“Keeping the Conversation Going”—in Multiple Languages!

Immersed is once again pleased to bring you thoughtful commentary from another perspective. This piece comes to you from The New Century School‘s Head of School Alicia Danyali (bio* at the end), who brings her vast experience to bear on the subject of multiple language learning. Read on!

 

Alicia Danyali on Bilingualism

Alicia DanyaliIn current-day Baltimore, Maryland, it is apparent that we live in a community where education choices are limitless, philosophies abound, and much of the focus is on the end product (student success). Whether your background is in Montessori or Waldorf or Traditional Public Education, one consistent theme that is agreed upon when registering your child at TNCS is the interest in bilingual language learning.

As language immersion practices become more commonplace, starting during the pre-school years (opposite to the trend of starting in middle or high school) students with these “advantages” are described as “cutting edge” or even “ahead of the game” as learners. Since I have spent the last 20 (or more, um hum) years within dual-language environments, I can agree with much of the research observing student bilingual success when starting at a younger age than middle school. The statistics are out. There is validity that bilingual students are most receptive to a second language from ages 0-7 years.  It has been noted that children exposed to more than one language at a young age are capable of more sophisticated problem solving or demonstrate problem solving in multiple ways.

One of the books that I have recommended over the years is The Bilingual Edge: Why, When and How to Teach Your Child a Second Language, by Kendall, K. & Mackey, A. (2007).  Many of the findings and advice within this book are true to supporting second language learning.  I thought I would share some feedback regarding the publisher’s summary of the book, and invite the educated and dedicated TNCS community to have a think about your own child’s language journey.

For example, as part of the summation of the book, the publisher’s state:

“In The Bilingual Edge, professors and parents King and Mackey wade through the hype and provide clear insights into what actually works. No matter what your language background is—whether you never passed Spanish in high school or you speak Mandarin fluently—King and Mackey will help you:

  • select the language that will give your child the most benefits
  • find materials and programs that will assist your child in achieving fluency
  • identify and use your family’s unique traits to maximize learning

Fancy private schools and expensive materials aren’t needed. Instead, The Bilingual Edge translates the latest research into interactive strategies and quick tips that even the busiest parents can use.”

These are some BIG claims that one book can do all this and support you and your family with second language instruction. Although it is a highly recommended read, please keep in mind, like all published material, one must make the claim that watching your own child absorb the environment offered at TNCS is within a natural setting, encourages curiosity and risk-taking (traits attributed to bilingualism) and includes individualized nurturing, human interaction, and a true understanding/respect of culture.

As the ideas from this book or any other claiming to ensure your child will become bilingual, the ingredients start with your child’s interest and enthusiasm, partnered with an authentic love of learning, parental support along the journey in a truly immersed setting. Please feel free to submit your feedback on other inspirational books read on the subject of bilingual education. “Let’s keep the conversation going.”

*Alicia Danyali: Throughout her professional career as an elementary educator, Mrs. Danyali has been committed to developing pedagogical strategies for a language immersion environment focused on critical thinking and cooperative learning both as a classroom teacher and an administrator. Immediately after graduating from Florida International University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education, she moved to The Netherlands to teach in the elementary school at the International School of Amsterdam and then at the Violenschool International School. After 8 years in The Netherlands, Mrs. Danyali moved to Washington, D.C., where she spent 5 years working at the Washington International School (WIS) as both the classroom teacher for 1st and 3rd grades as well as the head teacher and coordinator. She was later appointed School Wide Community Service Coordinator, developing curriculum focusing on service and giving back to the local and world community. In her final year at WIS, she was invited to attend a leadership and curriculum conference in New York City in cooperation with the Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim, and the Whitney Museum. The conference featured connections in the classroom that were shared within the areas of art, history, science, technology, and mathematics. Mrs. Danyali has completed the 90-hour childcare certificate for ages 2–5 years, the 45-hour administrator certificate, and the 45-hour infant/toddler certificate. Mrs. Danyali recently completed graduate school at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education, specializing in Supervision and Administration.

Mrs. Danyali and her husband moved to Baltimore over 8 years ago, when their son was a toddler. During this stay-at-home-mom time with her son, she continued to keep her foot in education by working as a freelance writer for http://www.education.com, teaching Mommy and Me classes as well as classes for home-schooled children at The Painting Workshop, leading 2-year-old classes at Beth Tfiloh, and conducting The Summer Yoga Camp for Kids at The Bryn Mawr School.

Mrs. Danyali is fluent in Dutch, and her personal interests include yoga, swimming, visiting museums, travel, cooking, and spending time with her family. She completed the 200- and 500-hour Advanced Registered Yoga Teacher Certification through Charm City Yoga.

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