La Lengua’s philosophy is one of inclusion. The school fosters an environment that feels more like a family than a school. As a smaller school with children ranging in age from 18 months to 5 years, the children become close friends and learn through play and from one another. The younger children learn by example from the older children, and the older children learn empathy, to be accepting, and how to lead the younger children.
At any given time, the children could be found playing at the train table, dressing up in costume, painting, building with blocks, checking for eggs in the chicken coop or vegetables in the garden, singing and dancing. Through play, La Lengua students learn numbers, letters, Spanish, and topics such as days of the week, letters, numbers, colors, and sign language.
The children learn Spanish listening comprehension and vocabulary from interactions with the teachers and through songs and play. Most La Lengua teachers are bilingual in Spanish and English and speak to the children in both languages. As a school that focuses on inclusion, La Lengua students come from all backgrounds. Some students come to La Lengua from home where only English is spoken, and others from bilingual homes, including Spanish, French, Bengali, Mandarin, and more.
La Lengua first opened its doors in 1999, originally as Laurel Tree Learning Center, in San Franciso’s residential neighborhood of Laurel Heights. After the school evolved into a Spanish-English bilingual school, it was officially renamed in 2009 to La Lengua Bilingual Preschool. In 2010, La Lengua moved to its current location on the corner of Sutter and Lyon. The new location affords La Lengua the opportunity to use neighboring Booker T. Washington Community Service Center’s large outdoor space with playground, sandbox, a garden, and a chicken coop.
Since its inception, Sarah Alexander, founder and director, has been an integral part of the school.
Why Bilingual and Why Spanish?
As best stated by the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL):
“In addition to developing a lifelong ability to communicate with people from other countries and backgrounds, other benefits include improved overall school performance and superior problem-solving skills.”
CAL also reports that students of foreign languages tend to score higher on standardized tests and may have better career opportunities. [See Other Resources below for more.]
According to the US Census Bureau, there are over 48 million Hispanics residing in the United States, making up 16% of the population. Those numbers are expected to rise over the coming years.
Although it is advantageous to learn a second language at any age, it is commonly understood that languages and sounds are more easily picked up by younger children. An early start also affords the child to obtain a higher level of fluency and native-level pronunciation.
There are many fantastic online resources that discuss the advantages and dispel some of the myths about learning a second language at a young age. Here are a few links we recommend:
- The Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) publishes a brochure, Why, How, and When Should My Child Learn a Second Language.
- The American Speech-Hearing-Language Association (ASHA) discusses some of the advantages of being bilingual.
- Neuroscientists from The Brain and Language Lab (BL2) of Gallaudet University study the effects of language on brain development and dispel some common myths about achieving language milestones in monolingual and bilingual children.