When Vicky Michaud Tranquada moved to the Valley, she discovered a melting pot filled with multicultural neighborhoods, but few options for teaching children how to speak foreign languages. She took matters into her own hands by creating the Global Kids Language Center in New Windsor.
“It was developed based on a need that I discovered when I came to live in the Hudson Valley approximately six years ago,” Tranquada says. “I was looking for language classes for my daughter, and I didn’t really find any. So after speaking to other parents looking for the same thing for their children, I developed a language class to teach basic communication skills.”
Tranquada — who is multilingual in English, French, Greek, and Spanish — geared the program towards kids ages six through 11 and brought it to the director at Hudson Hills Academy, where her daughter was a student. “The director was excited about having a language program held at the school, even though Global Kids is a private entity,” Tranquada says. The planning began last October, and the first session took place in March. Although the initial enrollment was modest — three classes offering French, Spanish, or Mandarin to an average of three students each — Tranquada says interest has grown quickly. In fact, they’re expanding classes to an even younger set, ages three to five; these sessions will employ a different learning style appropriate for younger children, like singing songs.
Global Kids currently offers lessons in Spanish, Mandarin, French, Italian, German, and Arabic. Students learn from qualified teachers (each has more than 10 years of teaching experience) in 12-week sessions in the spring and fall; a shorter summer course (about four weeks) is specially tailored for warm-weather instruction. “Our summer ideas include doing a skit in a foreign language, or learning through arts and crafts activities,” she says. “Sitting down and learning is important, too, but for summer we want to keep it fun.”
Registration for beginner classes is open to all, but an assessment may be given for those looking to enroll in higher level classes. Prices and schedules vary depending on the specific courses, so refer to the Web site for details. “Our mission is to broaden children’s horizons by opening their minds to other cultures through language,” Tranquada says.
“Learning new languages is important for the development of children’s minds and skills. It can help them improve and enhance their futures.”
In fact, research published in Psychological Science suggests that simply thinking in a foreign language helps people make quicker and better life decisions. Furthermore, research by the College Entrance Examination Board reports a direct correlation between foreign language study and high SAT scores. People who speak a foreign language often enjoy better career prospects and higher standards of living. And there are even health benefits — recent findings from the University of Chicago suggest that a second language also helps prevent dementia later in life.