How families and organizations can build a foundation of knowledge about language acquisition and its relationship to academic learning—especially as it relates to missionary kids.
I nervously entered the fourth grade Brazilian classroom, clinging to my dad’s hand until he had to leave. For the rest of the school day I didn’t understand anything said to me, and I spoke to no one. Each day passed in the same way. I copied strange words from the board into my notebook, without knowing what they meant. Neither my teacher nor my classmates spoke any English, and I, having just arrived a couple of months earlier with my missionary parents from the U.S., spoke almost no Portuguese. The teacher yelled sometimes. Although I never understood the words, I became convinced she was mad at me. I sometimes cried myself to sleep, and finally my parents said I didn’t have to go back.
Fast forward thirty years. My husband and I were on our way to Brazil as missionaries, with daughters in third and fourth grades. As a Missionary Kid (MK) growing up in Brazil I had finally learned Portuguese and wanted that for my daughters. But I did not want them to experience the pain of “immersion language learning” that I had felt as a child…