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So, You Want Your Kid to Speak a Second Language

An abridged atlas to summer language camps

Published on: January 01, 2019

language camp
To have another language is to possess a second soul.
— Charlemagne

This summer, take a pointer from the polyglot (and apparently ultra-soulful) “Father of Europe” and enroll your kids in a language camp. They’ll be having so much fun, they won’t even know they’re learning!

It’s good for them

Science has proven time and again how learning a second language benefits a child. Learning another language boosts problem-solving, critical-thinking and listening skills, in addition to improving memory, concentration and the ability to multitask. Children proficient in other languages also show signs of enhanced creativity and mental flexibility.

Moreover, kids who learn a second language have improved reading, writing and math skills, and generally perform better on standardized tests.

And, finally, there is an empathy advantage: Children exposed at an early age to other languages display more positive attitudes to the cultures associated with those languages.

What are my options?

In the Seattle area, there is a plethora of language and culture camps. Kids can have fun learning such diverse tongues as Arabic, French, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish and others. Most camps cater to each student’s existing knowledge of the language. If a camper is already proficient in Spanish, they’ll be spoken to in Spanish. If they are new to the language, the camp staff will adjust to each student’s level of aptitude.

How do you find the right camp for your child? First, meet with camp staff. Ask them about the curriculum and what aspects of the language’s culture they’ll explore. If you’re fluent in the language yourself, use it while interviewing the staff.

Here is a limited list of some Seattle-area camps. And who knows? When summer is over, your children may just tell you “Thank you,” “Gracias,” “Merci” or “Danke sehr.”

Multiple languages

One World Now offers summer language camps in Arabic, Chinese, Korean and Russian. The language and culture camps focus on fostering language acquisition, intercultural understanding and a desire for international travel. Students learn through classroom activities, guest speakers, music and field trips. The last day of camp features student performances in a culminating showcase for classmates, family and friends. 

language campSponge School offers camps in Spanish, Mandarin and Cantonese Chinese, Japanese, German and French. Camp themes include “Cooking Around Latin America,” “The Secrets of the Maya,” “Tales of the Monkey King” and others. Campers range in age from preschoolers through fifth-graders and are grouped according to age and ability.

Asian Pacific Language School offers classes in Mandarin Chinese and Japanese. Cultural activities include Asian arts, cooking, counting, music, painting, games and more. There are afternoon field trips to neighborhood parks and farms, and weeks are themed (for example, “Food Week,” “Stories and Legends” and “Summer in Asia”).

Danish

Himmelbjerget Danish Camp offers a unique opportunity for kids ages 10–18 to learn about the history, people, culture, language and traditions of Denmark. There is also a camp for younger children, Little Tivoli Day Camp, for kids ages 3–10.

French

Alliance Française de Seattle, Seattle’s leading French cultural and learning center, offers summer camps for ages 6 to 15. These week-long intensive courses are available for all levels of French (beginner, intermediate or advanced) and combine French language and culture with the fun of a traditional summer camp.

Up in the San Juan Islands, un petit peu of France can be found on a 47-acre private island. Canoe Island French Camp was founded in 1969. Attendees at the sleepaway camp learn French and about France’s culture, and participate in traditional summer camp activities such as kayaking, theater, archery, sailing, marine biology and fencing.

On the Eastside, the French Immersion School of Washington Summer Camp offers five weeklong sessions that engage different aspects of a child’s imagination, using visual arts, storytelling, theater, science, music and movement. The camp is conducted in French, but previous French-language experience is not required.

German

ABC Sommerprogramm, presented by Seattle’s ABC German School, are summer camps designed for children ages 3–10 to learn the German language through songs, games and play. Each week has its own theme, with crafts, songs and games to match. Topics include “Jump Into Art,” “A Trip Through Asia” and “The Chemistry Lab.”

Japanese

The Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington offers a summer camp where children learn reading, writing and conversational Japanese language skills as well as participate in a variety of Japanese cultural activities, such as calligraphy, playing the koto, origami, martial arts, dance, games, singing and much more.

Sign language

Seattle Children’s Summer Program for Deaf and Hard of Hearing provides summer fun for campers who use sign language as their primary mode of communication. Activities include swimming, art, playing outdoors, special guest visitors, games and more. All staff members are fluent in sign language.

Spanish

The Language Link offers weeklong Spanish immersion camps. Students absorb language and culture through art, music, dance and more. The camp focuses on one country per week. Helping tend the Global Youth Garden is an integral part of each camp.

Seattle Amistad School offers 10 weeks of Spanish-immersion enrichment programming. The campers learn about the wonders of the Pacific Northwest through its arts, cultures and ecoregions. Activities include art projects, science experiments, field trips, yoga, dance and music.

Zoom Language Center’s summer camp program has been named “Best Spanish Camp” twice by Seattle Met magazine. Daily activities include singing, dancing, dramatic play, arts and crafts projects, cognitive games, cooking, photography, soccer and outdoor play.

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