Crossing cultures

Crossing cultures

Summer camps offer foreign languages

June 30th, 2010 by Perla Trevizo in News

For one week this summer, about 10 children from the Calhoun, Ga., area got to play games such as Red Light/Green Light, but with a French twist.

They were all part of the first Kinder French Summer Camp.

"I've been speaking to my children in French moderately consistently since birth, but it recently became more pressing to do the switchover before school starts for my 5-year-old," said Julia Krusac, who was raised in a French community north of Montreal, Quebec, and speaks four languages.

She home-schools her two daughters, Zoƫ, 5, and Sylvia, 3.

Summer camps no longer are just about sports and outdoor activities. As the local population becomes more diverse, so do the types of camps offered.

"As our population changes, camps kind of change and respond to what kids are interested in and what kids and families need," said Wanda DeWaard, section executive for the American Camp Association Heart of the South.

During the French summer camp, children ages 3 to 11 and their parents learned how to say numbers and simple phrases in French, such as "bonjour" and "au revoir" - "good day" and "goodbye."

For Mrs. Krusac, who moved to the United States 10 years ago, to expose children to different languages at an early age is to give them an advantage in their development and professional lives they won't get many other ways.

Staff Photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press - Anya Parambath, 4, left, smiles as she picks another stick-on letter with Rijil Varghese, 6, during an arts and crafts period at the Gurukulam cultural camp on Thursday at the Hickory Valley Christian Church on Shallowford Road.

Staff Photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press...

The Kerala Association of Chattanooga also has the first Gurukulam summer camp, which literally means "teacher house," said Thara Kurien, the camp's organizer.

The children, most from the Kerala region in southern India, meet on Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. They start with a prayer, followed by exercise and a two-hour language class. They also learn traditional songs and stitching, something most children learn in India.

But the main focus is language, in this case, Malayalam, a language spoken mainly in Kerala.

"It's very important because it's easier to communicate with our relatives and friends back in India," Ms. Kurien said.

Neethu Kurien, Mrs. Kurien's 14-year-old daughter, said she wants to keep her native language, but it's not easy.

"I was born there, but I didn't know how to write it or speak it," she said. "It's pretty hard."

She came to the United States when she was 5, she said, and has forgotten a lot of the language and culture.

"When they move here or when it gets to the second or third generation, they almost lose touch with the culture they came from, so they have a camp that focuses on that," Mrs. DeWaard said.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

* Kinder French, Julia Krusac: KinderFrench@comcast.net or 678-986-5124 and 706-625-7549

* Montessori Kinder Culture Camp, Brigitta Hoeferle: www.montessorikinder.com, info@montessorikinder.com or 423-479-7282

* Kerala Association of Chattanooga Gurukulam, Thara Kurien: 423-499-6030

In Bradley County, there are 63 nationalities represented, said Brigitta Hoeferle, director of the Montessori Kinder, which for the second year will offer a multicultural summer camp in conjunction with Cleveland's Mosaic Center, which promotes ethnic diversity and understanding.

"We wanted to bring these cultures together, and it's easy to bring children together because they communicate very easy," she said. "They have no bias, they are just free and open.

"With our area growing as it is, we need to be more open-minded," she said. "We need to invite people from other areas and learn from them and be tolerant and be respectful."

During the 10-day camp, they bring in speakers from different nationalities who talk about what children in other countries wear and eat, she said. They also teach the children a little bit of the languages and have them taste the food of the different cultures.

"I want them to weigh in their interests, to keep asking questions, keep imagining what it would be like if (he was) a child not growing up in Cleveland but Japan,'" Ms. Hoeferle said.


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