Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Lakesite resident Paula Bonner has always wanted to speak a second language. She’s worked in other countries and traveled quite a bit, but the languages never stuck with her, she said. Not even what she learned in her high school Spanish classes.
When she had her son Ian, now 3 years old, she got even more inspired about language. Through research, she discovered the benefits of learning a second language at an early age, such as better synaptic connections in the brain, enhanced cognitive development, increased ability to problem solve, improved skills in math and music and more.
Then there’s all the increased job opportunities for bilingual adults — like, perhaps, Ian — she added.
“Since he was born I committed to learning a language,” Bonner said, explaining that she’d read him Spanish storybooks and speak as much as she knew. “Babies are just made to learn it. They pick it up. Now, [Ian] is fluent, for a 3-year-old.”
Ian became so fluent that he surpassed his parents in his speaking skills, and Bonner knew she needed to find a Spanish immersion preschool for him to attend. The problem was, she said she couldn’t find anything like that in the Chattanooga area.
So she set out to start her own, partnering with Laurie Stevens of Chattanooga School of Language. Stevens connected Bonner with Panama native Carol Guerra and Spain native Belen Galindo.
They’re starting small, with a two-day-a-week Spanish immersion summer camp at Rivermont Presbyterian, which is letting the camp use its facilities this summer.
Around 12 kids ages 3-6 currently participate, singing Spanish songs, taking directions in Spanish and practicing new words like amigos, cabeza and pregunta, or friends, head and question, respectively.
“It’s never too early to start when it comes to learning a language,” said Guerra.
“It’s exciting; it’s fun to watch them learn it,” Bonner said. “I think [Chattanooga] is ripe; it’s ready to be a city on the verge of stepping it up.”
This September, Bonner plans to open up her own preschool called Living Language Immersion Preschool in Hixson.
It will be a four-day preschool that follows Hamilton County Schools’ schedule, with the exception of the start date.
She said she’s still looking into the specifics when it comes to location, but she encourages parents in the community who are interested to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 596-8034.