- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 17, 2005

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Starting little is getting big in languages. Long considered a subject for college or high school, foreign language is becoming more popular in elementary schools, specialists say.

Parents and teachers often are fueling this expansion in their schools, backed by research that shows young children have great capacity for learning languages.

“There’s something very special about the brain and mind during early life that makes it exactly ripe for developing language,” said Susan Curtiss, a professor of linguistics at the University of California at Los Angeles.

With children in other nations often learning English, French or another language with their native one, Miss Curtiss said the United States could move toward the norm by introducing languages early, “and not just games and songs a couple of times a week.”

In Pinellas County, Fla., daily Spanish lessons begin in kindergarten at Perkins Elementary. By late spring, first-grader Emma Couture had finished two years of Spanish.

“She came home from her first day of class and said, ‘I speak Spanish,’” said her mother, Wilma Norton.

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