Using Foreign Language as a Bridge to Learning in the Classroom
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Using Foreign Language as a Bridge to Learning in the Classroom

[ Bell ringing ]>>Student: [Speaking Japanese].>>Narrator: The sights and sounds
of Japan are part of the fabric of Portland, Oregon, a city with
a world class Japanese garden, and a unique public
school language program.>>Narrator: Here, Students
are immersed in Japanese from their first day of kindergarten.>>Students: [Greeting in Japanese]>>Deanne: The whole idea of
an immersion education is that you are surrounded
in the language. You are not teaching
the language independent from actual content or
real life situation.>>Deanne: I think a lot of people in our country have had high school
language and it’s a textbook, a reading and writing kind of
thing, but immersion means you’re in a situation where you have to pay
attention to the language in order to be able to do the
activity that’s going on. [ Singing in Japanese ]>>Deanne: Just through routine
and copying the teacher, they start developing a song
vocabulary and other things like that, that are part of
their real kindergarten world. [ Singing in Japanese ]>>Amy: First day it’s,
what’s going on? And then after that, it’s well,
this is the way school is. The teacher speaks in a new
language, and I try to figure it out. [ Singing in Japanese ]>>Amy: They are able to use language
in all the things they do in school, and when they’re washing their
hands, when they’re drawing on paper, when they’re trying to work
out a problem with a friend, any of these situations
can be situations in which we can insert
language and practice language.>>[ speaking Japanese ]>>They don’t even realize
how special it is.>>Narrator: Enrichment Elementary
School’s Japanese Magnet Program, students follow the
Oregon State Curriculum. They study their core subjects
in Japanese for half the day, and English for the other half.>>All: [Speaking Japanese].>>Narrator: In middle school,
they use Japanese for a third of their day, and in high
school, Japanese is offered as an advanced language class.>>Narrator: Michael Bacon, who has
been teaching in the program for more than a decade, sees students
benefiting in many ways.>>Michael: Their performance in, sort
of cognitive assessments are higher, their ability to see from
multiple perspectives.>>Michael: Their academic performance
is higher on standardized testing, their ability to pick up a third
and a fourth language is higher. That seems to play out
in all the research.>>All: [Shouting].>>Narrator: At Richmond
Elementary, students can take after school classes in martial
arts like karate, and kendo. They can also practice calligraphy,
which gives them another way to learn the language
and helps children with different learning styles.>>Teacher: [Speaking Japanese].>>Denise: English is very
difficult for her to write. The fact of the matter
is, Kanji, and Hiragana and Katakana are not
difficult for her to write. And I’m not even sure why this is,
except that having those two ways to come at one subject,
has been a big help to her. So learning to write a new
language was very, very beneficial in what it will do for
your brain structure. It’s a very fascinating thing to see
how easily children can pick that up.>>Narrator: Computers can also
help students write in Japanese. These fourth graders use
a program that lets them from Japanese characters by typing
combinations of English letters.>>Atsuko: [Speaking Japanese].>>Narrator: They are composing
multimedia self portraits to share with e-mail pen pals in Japan.>>Atsuko: Some kids are having
a difficulty actually write in Japanese. It’s because it’s complicated
language. But since the computers,
they’re used to it at home, too, they’re playing the games, and
they love it, and that boost up their interest, so then this
really helps developing their literacy skills.>>Teacher: Did anybody
carve a pumpkin?>>All: Yes.>>Narrator: In fifth grade
cultural exchange, Japanese students from a school near
Tokyo visit Portland.>>Teacher: What is the best
thing about your home state?>>Japanese Student: If you plant
a seed, it will grow into a tree, and you will get more
persimmon than you can ever eat.>>Narrator: The visiting students
make presentations in English at the school, and stay with
families of fifth graders.>>Aimee: I’m incredibly happy that I
started my children in this program. My middle child, Mason,
who’s in fifth grade, who we have the home
stay student for. He’s shy, he doesn’t talk much. I wasn’t actually sure
how much Japanese he knew. When Uta came, I realized
he knew a lot of Japanese.>>Aimee: He is speaking
to him in Japanese, they’ve forged a friendship
in just eight days.>>Narrator: Later in the year,
Portland fifth graders get to visit Japan, and there’s another
trip abroad in the eighth grade. Money for the trips and other program
needs, is raised by an active group of parents, who say the benefits of the program are
well worth the effort.>>Teacher: [Speaking Japanese].>>Parent: You don’t spend
extra time or effort thinking about how you’re learning
Japanese, and all of a sudden, they know Japanese, and I can’t
imagine how wonderful that would be, to graduate from school
with this real skill.>>Student: [Speaking Japanese].>>Denise: I think if you can
take a child at the age of five, and throw them into that cultural
and language mix, and let them know that English is not
the only language, that America is not the only culture,
they develop a really broad tolerance of things that are different.>>All: [Shouting].>>Denise: We live in a small
world, and I really feel that, as it becomes increasingly smaller,
we must learn to, not only get along with other nations and other
cultures, we need to understand and not think that we are
the only kids on the block.>>Narrator: For more information on, What Works in Public
Education, go to

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9 thoughts on “Using Foreign Language as a Bridge to Learning in the Classroom

  1. I'm learning Korean right now much beyond school and I envy these kids so much! They have no idea how lucky they are. If I were able to actualy learn another language, use it while in school, AND travel to Japan!!! I'm so jealous right now there aren't even words. There might be words in Japanese but I wouldn't know, I only know english *tears up*

  2. I agree, I am still learning Japanese in a class. However I am learning other languages outside of class. I think that it's never too late to learn. Although children learn better, it's okay, it's not impossible for an older person to learn more languages. Look at Steve Kaufman, he is over 60 years old and knows like 12 languages. and he also has Alzheimers. What I would like to do is try to also have my kids immerse in a new language too, but thats when i have children

  3. I do look up to Steve Kaufman, he's been such a help for me in my months of language learning. I too will have my kids immerse themselves in another language here at home. It opens up an entire new world to you and I know I regret not doing anything with my life when I was younger, everyone does.

  4. my 2 favorite polyglots on youtube are Moses Mccormick and Steve Kaufman.. One of the things I learned from them is that in order to learn a language, you need to stick with it. Also, when there is not even a little bit of passion in learning languages the language may not be worth pursuing. I find Moses very motivational and Steve very wise. I want to focus on the major languages of the world. I already know spanish, I am trying to get down chinese too.

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