Elementary students will soon be learning four new languages as part of Plymouth-Canton Community Schools expanded World Language Program, which begins this year.
Fourth and fifth-graders will be introduced to Chinese, French, German and Spanish.
The expansion program began as a pilot last year, and was adopted by the Board of Education. Students will receive one semester, or 18 weeks, of Chinese and one semester of French, German and Spanish split evenly. It works out to six weeks for each language.
"Our kids have been really enjoying it and they themselves wish to be introduced to a new world," Lishuai Jia, Plymouth-Canton's Chinese teacher said. "At the same time, like research shows, we also realized that it is necessary to start learning foreign languages at early age. So our district set a plan to expand the program, and we begin with fourth and fifth-graders."
Christine Ladner will teach the other three languages in the program. Jia and Ladner will travel among the district's 15 elementary schools throughout the year. All four languages are also offered at the high school.
"They love it - it's not confusing to them, for adults it's confusing," Ladner said about the students.
Ladner said that young children are good language learners because they have the ability to code switch - a skill that's necessary to be a translator and switch between languages.
"People with bilingual households do this all the time - and it's a skill," she said. "It's a skill that as teenagers and adults, you can't learn really well. You just don't have the capacity to become a good code switcher at these older ages, but younger kids do. They are able to switch between languages very well. They can learn that skill and become very good at it."
"I think the program reflects the fact that parents are increasingly supportive of having their children become global citizens," Ladner said. "And parents are making this a priority. It's a reflection on the community as a whole."