Practice what you preach. I took that statement to heart when I changed my career path and started Lango Davis, a foreign language program that offers Spanish and Mandarin classes (and soon French) to children ages 1-10 in Davis and Sacramento. Why the career change? It was motivated by both professional and personal reasons.
I was a part-time lecturer at UC Davis teaching classes on early childhood development and focused on language development in several of my lectures. One of my favorite lectures (despite having given it more times than I care to remember!) explained recent language research demonstrating that infants lose some of their natural abilities to distinguish the unique sounds of a particular language as early as 11 months. For example, Japanese does not distinguish between the “L” and “R” sounds of English (“rake” and “lake” would sound the same). Dr. Patricia Kuhl, a distinguished language researcher and her team have proven that a 7-month-old in Tokyo and a 7-month-old in Seattle respond equally well to those different sounds. But by 11 months, the Japanese infants had lost a lot of that ability. Now that’s early!
So why do most schools in the U.S. start foreign language instruction in middle school (or even high school)? Lango was started with the strong belief that every child should learn a second language. I discovered Lango, a company based in San Francsico, when I took my daughter to a play space in Berkeley where several Lango classes are offered. I rushed home to check out Lango’s website and the rest is history. Well, let me backtrack just a bit.
I grew up in what could have been a tri-lingual household. My mom was born and raised in Argentina and her first language was Spanish, but she also spoke some Cantonese since her mother was from Hong Kong. My dad is from Myanmar, formerly Burma, and speaks a dialect of Chinese that is very different from Cantonese. So I grew up only hearing English since that is the only language that my parents had in common. If I had known what I know now about losing your natural ability to learn languages at such a young age, I would have stood up in my crib and told my parents to speak to me in Spanish, Cantonese, and Fujian.
I left teaching at UC Davis to start a Lango program because I strongly believe that every child should learn a second language (and start as early as possible) and because I would love to travel to Argentina and/or China with my two daughters one day and let them be my tour guide!
Helen Hadani, PhD AKA Dr. Spice is a member of the Davis Divas Running Group.
Developmental psychologist who runs a foreign language program in Davis while balancing the lives of two busy little girls and a husband who spends more of his time on airplanes and hotels than at home. Dedicated yogi, enthusiastic runner, and passionate internet shopper. Gossip Girl, American Idol, and Glee make me happy. Vietnam, Hong Kong, and The Maldives are my favorite places on earth. I run because it keeps me grounded and more recently because of the amazing group of women who make me smile.