Raising Multilingual Kids

One of the best things about raising children abroad is having the opportunity for them to learn a second (or third!) language. Studies show that building the skill of multilingualism at a young age boosts brain development and complex thinking. And the benefits of being well-versed in a foreign language will be invaluable to them as adults.

Being multilingual is a key element of global citizenship as it fosters cultural appreciation and enhances communication skills, not only among peers at schools but through life across education, work and travel. This is why from age five, students at Stamford American School have the option of learning daily Spanish or Mandarin, two of the world’s most widely spoken languages. Students progress through four proficiency levels, ensuring that they are stretched and challenged appropriately.

Students also have the opportunity to enroll in Stamford’s highly popular Bilingual Chinese & English Program. The Bilingual Program, which has already proven highly successful at Stamford’s sister campus in Singapore, aims to develop excellent communication skills in both English and Chinese (Mandarin / Simplified Chinese). Whereas other schools operate bilingual programs where one Chinese teacher instructs for 50% of the curriculum and one English teacher instructs for the remaining 50% of the school day, Stamford offers a more immersive bilingual program whereby the curriculum is taught by one teacher who is effectively bilingual herself/himself.

Stamford is using this immersive bilingual teaching model because it allows children to effectively model the behavior of the bilingual teacher and become bilingual themselves. Having one bilingual teacher (rather than two teachers specializing in their own language) also avoids the issue of doubling up on homework. The teacher is able to understand fully where the child is weakest or strongest, not only in language but across the curriculum for all other subjects, as they spend 100% of the school day with the students whereas two teachers would only get 50% of the picture each. Equal daily exposure to both languages across the curriculum results in the greatest possible proficiency and confidence in both languages.

Students at Stamford are assessed in Chinese and Spanish using STAMP (Standards-Based Measurement of Proficiency) in the relevant language. STAMP tests are written by native speakers and evaluate students’ reading, writing and speaking abilities.

Outside of school, there are many ways parents can help their budding multi-linguists with their language learning at home. There is an app for almost every language but the best ones engage through interactive content that reinforces what is being learned at school, after-school clubs, and language classes. Try these top four child-friendly language apps recommended by Stamford below:

  • Gus on the Go: Gus, a cartoon traveling owl, guides children on an ten-part vocabulary adventure with delightful animal noises, transportation sounds and colorful animations. Available in 30 languages, including Mandarin and Spanish.
  • Little Pim: Best for children under the age of six, this app features Pim the Panda in a variety of games and stories, which can be read independently or with the help of a narrator. Available in 12 languages, including Mandarin and Spanish.
  • Chungaboo: Featuring colorful hand-drawn illustrations and various games, Chungaboo offers a rich visual experience for children as they learn new vocabulary from flying flashcards, earn achievements for their work and compete with friends. Available in six languages, including Mandarin and Spanish.
  • Dic Dic: This multi-level spelling and audiovisual dictation game challenges children ages three to 12 to practice writing and spelling through matching sounds with letters. Available in English, Spanish, French, Russian and Catalan.

Find out more about Stamford American School by inquiring online here, emailing admissions@sais.edu.hk or calling +852 2500 8688. Or, schedule a visit to meet Stamford’s Admissions Team at their Admissions Office (Two Exchange Square, Level 40, Suites 4005-4007, 8 Connaught Place, Central, Hong Kong).

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