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Sandra Emilia Calderaro, is the program director of Multilingual Kids, as well as, the teacher for it's Italian language program for babies, L'ora dei bimbi.

Sandra is an Associate of the Ontario College of Art. During her studies at the Ontario College of Art she received a photography scholarship and spent one year in Florence, Italy, where she studied fine art and Italian. After returning to Toronto in 1989, she studied art history and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Guelph. At the same time, she completed her piano studies and received her ARCT from the Royal Conservatory of Music. She has continued to follow her love and passion for music through 20 years of teaching piano. Sandra’s consuming interest in design led her to enrich her talents by completing courses in computer graphics at Sheridan College, typography at the Ontario College of Art and graphic design at Yale University in Switzerland. Sandra then spent five years working as a graphic designer.

After leaving the work force to have her first child, Sandra’s inability to find a baby program to help her introduce Italian to her child prompted her to start L’ora dei bimbi together with her mother Anna Calderaro. Having been raised in Italy, Anna brings to the program an authentic Italian experience by sharing the songs and poetry that she recalls hearing during her childhood. Together they have selected a repertoire of Italian material to share with Canadian Italian families hoping that through word of mouth they will be passed on for generations to come.

 

MY STORY

INTRODUCING LANGUAGES
TO YOUR LITTLE ONES

My interest and fascination with languages prompted me to make language learning a priority in my child's education. I believe that the benefits of language learning are infinite. Let me share with you some of my experiences with language learning as a mother.

This journey began before our child was born. While pregnant, I was spending at least 1 ½ hours commuting to work and at that time I would have a French radio station on even though I could not fully understand what was being said. I enjoyed hearing the sounds of such a lovely language and thought that it would make for interesting listening for my unborn child.

At bedtime I would play French lullabies to create a calm atmosphere leading to sleep time. Recent studies indicate that babies begin picking up language while they are still in the womb.

There are numerous reasons to introduce languages to babies. Babies are like sponges, absorbing their surroundings. Scientific studies have proven that children, especially very young children, have a natural ability to pick up both great pronunciation and intonation when introduced to a foreign language. Starting children early, even before they reach age 2, enhances their ability to develop advanced levels of proficiency.  

Like many eager mothers, I wanted to expose my child to anything and everything that I believed would be good for him. When our son was born we decided that we would speak Italian to him almost exclusively. In no time, I had become one of those moms who would walk around talking to their newborns as if they were talking to their peers. As I would push his baby carriage to the grocery store or library I was constantly talking to him and if I had nothing in particular to say I would sing him a song. It got even better in the grocery store when I would ask him how many apples we should purchase and since he was not yet talking I would respond for him.

When he was just 2 months old we embarked on our journey of a nursery rhyme baby class. At first, I was skeptical and thought it was a ridiculous and overly ambitious concept. But, when we arrived at our first mom and tot program, Lullabies & LapRhymes, I realized the benefits—it was as much for me as it was for my baby. This gave me an opportunity to meet other moms and to build my brain bank of nursery rhymes. We sat in a circle and after a welcoming introduction the gracious instructor, Sally Jaeger, began to recite her repertoire of age-appropriate material.

 

After a few weeks it dawned on me that we could be sitting in a similar situation with an instructor doing the same thing but in a foreign language because, after all, babies ARE like sponges. Without any delay, I started Multilingual Kids, with an Italian mom & tot program—by age two my son was speaking both Italian and English.

 

Now it was time to reintroduce the French to which he had been exposed as an unborn child. French was very easy for him to pick up. However, when I say we introduced him to French what I mean is that he attended all the French programs I could find for his age group (a mom and tot French circle time, a French craft activity class and a French playgroup). Soon after being introduced to French he quickly grasped the relationship between the various languages he knew and one day ascertained that if in Italian the word for skunk is moffetta then in French it must be moufette. I was astonished to learn that the dictionary confirmed his deduction.

 

His bookshelf no longer had the shelf capacity for all his English, Italian, and French books. Spanish soon followed and we only slowed down the pace when he starting his journey of music studies and sports. At age 3, while we were shopping, he heard a couple conversing and quickly asked me what language they were speaking. He had correctly surmised that they were not speaking Italian, English, French or Spanish. He was, like many toddlers that age, intrigued and curious to learn what language they were speaking. Well it turned out they were conversing in Persian. No, we haven’t gone down that path yet, lol, but who knows, maybe one day! He is now 11 and speaks 3 languages; once in a while we work on the fourth.

I hope that sharing my experience with you will help in your decisions while on your journey of parenthood. If you would like to share some of your own experiences please send us an email.