We got back from our trip to El Salvador just last week, and it already feels like it was so long ago. Yet, the memories and benefits we gained from this trip are still well alive. Some weeks ago I shared about Camila’s cultural immersion with her familia, and promised I’d be back to tell you more about her experience at a local, Spanish-language preschool.
I made the decision to enroll her to a local preschool for two reasons:
1) Strengthen her Spanish. I had a couple of friends who had done the same thing when they visited their families in Latin America and said their kids benefited from it.
2) Even though we were away “on vacation,” I had to continue working my part-time job from home. So, I needed to have some time alone to work.
My sister helped me find a preschool that was run by two friends of her’s who allowed Camila to come in for only a month. School starts in El Salvador the second week of August, right after a week-long National holiday known as “Las Fiestas Patrias de Agosto.” Camila was able to be there the first day of school, so that eased the transition a bit because the other kids were more welcoming to her being there, and not be singled out as the “new girl.”
It also helped a lot that, at the moment, she speaks mostly Spanish. She still goes back and forth with certain words and phrases she totally prefers in English. Such as her infamous “Wha happen?!” that she can repeat and repeat for any little thing all day!
Camila really didn’t have a hard time adapting to the actual school setting. I think it all happened so fast and so many new things, faces, foods and situations were thrown her way in a span of four weeks that she didn’t have much time to react. She came back home to her abuelita’s every day singing new songs in Spanish, talking more and more in full sentences in one language and mentioning names of new little amigos. The same little amigos created this card for her on her last day. She was so, so proud of it and still smiles when I read out the names on each hand to her.
Do I recommend this full-immersion method in a new school and a new country to all? Depends. It can be a tough transition and a lot to assimilate at once. It’s a method that worked for us because of my daughter’s age (3 YO), the timing (first day of school), the length of the visit (one month), my sister’s help in finding the right place, and Camila’s fluency in Spanish. If you have an adaptable child in the preschool years and a support system in the country you are visiting, then I absolutely recommend it.
During the preschool years children absorb like sponges all the information around them, specifically language. A full immersion experience like this will cement the language foundation you’re already building every day and will make the language even more relevant and special to your child.
Now, I’m facing a new language challenge. We’ve decided it’s time for her to go to a more formal school setting, instead of the fabulous family daycare she’s at right now. At the daycare, she gets a lot of Spanish spoken to her, per my request. There’s a ridiculous lack of dual language preschools in Los Angeles, and mostly in my area, so we have to enroll her at a great little Montessori in our neighborhood.
Now that her Spanish is beautiful, I’m faced with the *fear* of her not being understood at her new preschool! This is when the fun begins in this bilingual journey as the real input of English will start flowing in and she will have to decide whether to continue speaking in Spanish to her mamá and papá or not. We surely won´t stop doing so!
Have you ever formally immersed your children in a language while visiting another country? Do you plan to one day? How?