I was recently invited to a taster session with Muchachos Singing Spanish. Set up by Debbie Garrick in 2010, she also runs C’est Chouette Singing French sessions throughout Portsmouth and at various other venues throughout Hampshire. Having worked in a pre-school in Norway teaching French and English as a foreign language, she saw first hand how keen people abroad were to get their 2 and 3 year olds learning languages. On moving back to the UK as a single parent, she wanted to find something to do that fitted around her children and she started researching language development.
What she found was that there were a whole host of benefits to teaching your child a second language from an early age. In particular it can improve problem solving skills, increase language understanding as a whole and help retention of information. Children respond well to music and remembering songs, and Deborah started developing themes, starting with body parts, and moving on to transport, actions, food and animals.
A member of the Chartered Institute for Linguists, Deborah attends the Language Show and seminars every year and keeps up to date with language policy and developments in the national curriculum.
The session starts with introductions, and I sat with my son (nearly 2) in a circle whilst we introduced ourselves, the older children giving their own names, and the younger having their parents introduce themselves. All conversation takes place in spanish, and given I have never learned Spanish I was a little apprehensive about being able to follow and help my son. I needn’t have worried. The repetitive nature of the introductions meant that I very soon picked up what was being said, and the children all clearly knew what to expect and answered accordingly.
The structure of the session is fixed around games and songs, using a variety of brightly coloured props. The words for the songs are displayed as you sing so that you can pick up the words yourself and help your child, and the children seemed to have far less trouble than I did with the words – lovely Spanish versions of well known tunes and songs including Incy Wincy Spider amongst others. We played several inventive games including the sock game, where two colours of sock (in this case pink and purple) are handed out to each child, one for each hand, and instructions given to touch various body parts with a specific colour – which proved to be a very effective way of learning the colours and the body parts. Various other games were played which taught other colours and animal names.
The sessions are 45 minutes long which seemed to be just about right – enough time to get plenty of games and songs in, but just short enough that the children were kept interested throughout. My son is only just picking up English words and phrases now, but I was pleasantly surprised that he was picking up the odd Spanish word and repeating it appropriately, and much more importantly, he was having a lot of fun. I can see that with continued attendance he would certainly start to pick it up, even at 2.
It’s a new term this week but people can start at any time, and Muchachos and C’est Chouette both offer a free taster session and then it’s a termly booking (or whatever the remainder of the term is). Classes are for children from babies (Baby Spanish) to older pre-schoolers up to the age of 5. Deborah tells me that most children take around 3 weeks for it to all click. If you’d like to book a taster session then you can do so via the website www.singingspanish.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07796144388. Portsmouth venues include the Drayton Centre on Wednesdays (Spanish and French) and Thursdays (Spanish, including Baby Spanish) at the Church of the Holy Spirit, Fawcett Road, Southsea. You can also access classes in Chichester, Hedge End and Petersfield. Classes cost just £30 per 6 week term for pre-schoolers and £24 for baby Spanish.