Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Journey in Dual Language Immersion

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     This year we have the privilege of starting our youngest, Mr Matthew, in a dual language immersion (DLI) program. Our school district made the fantastic decision to introduce all 5 languages offered in the states DLI program, German, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Mandarin Chinese. This is an opportunity I would not miss out on. Our school school was chosen for German. My sweet hubby is fluent in German having served an LDS mission there and although a bit rusty he still enjoys speaking this language and stays in touch with friends. We were thrilled that Matthew would be able to learn German. Our oldest, Josh, also entered his first year of German in high school. 
     Matthew spends 50% of his school day in German and 50% in English classes. His German teacher speaks only German to the students. They learn math, German culture and various other lessons in German. After the holidays the students were further challenged to only speak German to each other as well. It's challenging to be sure but allows his brain to focus on understanding and deciphering German.
     Our dinner conversations have been fun with many laughs as the boys share new words and try to stump each other. We knew it would be an adventurous year when the second week of school Matthew was making wise cracks to German. Yeah, little brother thought he was ALL THAT!
     What I find amazing is how much faster Matthew is picking up the language than Josh. Earlier this week dad was thrilled to have a conversation with Matthew in German. He needed a few cues but Matthew was able to share his thoughts and feelings on the topic, why he was too big for "Cars" underwear.
     In sharing this fun moment with Matthew's teacher, Frau Page, she asked why I thought it was that Matthew was surpassing his older brother. Both are strong students. Both have the advantage of a fluent parent. Both are maintaining their grades and proficiency in other studies but Matthew is moving toward conversation passing Josh in language skill. Is it because of an aptitude for language or another reason? The answer is clear...AGE! Matthew's 6 year old brain is still hard wired for language development. He has an advantage over Josh despite prior language challenges.
     Matthew had a significant speech delay. At 12 months he spoke 6 words then...nothing. He stopped speaking. Life was good. Nothing out of the ordinary happened. No trauma or outside influences to prevent him from speaking. We have another son who also had a speech delay so we set to work using the skills and tools we had learned from Keegan's speech therapy to help Matthew. It took a year and weekly speech therapy before Matthew repeated an easy word he previously knew, bye. I was in tears to hear my little boys voice break through again. We heard all the usual reasons why he wouldn't or couldn't speak but none of them fit. Our speech therapist was stumped. He did not know why Matthew was not talking. Matthew learned to communicate through sign to avoid frustration. It took years, but he finally took off talking and caught up to his peers. In fact, this is the first year he has not had speech therapy so it is interesting to me to see him pick up a second language with such ease. 
     I love to hear Matthew share his latest German song, phrase, or just a new word. He even corrects moms pronunciation. Josh continues to learn as well but quizzes his little brother a little's not so cool when little brother is no longer stumped by your "quizzes". Matthew is loving his DLI. He is learning to love the language, culture, and people. We are learning as a family as well. Next year we are even looking forward to having a German exchange student.
     The world is growing smaller. The internet has put the world at our finger tips. The opportunities my boys will have increase everyday. The opportunities Matthew will have by participating in and learning German are limitless. I am thrilled and so thankful our school has this opportunity. How could I NOT have my boys participate in Dual Language Immersion.

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