By: Miss Lili Harris
Even though I have a degree in Communications, I have always worked as a language teacher. I’m thankful to my parents who sent me to a bilingual school from an early age. They also sent me to the US as an exchange student when I was only twelve years old. Now, when I look back, I can see how that year changed me in so many ways. Most importantly, however, it taught me to appreciate another culture and learn a new language.
The seed was planted. After High School, I wanted to travel and learn more languages. First, I learned French while living in Belgium and some years later, my husband and I lived in Italy where I picked up Italian. Studies show that the more languages you speak, the easier it becomes for you to learn a new one. It worked for me!
Traveling and learning about different cultures changed my life to the point that I decided to become a Spanish teacher. After ten years of teaching and trying new methodologies, I saw the power that music has over children – over anyone, really. Who doesn’t love music? I observed how children retained vocabulary words when singing, and how their pronunciation was better than if they just repeated the words from books or flashcards. After seeing the benefits of using music with my students, I created a musical curriculum for young children to learn Spanish. I went back to school to get my California teaching credentials and decided to start my own business called Musical Spanish.
The program has been designed for children to learn Spanish by using music, movement, and repetition. Why Music? Because it really helps children learn a second language. I mostly focused on toddlers and preschoolers because studies show the numerous benefits that young children gain from learning a second language at an early age. Their brain is more plastic and ready to create new circuits before puberty. After that, the capacity to pick up an accent starts to decline.
Another interesting fact is that learning a second language at an early age improves reading abilities and increases linguistic awareness. Research also shows that multilingual children have enhanced memory, planning, and multi-tasking. There are so many benefits but most importantly, Musical Spanish works because music is fun.
The rhythm and patterns help the child’s brain retain vocabulary words no matter the language. Scientists say that music stimulates the memory. Think about it: when you hear a song in the radio, one that you haven’t heard in a long time, the lyrics come back to you almost immediately and you spontaneously start singing!
Musical Spanish is a program where children sing, dance and have fun! It is
proven that children learn best when having fun. Children can learn a second language as easily as the first one if they are exposed daily. They learn the same way they learned their native language, with songs, lullabies and rhymes.
I carefully selected short and repetitive melodies. Some songs are traditional from Mexico and some are the ones I grew up with but I have also written my own songs for key moments.
Mimicking is very important when teaching a second language because children associate the word with facial expressions. It is better than translating word by word. Children can read the gestures and understand what I’m saying or singing, maybe not each word but they get the general idea.
Musical Spanish works because is fun and that’s a fact! I love to hear what parents have to share after their children start taking Musical Spanish. One mom shared that her 3 year old daughter greeted their Mexican gardener in Spanish. Another mom said that her daughter sings Buenos Dias every day in the morning. But my favorite one is from a mom that was making popcorn for family movie night and her daughter started to sing: “palomitas, palomitas.” Her daughter smiled at her and said: “that’s how you say popcorn in Spanish.” The mom was happily impressed because her daughter had taken one class only.
I don’t need to write more about why Musical Spanish works and why it is so successful, just come and try it out!