"The teachers and curriculum are exceptional, and Esme loves her German class. What a thrill it has been to watch her acquire new words in a new language!"
We know you have questions about Yak Academy and language immersion education...and we have answers. Here you will find some answers to the most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). Just in case we didn't answer your questions below, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to ask us!
Over time, studies show exposure to multiple languages actually improves a child’s primary language.
While an admirable goal, a child will not become fluent in a second language with only 1-2 hours of instruction per week in our classes or off-site programs. Our objectives for these programs are to build basic second language comprehension and speech production. These building blocks will provide a great foundation for language learning and proficieny. From a comprehension standpoint, they will understand nearly everything that the instructor says in the classroom. If you are looking for your child to become proficient in the language, please consider our preschool classes.
Researchers have found that between birth and 6 years is ideal. After the age of 6, the ability to naturally acquire language slowly declines. By the time a child reaches puberty, he or she actually stores language in a different part of the brain and language learning becomes laborious.
Researchers have identified a number of benefits from early second language exposure, including:
In addition, if proficiency or fluency is achieved and maintained, it provides business and personal advantages that will last throughout a lifetime.
No. While we strive to promote higher learning and enrichment for your little ones, we work in a play-based and pressure-free environment — similar to how a child learns his or her primary language. We do not grade children on performance. Instead, we slowly increase the complexity of the lessons, allowing your child to grow with the program.
Class structure and length vary depending on the program selected and what works best with your schedule. To learn more about your program options and details, click here.
We cover fun themes and topics relevant to these ages, such as letters, numbers, shapes, body parts, food, and family, just to name a few. Just as importantly, we focus on practical communication within our games and activities, helping children communicate need, possession, and preferences.
Unlike adults, children acquire language best simply by being immersed in it. To help them with this, our instructors use a technique called “Total Physical Response” (TPR), which involves various non-verbal communication such as role-playing and object display to help communicate meaning. And, because most of our activities are already familiar to children (e.g. bingo, go fish, relay races), they can quickly grasp and comprehend the language concepts that accompany these activities.
Teacher assessment of a child's progress, presentations following each thematic unit, and other means are used to gauge a child's development and learning within our programs.
In an effort to diminish stress and optimize language learning, we do not have formal evaluations. We instead use something called ‘spiraling curriculum’. This concept is used by educators across the globe to constantly reintroduce concepts that will assist in long term understanding of the target language.
We teamed with leading experts in the area of foreign language instruction, including Dr. Helena Curtain, author of Languages and Children: Making the Match and Dr. Emily Spinelli, President of the American Council of Spanish and Portuguese Teachers, among others. With their guidance, we created a proprietary curriculum and teaching methodology that has been road-tested and continuously improved upon since we opened in 2004.
Most of our instructors are native speakers from a variety of countries and backgrounds, or are fluent with native-like accents. In class, they do speak their native dialect, with the possible exception of core vocabulary, which would be consistent with your take-home exercises.
Our instructors are typically native speakers in their respective languages, who share a passion for and a dedication to working with children. While their backgrounds vary, in general they are dynamic, lots of fun, good souls, and wonderful in the classroom.
Yes. Nothing is more important to us than the safety of your children. We conduct background checks on each and every instructor, including criminal and sexual offense checks. We also conduct reference checks for first-hand feedback on instructors prior to their employment with Yak Academy.
As much as possible, we try to encourage self-discipline and self-control in our children, but when necessary, the instructors follow a simple process for discipline. First, they warn the child about the behavioral issue. If it continues, the child sits out of the class activity that is going on at the time. If the problematic behavior still continues, the instructor escorts the child outside of the class to spend time with the center director. At this point, the director and/or instructor will communicate the problematic behavior to the child’s parent or caregiver. Note that this last course of action is extremely rare, as most children are highly engaged in classes and focused on having fun. Discipline rarely escalates beyond a warning.
No. Children can learn as many languages as they are exposed to. About 5% of our students register for multiple languages, and they generally thrive in both. One way that parents help to optimize the learning of multiple languages is to have each parent or caregiver focus on 1 language. Before making the decision to enroll your child in more than one language, please consider your child’s current load of enrichment classes, and schedule (ex. You would not want to enroll the child in back-to-back language classes.)
Children respond differently in the classroom, especially when producing language. From a scientific standpoint, children need a varying amount of input in order to begin creating output. The best analogy is to imagine that each child’s brain is a sponge filling up with water (language). Once the sponge is full, the language will just start dripping out.
Absolutely! First, we provide take-home materials that should help you even if you cannot speak the language. Second, our program is designed so that even with minimal or no reinforcement, children can still achieve our key goals of building a base in the language and developing a love for the language that will carry on into the child’s schooling.
No. Children store languages discreetly in their brains and can learn as many languages as they are exposed to. That being said, it doesn’t mean they won’t mix up a word or two (e.g. “I want more agua”), it just means they are not confusing the language.
It’s helpful for children to be exposed as much as possible to the language. We have several families who attend Yak Academy and who have a bilingual caregiver, a parent that speaks it at home, or perhaps a friend that speaks another language. The reason that most of these parents bring their children is to take advantage of the formalized instruction in a fun environment that our program offers (for example, specific goals, themes and instruction techniques) and to provide another forum to reinforce the language outside of the home.
We don’t make specific recommendations for a language, as we think all of our languages and instructors who teach them are great. That being said, our 2 most popular languages are Spanish and Mandarin, so you will see the most class offerings. Regardless of the language selected, children will gain the many unique benefits of early foreign language education and acquisition.
Yak Academy opened its first location in September, 2004 in Birmingham, Michigan.
Part of the idea behind immersion-based learning is that it is continuous and one can jump in at any time, although there may be some restrictions based on the program. Please check with your center director for details.
Depending on the location, program and age-group, this varies from 1:3 to 1:8.
Our classes are 90-100% immersion for all age groups.
Immersion is a means for foreign language instruction, in which the entire class is conducted in the target language.
We recommend children attend class twice a week. However, if your child can only attend once per week, he or she will still acquire the many benefits of exposure to a second language.
Our goals for the program are to build basic second language comprehension and speech production. From a comprehension standpoint, they will understand nearly everything that the instructor says in the classroom.
In terms of speech production, children will start with repetition and then very quickly begin answering choice questions (ex. “Do you want a little or a lot?”) and producing phrases and short statements. They will also learn many songs in the target language.
Yak Academy provides take-home reinforcement materials. Additionally, there are several steps parents and caregivers can take to further a child’s foreign language education and acquisition.
Our programs are set up by age group, not by proficiency level. But because classes are immersion-based and instructors focus on the different proficiency levels of the children, all children, regardless of age or level, will be able to build on their existing abilities. For advanced children, instructors will focus more on interpersonal communication as opposed to simple repetition and building basic vocabulary.
Our teachers assess each child’s proficiency and focus on staying one step ahead of him/her. For more advanced children, teachers will focus more on having students communicate in sentences and use less non-verbal cues to reinforce meaning. Conversely, for beginners, instructors will use more non-verbal communication and simple one-word answers or choice questions.