Oberlin preschoolers say 'Hola' to learning Spanish

Oberlin preschoolers say 'Hola' to learning Spanish
Published: Oct. 10, 2017 at 7:19 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 13, 2017 at 1:06 PM EDT
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OBERLIN, OH (WOIO) - English is the first language for close to two dozen 4-year-olds at Eastwood Elementary school in Oberlin, but for 20 minutes, once a week, you will only hear Spanish spoken in their classroom.

Julia Thomas, the school's Spanish teacher, just started teaching the class at the beginning of the school year. At first, she says, parents were surprised.

"They are shocked that it is happening at this young of an age, and sometimes they think that it won't work, but I just tell the parents, 'ask your kid to sing you a song,' because we have songs, and that's communicating with real language," said Thomas.

But already, Thomas says that she's hearing progress. The kids are telling her what their name is and telling her what the names of the toy frog and dog that she uses in class are.

The class is done in collaboration with Oberlin College.

Students from Oberlin help to teach Spanish classes at the school.

Spanish is the most spoken non-English language in the United States with more than 37 million, ages 5 and older, speaking the language. It's the fastest-growing language in America -- numbers are up 233 percent since 1980, according to the Pew Research Center.

The number of Spanish speakers is projected to rise between 39 million and 43 million through 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Experts say when it comes to learning a second language, the earlier the better.

"As young as we can get them started, that is where I want to start because we can sing. We can dance, and all of those songs and repetitions get in their head. And they are not going to forget it," added Thomas.

What do the kids themselves think?

A little boy named King told us he loved the singing, and then showed us what he learned singing a hello song in Spanish.

Students in other grades at Eastwood Elementary have been learning Spanish in their classrooms for years. This is just a first for the preschoolers.

School officials hope that their preschool Spanish program continues for years to come.

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