When looking to create a great summer for their kids, many parents consider day camps to help fill up the days with fun. But this summer, what if you could combine all the fun with the kind of learning that will open doors for their future? That’s a win — and that’s exactly what the summer experience Instituto Cervantes has created in its week-long full immersion Spanish summer camps.
“For parents, and I’m a mom, I know you are always worried about what the kids are going to do in the future,” says Marina Polomo, a teacher at Instituto Cervantes, the largest international Spanish teaching institution in the world. “Learning Spanish opens doors.”
Not only does learning Spanish help kids build a better understanding of their first language, skills that will help them prepare for their high school and college courses, it gives them a leg up when applying to college and competing for jobs, she says. In fact, research has even shown that children who learn a second language have a higher rate of success in school and career.
At the same time, it fosters a greater appreciation for the cultures around them in our vibrant communities while positioning them to be an active member of a global society, she says. In addition to teaching the language, the summer camps celebrate Latin American and Spanish cultures, giving all children access to new ways to think about the world.
“The sooner they start learning, the better. The brain will grasp language so much better,” she says, pointing to studies that show learning language also changes how the brain learns in all other areas. Plus, kids have a can-do attitude that helps them embrace language much more quickly in an environment where only Spanish is spoken.
“Our teachers are really great and they are invested in the program,” Polomo says. “They make it very attractive to learn a language and they know exactly how to adapt content to the little ones and different levels.”
For kids new to Spanish, and those with some experience
The camps, held at Instituto Cervantes in Chicago’s River North neighborhood 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday-Friday June-August, are perfect for ages 4-16. Polomo says campers return year after year because they have so much fun. That said, not only are beginners absolutely encouraged to attend but so are kids who speak Spanish at home or who have taken Spanish classes before, Polomo says.
All of the learning is done through hands-on play, games and songs as well as activities, such as dance, arts and crafts and experiments. Kids will find it’s a collaborative, supportive environment where the love of language is combined with making good friends and having fun, she says.
They learn to speak, read and write in Spanish. They really enjoy practicing their language skills with other campers, she says.
“Kids really get comfortable. You can make mistakes and that’s fine. We are all here for having fun and learning. I think the teachers are really good at doing that,” Polomo says.
Parents shouldn’t worry if they don’t know any Spanish themselves. “In my experience, parents don’t need to know the language to be supportive,” she says, adding that they are opening doors for their kids that might otherwise be shut. Instituto Cervantes teachers, who are native speakers from Spain and Latin America, are committed to helping families and are the best resources to turn to when it comes to learning the language, she says.
Once students find out how much they love learning a new language, they can continue all year long on Saturdays at Instituto Cervantes’ Spanish courses, where the learning is always new and progressive.
“The goal is to learn Spanish, to practice it and have fun while learning,” Polomo says.
Learn more about Instituto Cervantes and its weekly summer Spanish camps at chicago.cervantes.es/en.