Children First: Foreign Language Immersion - KOTA Territory News

Children First: Foreign Language Immersion

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KOTA Territory is rich with different cultures. One teacher has taken it upon herself to teach her class languages other than English, and to teach her students moral values of different cultures, in hopes it will give them a chance at a brighter future.

"We greet each other every morning when we come in, in Lakota," says Jonni Hertel, a 2nd grade teacher at General Beadle Elementary in Rapid City.
 
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, she's taking after her grandfather who was a Lakota instructor at Oglala Lakota College.
 
"We say I fell off the tree and rolled down the hill, because I'm not fluent but I'm learning," says Hertel.
 
But, she still teaches her students the simple things. Like how to count. And how to say "Can I use the restroom?" But, it's not just Lakota. It's Spanish, Japanese, and sign language too.
 
"The whole thing behind this is to introduce different languages to them, so when they are in high school they can decide to take a second language," says Hertel.
 
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics more than 20 percent of children in the United States speak a language other than English at home.

They also say children who are multi-lingual are more likely to have better listening skills, better at coming up with solutions to problems, and connecting with others.
 
"Parents love it! A lot of families maybe aren't fluent in Lakota at home, so when the students go home and start saying mom I'm hungry, it's exciting to them."
 
And it's a trend spreading throughout this school as well.
 
"When we go out into the school and I say tie your shoelace in Lakota and my whole class is looking down at their shoes, and people are like what are you saying to them," says Hertel. "I had two teachers come after my books trying to incorporate some stuff into their classrooms too."

Hertel says she also teaches her class a concept of family, which she says comes along with the Lakota language. She teaches her students their class is their family, the school is their community, and to always be respectful of others.

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