First bilingualism: Plan within your budget
If you were building a house, or planning anything that really mattered, you'd start by considering your budget. Launching into something that you can't fund to completion would be a reckless recipe for disaster!
How may children are told that they are going to be gaining a new language, only to be disappointed with a handful of stock phrases? Sadly, they often feel it as their own failure, their own lack of language aptitude, when it was simply bad planning by the grown-ups.
If the time available is 40 - 80 hours a year, for 3-6 years, there is actually only one language that fits your budget - Esperanto. Fortunately, it fits easily and will give children time to use it for intercultural explorGlobal Educationation, as well providing as a firm basis for later language learning and you can do it yourself.
Don't let that last idea scare you, the same design features that make Esperanto a recipe for success for your class, will do the same for you.
Below is a little slideshow of some of the main features:
The US Foreign Service Institute provides some useful comparison data about adult learning of different languages. School children take longer to learn because they have less existing understanding of how languages work and because one hour a week is hugely ineffective. You can download their paper here.
How can I Teach a Language I Don't Know Yet?
Normally, it wouldn't be a good idea because normal languages have too many exceptions to their rules and you would be teaching things that turn out to be wrong, but this is the exception: In Esperanto it is possible to learn a series of simple lessons as you teach them so that you and your class become confidently bilingual together.
"Talking to the Whole Wide World" is a teaching package that will equip you to lead your class in talking, playing, singing and communicating your way to bilingualism. It will help you make contacts with classes worldwide by Skype, email or snail mail (that allows exchange of little gifts, which children love both giving and receiving!).
The highly respected linguists and champions of Languages education, recommend "Talking to the Whole Wide World" here.
Side-benefits for your class
Experts agree that early LOTE helps develop literacy skills in their first language. Esperanto is particularly useful because its structure is designed to be 'transparent' so that it serves as a model of the general features which all languages must have.
Even unfamiliar Esperanto words are recognizable as nouns, adjectives, present tense verbs etc. because they are labeled that way by easily recognizable features, such as suffixes. The resulting thorough understanding of grammar is applicable to any language.
Reading and spelling are as simple as possible in Esperanto. The 28 letters of the alphabet always sound the same and each sound can be written in only one way. No letters are silent or randomly doubled.This saves time for everyone, and is especially valuable to children whose self-esteem struggles with the difficulty of English.
Children with special needs may be able to have a second language too, if you choose the easiest.
Esperanto also helps numeracy by the exact match of words and concepts to our number system and other primary mathematical concepts such as fractions and multiplication.
Esperanto's Latin roots help build English vocabulary and promote an interest in connections between languages.