- 25 October 2013
- by Teddy Oh
This summer, I had the privilege of traveling with Rustic Pathways to be a counselor at a day camp for Costa Rican children living in the city of La Fortuna. With a group of 14 other students, I worked to design the whole camp program, from the theme: La Dulcería (which means Candyland in Spanish), to the English classes we taught every afternoon, to the ﬁnal fun play day at a huge water park.
It was a great experience full of surprises, and one of the things that surprised me the most about the Costa Rican kids, called Ticos, was how impressive their English was. Most of the kids were 8-10 years old, and many were already able to have a decently well spoken conversation with me about the weather, my family, sports, clothing, or food. When I was 11 years old in 6th grade, my Spanish vocabulary consisted mainly of various children’s songs which I’ve been told don’t actually make any sense when translated and the word “chėvere” which my teacher told me meant “cool”.
After teaching these Ticos and realizing what an impact being exposed to English at such a young age had made on their language skills, I wanted to bring back what I learned and apply it to my community.
If you’re learning a foreign language at school or are already ﬂuent in another language, there’s tons of ways you can help English speaking kids learn Spanish, French, Japanese, or even Norwegian.
Aside from tutoring kids at your school or volunteering to be a teacher’s assistant in a language class, consider contacting your local library. Most libraries have programs with story time for little kids where volunteers can read books to toddlers and children. Try offering to read a book to kids in a different language with a translated version of “Green Eggs and Ham” or “Goodnight Moon”, reading each page in a foreign language and then translating it to English so that the kids get a feel for the language, and still get to enjoy the story. If your library doesn’t already have a program, try to start a new foreign language “Spanish Story time for Toddlers” or “French Fairy Tales” series for kids.