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|Language Immersion by Relocation|
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With ease of travel and advanced technology old boundaries that divided language groups are becoming more and more blurred and being proficient in multiple languages is becoming increasingly valuable. Being bilingual as a child has many advantages and opens so many doors. It will increase future job opportunities and make them more flexible in their thinking. It makes them better listeners. It actually improves the understanding they have of their own native language. It gives them the ability to communicate with people they would otherwise never be able to communicate with. It opens cultural doors and creates an appreciation for people from other countries. It gives an edge for language courses in college and overall has a positive effect on cerebral growth.
Even though the research shows that the best time to learn is from birth to age 7, from my personal experience my child of 8 learned much faster and better than my child of 4. Some have a natural gift for language of course but there is really no magic number and it's never too late. My children have no accent in either language which is something close to impossible for adults to achieve. Only because of having gringo parents are they identified as gringos.
Chilean Spanish and Dialects
Many have an opinion that Chileno Spanish is bad or less than standard but it would be like having the opportunity to live in a beautiful state in the US and not taking advantage of it because of the accent. Certainly living in rural places in any country can affect the accent you take in Spanish but by exposure to many different people within the country this will not be a problem. I know many people in Chile who never say “po” for example. In school your children will learn proper grammar in Spanish and written Spanish will teach them quite well. The media also provides many examples of Spanish accents and dialects. They will know that the entire Spanish speaking world does not sound the same because they would have already learned this from listening to the English speaking world.
Chile Relocating with a Family
Some would think that moving your entire family to a foreign country is a bit extreme but even though the U.S. has a reputation for being the world’s melting pot, it has extremely low levels of proficiency in learning a second language. Most students only study just English, or learn another language in high school when gaining true proficiency becomes very difficult. We all know that high school aged students are more self critical and so this is probably not the best time to introduce a second language except with relocation to a Spanish speaking country and total Spanish immersion. The English programs in Chile vary from school to school and only those in the top Santiago schools will have any chance to be really bilingual. After childhood areas of the brain that respond to language learning become more fixed and the process becomes more academic and less organic.
Adults and Spanish in Chile
Language immersion is not only to benefit children. Learning as an adult is a different story but still can be a wonderful experience. The one thing we all do is look for people who speak English or whatever our native language is and this can keep us from learning Spanish. Even though you may always sound like a gringo you can learn Spanish by simply living and interacting in a Spanish speaking country. There are new programs to help adults learn in the same way that children learn. Spanish is far more expressive than English and so poetry and music become quite enjoyable when you have an understanding of the language. Having relationships in Spanish is more challenging but can be immensely rewarding as well.
I have met many South Americans who have learned English by different methods. Some went to college just to study English translation and others learned from music. I recently met a young man who has never left Chile and never had English classes but communicates quite well in English. He learned from music lyrics , a strong motivation, a special gift, and a love of learning. He is now able to travel to an English speaking country and work there. This proves that it's not all about the age you learn it or how you learn it. The same success can be achieved for those who learn Spanish in their own countries. However, in general most people do not learn this way. This shows the value of sheer determination but relocation with total immersion is by far the most efficient method and is a true guarantee for proficiency.