Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Embracing Preschool

Olivia listens to a local tell her about her dog

Olivia has been in school a few weeks now and has quickly decided that she loves it!

Last week, DH asked her if she had any new friends at school. She told him that she had a new friend, Maria. Later that week, I overheard DH ask her if she had a boyfriend (we’ve since discussed that “boyfriend” is an inappropriate word to use with a three-year-old!). Without hesitation, she replied, “Yes, I do! His name is Joao!”

And, boy is she learning Portuguese! Her comprehension is coming much faster than I anticipated (I was worried about the language barrier. Her teachers do not speak to her in English). And, just yesterday, she came home singing a song in Portuguese. I am more than thrilled! She’s already gained so much self-confidence and pride. This is a wonderful opportunity, indeed! I wish every American child could experience this!

Imagine, if, like most other countries where, beginning in preschool, children learn English, American children learned a Latin language (once you master one Latin language, it’s easier to master other Latin languages, and, often, any other language, in general)! Imagine the opportunities and worlds opened up to them! DH works with in a place where 29-countries (I believe that’s the number) are represented. The British and the Americans are the only countries who, typically, only speak one language. Many of DH’s friends speak up to five languages! DH tells me he is often humiliated by his lack of language knowledge.

Sorry about the rant. Back to Olivia:

Monday morning, she got up and walked outside, in her PJ’s, to greet our gardener. I was sitting in the dining room and didn’t catch what he said to her. I doubt I would have caught too much anyway. He speaks Portuguese as fast as I speak English (My international friends tell me I speak much too fast). Suddenly, Olivia stomped into the kitchen and we had the following conversation:

Olivia: “Mom, I don’t know what the gardener is saying to me.”

Me: “Olivia, what do you think he’s saying to you?”

Olivia: “I think he’s telling me to go get my shoes on!”

Up the stairs she went, where she got fully dressed and went back outside. Listening carefully, I heard the gardener thank her for putting her shoes on. A few minutes later, she sulked back into the house and, whining, told me that he asked her to go back inside. This made sense because he was watering the flowers on the deck and the deck was getting soaked.

On the way to school that morning, she begged to stay all day. Since she’ll be staying all day on Monday’s (starting in October) because of ballet class there in the afternoon, I decided to let her.

When I picked her up in the afternoon, she was playing closely with a few of her new friends. I caught her shrieking with delight as I walked into the backyard to pick her up. On the way home, she proclaimed it a good day and said, “I’m not afraid anymore, Mom! I want to sleep there and play there all day, everyday!”

If that’s not embracing preschool, I don’t know what is!


Tricia said...

I'm glad she's having fun and picking up the language so well.

Grams said...

It is wonderful that she is learning another language. Your Dad didn't get that opportunity and he is upset about it to this day. She is only 3 and a half, just think of the languages that she might learn before Matt Retires...!!!

Jay and Amie said...

Oh how cute!! Jay and I have talked about learning Spanish together... On our honeymoon in Mexico, there were few Americans and mostly Europeans. They all spoke Spanish (which was helpful for the conversing with the locals and resort staff) along with their native (either German, Italian, French, etc) language as well at a minimum. We were embarrassed that we did not understand anything but English!

It is wonderful that Olivia and Lila are being immersed in a different language at this age. The challenge will be getting them to retain what they know while in the US!

Natalie said...


She won't retain it. But, to quote a friend here:
"When she's breezing through Spanish and her friends are struggling w/it, she won't understand why they are having such a hard time."

There is some belief that even if a child doesn't retain language learned the way Olivia is, that part of their brain was stimulated well enough and long enough to make a learning language difference down the road. Whether this will be Olivia's case, remains to be seen.