Culture is a passion of mine! I am very proud to be an American, but have always felt a desire to explore other places. Learning about a different culture other than your own makes a person more worldly and open to new ideas, people, food, language…I think parents want more for their children. I certainly want my children and the children I teach to have knowledge of what’s out there. I’ve always thought that the very best education is travel because your heart is open to learning about the culture of where ever you are.
PHOTO: Ashley’s students displaying their love of languages
The good thing is I know my past students will retain most of what they learned because they learned French, German, and Japanese at 7 and 8 years old (a time when their little brains are like sponges). My past students will catch me in the hall and give me a Comment allez-vous Mrs. Cooley?, Hallo and auf Wiedersehen Mrs. Cooley. And my favorite (after thank you), doitashimashite (you’re welcome in Japanese) because it’s so much fun to say! It’s always thrilling to hear and the other kids that I didn’t teach want to know what they’re saying so they can say it too! Perhaps in high school they’ll pick it up again.
When I’m teaching Pilates to the children in my classroom I am inspired to teach German at the same time. After all, Joseph Pilates was from Germany. The kids learned the history of Joseph Pilates and to count and speak some basic German phrases and words. Ich mach Pilates the kids would say ( I like Pilates)! We would sing a German counting song while balancing. As a teacher, I love the way this adds another element of challenge into the program. I had their little minds and bodies working together.
Young children are ready and able to soak up lots of new information, especially if the learning is fun! Joseph Pilates was right; children do need to learn his exercises because just like a foreign language, when you learn it as a child, it stays with you forever!! I try to use what is available to me. Last year I was fortunate enough to have a room mother from Austria. She would come once a week and teach us German. This year I had access to someone from Japan and we did both German and Japanese. The kids loved it!! And I feel every year I become a better teacher because I am learning too! My toddler can speak and count some basic German, French, Spanish, Turkish, and now Japanese and she absorbs it all!
I really think the key is to introduce foreign language and Pilates as early as possible because as I can see from my former students and my daughter, they soak it up and love learning and being challenged!! America is really behind other countries like Europe in teaching our children culture studies. Most countries start learning a foreign language in elementary school. Learning Pilates, like learning a foreign language, increases a student’s skills in creativity, memory, attention control, problem solving and more. Why wouldn’t we want this for our kids?!?
I have read that kids under the age of 12 can learn a foreign language and speak it without an obvious accent. I don’t know about you, but this is not possible for me! I know my Texas accent carries over into whatever I’m speaking. But, our kids can do it! Children in Europe learn two or more foreign languages during their schooling. I wish language was more of a priority for us in elementary school because the longer we wait to teach them the harder it is to pick up. I know what teachers are thinking! I don’t have time to add one more thing to my day! This is true, I certainly had to make it a priority and I married many things together. If you are motivated to teach and learn, you find the time! My 2nd graders were teaching me too, and I know they liked that!
Another reason we should want our children to learn a foreign language is that people of other cultures are worth getting to know! We should make more of an effort to try to learn to get to know them in their own language. Most countries learn English! I know what you’re thinking!! I’m not going to France anytime soon in this economy so why bother? I’ll tell you why…Learning is fun! Maybe instead of French, learn Spanish! But, take a step into another culture together with your child! I’m sure you will find the history, food, and the people to be fascinating. You will be serving them a giant slice of humble pie too, because learning a foreign language breeds humility.
I love this inspirational quote from Nelson Mandela, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.”
Be inspired to inspire your children and learn together.