. This is not to mention job and travel opportunities that were not previously available.
Good thing Sacramento has lots of opportunities for language learning. If you would like to make use of these opportunities, then keep reading!
When Spanish explorer Gabriel Moraga discovered the Sacramento Valley and the Sacramento River, the home of the the Nisenan and Plains Miwok tribes, he was overcome by its beauty. He compared it to the Catholic Eucharist with the words, “¡Es como el sagrado sacramento!”
It’s like the Blessed Sacrament.
And such the city was named! At this point, the region was (at the very least) tri-lingual with two major tribes and the Spaniards. As California’s second-most popular language, opportunities to learn Spanish abound. However, Casa de Español has classes for kids, teens, and adults. http://casadeespanol.org
For almost 200 years, Chinese immigrants have come to the Sacramento region and preserved their cultural and linguistic traditions. There is even the town of Locke just south of Sacramento on the Delta, built and maintained by Chinese immigrants. Now, Chinese is the world’s most popular language with over a billion speakers, and children can take Mandarin or Cantonese classes at The Wisdom Chinese School.
Another language that has had a presence in the Sacramento region since the Gold Rush is French. In fact, the nearby town of Auburn was founded by a Frenchman named Claude Chana. His statue is in Old Town. In any case, the Alliance Française de Sacramento has French lessons for all ages. www.afsacramento.org. Also, Education Française de Sacramento is a language school dedicated exclusively to French and has many locations throughout the area. http://efsac.com
The fifth most popular language in the world today is Arabic, with millions of speakers and an official language in dozens of countries. In Sacramento, ALEFE, Inc. is a nonprofit that “aims at providing free and low-cost Arabic language programs to TK-12 students”, and even have an Arabic Montessori After School Class.
For over 150 years, the center for German language and culture in Sacramento is undoubtedly the Turn Verein. The Turn Verein has a German Language School for children as young as one-year-old and continues through adulthood. They have a long tradition in Sacramento and put on the city’s largest annual Oktoberfest celebration (with kid-friendly activities). Also, they have the Christkindlmarkt, or Christmas market, in December (2018 is their 19th annual celebration) that lets kids experience some of the traditions from the Old World. www.stv-germanlanguageschool.org
The Italian Cultural Society, with their “Ciao” language program for children, teach the Italian language through “play, games, songs, food and art” – some of the very things that brings Italy to mind. They have been active in Sacramento since 1986. They also have activities like Italian folk dancing and festivals.
The Sakura Gakuen school in Sacramento has provided Japanese language instruction for over a century. The school was founded in 1903 as a school for the children of Japanese immigrants, and is taught today by native speakers. Their kindergarten class starts at 4 years old, but they have adult classes in case the whole family wants to learn. www.facebook.com/SakuraGakuenJapaneseLanguageSchoolSacramento
Do not forget that when learning a language, every little bit helps. The Sacramento area is rich in resources, and there are all kinds of opportunities for you and your children to hone language skills. Check out the local libraries for additional resources, consider joining a Meetup.com group, and engage native speakers when you identify them. Of course, there are always online resources–some of which, like www.Duolingo.com, are free. Also, many charter schools have language learning options for home study programs, which is quite useful for parents who are homeschooling their children but do not speak the language well enough to teach it themselves. Another option is The Spanish Immersion Program, a local resource that is essentially a Spanish Language learning program in a box, https://thespanishimmersion.com/.
Whatever your language du jour is (see what I did there?), Sacramento has options. While Sacramento International Airport only goes to about three destinations outside the United States (Cabo San Lucas, Guadalajara, and Mexico City), the city does have an international undertone and opportunities for exposure to cultures from across the globe. It certainly has the tools to give children a lifelong gift of a love for travel, cultures, and people.
Sacramento’s language resources could put your kids uniquely apart from over 75% of this country. More importantly, it’s easiest for kids to learn languages, so it’s important to start them young. Don’t miss this opportunity!
Stephen Muff is a travel writer and a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. He lives in Auburn with his wife and two daughters.