Which foreign language to choose can be tricky but here are reasons why Spanish is the top choice for Singapore kids.
Most Singaporeans (73.2% according to a government survey) are bilingual because of our society’s unique cultural make-up and our education system’s bilingual policy. However, this doesn’t mean that we should discount learning a foreign language.
In fact, the benefits of learning a foreign language are well-documented and plentiful: increasing cognitive function, improving creativity, opening future opportunities, appreciating diversity, and so on. Language acquisition is even a component in International Baccalaureate (IB) programmes - further proof of its importance.
Which foreign language to choose can be tricky because there are so many options. Consider these 5 factors and find out why Spanish should be your top choice as your child's foreign language:
#1 - The purpose
Go back to your reason for wanting your child to learn a foreign language. Most of the time, we choose an enrichment class because it will equip our children with skills, knowledge and attitudes that will help them succeed in the future. Learning a foreign language is perfect for just that and choosing a pervasive language like Spanish is very practical. Spanish is spoken and studied all over the globe, as you will understand when you take a look at the trends discussed below.
#2 - The context
Understanding the global context and trends will also help you decide. The top three languages used in the world today are Chinese (about 1 billion speakers), Spanish (400 million) and English (360 million). If your child already knows Chinese and English, then choose Spanish to cover the top 3 most-used languages. Furthermore, knowing Spanish can differentiate your child in a society that already recognises Mandarin Chinese, Malay and Tamil as official languages.
Moreover, it is estimated that 21 million people in the world are studying Spanish, mainly in countries like the US, France and Brazil. Spanish will help your child belong to an internationally influential community!
#3 - The map
If you remember your World History, the Spanish empire was the first global empire and had territories in Africa, the Americas, Oceania, and Asia. Today, about 21 countries still use Spanish as their official language and Spanish culture definitely influenced more.
It is also the most widely spoken of the Romance languages (languages that evolved from Latin), making it a stepping stone to understand other languages from the same family such as Portuguese, Italian and French! Future jetsetters will definitely benefit from learning Spanish.
#4 - The opportunities
As early as 2012, the Ministry of Education recognised the growing importance of Spanish and made it the 3rd language for secondary school students. Spanish is essential to connect with Latin America, Europe, and the fastest growing community in the USA. Aside from encouraging more businesses from Spanish-speaking countries to have a hub in Singapore, it’s also good for Singaporean companies that plan to expand to other regions.
Did you know that the US will be the country with most native Spanish speakers, from its 50 million today to 138 million by 2050? This will translate into a lot of opportunities in the US and other countries for those who can also speak and understand Spanish.
#5 - The interest
Do you love Spanish food like tapas and paella? How about dances like the flamenco? From wines to music as well as literature and art, it's easy to love Hispanic culture because of how it passionately celebrates life's joys.
Getting your child interested to learn the new language is another consideration. If your pre-schooler loves Dora the Explorer or her cousin Diego, remind your child that they speak Spanish! Boys might be fans of Spanish football teams while girls will soon be introduced to Disney's first Hispanic princess, Elena of Avalor. These cultural representatives make Spanish a fun choice for children.
The school for learning Spanish in the heart of Singapore
Of course, it is important to check the quality of the foreign language class. Consider the class size (large enough to provide socialisation and allow children to learn from each other but small enough to allow teachers to provide enough guidance to each individual) as well as the approach (immersive vs. rote memorisation). Testimonials from current students, teachers’ credentials, the programme’s track record, and accreditations are likewise good indicators.
One highly recommended school for learning Spanish is Las Lilas. Since 2005, the school has been teaching Spanish, not only to individuals, but also to Singaporean companies, government bodies and schools. It prides itself in being the only centre in Southeast Asia that is accredited by Instituto Cervantes, the institute that the Spanish government created to promote the teaching of Spanish language and culture.
Las Lilas Kids
When it comes to kids, Las Lilas is serious about its vision "to make Spanish the natural communication channel for the children in a warm and wholehearted environment." Teachers come from Spanish-speaking countries and are experts in Spanish and kids; classes for children are strictly capped at 12 students; and they draw on the richness of Spanish culture (think music, literature and food) to make sessions recreational and engaging.
Children as young as 2 years old can join their hour-long classes, usually held on Saturdays or after-school hours on weekdays so as not to conflict with school. Older children can enjoy the 1.5-hour-long sessions. Regular classes are offered in modules of 10 sessions that can be automatically renewed. 60-80 hours per year (at least once a week) is recommended so that learning is steady and most effective. Private classes and specific programmes are also available for IB students are those who want to receive a Diploma of Spanish as a Foreign Language (DELE).
For those looking for week-long programmes to maximise exposure and impact, upcoming Kids Camps for 6 to 12-year olds will run on a weekly basis from November 28 to December 23 (10am to 12:30pm). It will be activity-based and incorporate Spanish music and dancing. With fun themes like the Lion King and Christmas, your child will be saying "fantástico" before the end of the school holidays!