Costa Rica native spreads love of language to Chesapeake

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 29, 2005

As a young girl growing up in Costa Rica, Deyanira Miller had no choice but to learn a second language. However, once she began studying the ins-and-outs of English and helping friends with their studies, she found she had a gift not only for languages, but also in teaching others how to communicate in foreign tongues.

Now Mrs. Miller is using that gift in her daughter Ashley's second-grade class at Chesapeake Elementary as she teaches her native tongue to the next generation of language lovers.

Miller's daughter is bilingual, and after seeing how well she responded to learning a second language, Miller though that it would be an experience that other children in Lawrence County, where she has now resided for 14 years, could benefit from.

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"It's a very good advantage for them. My daughter, I can see it in her personality, being self-confident, I think it helps them a lot," Miller said. "When they go to college they're going to be taking a second language, so they should start from kindergarten or even first grade."

Miller also cites the boosts to IQ that have been documented as a result of children learning a second language. Also, she said, employers are bound to show a little more interest in a bilingual job applicant.

Those who may now be suffering from terrifying flashbacks of having to conjugate foreign verbs will be comforted to know that the children are starting small. They are just getting a taste of Spanish by learning the basics like letters, shapes and colors.

Miller said that by starting with simple terms and ideas that the children are familiar with they tend to soak up more of her teaching.

"I just like to see them interested, especially these second-graders, they show so much interest," Miller said. "I think it's important for them to start a bit earlier, because at that age, kids can learn anything."

Though her students may absorb knowledge more easily than their older counterparts, Miller said that the students' lack of inhibitions are even more important than their sponge-like minds.

"Something that surprises me is that the kids love to participate, they aren't afraid or anything," Miller said. "That's why I think this is the best time to teach them, they aren't embarrassed, or thinking 'What are the others going to say?"

Deyanira Miller is currently studying education at Ohio University, in the hopes of someday teaching Spanish professionally, though probably to high school students.

It will be an adjustment, but Miller hopes that the lessons she has learned with the little ones will be useful while teaching the big kids, namely how to show students the same fun in languages that she found in Costa Rica.

"They're learning, and they're having fun at the same time," Miller said. "They think Spanish is a fun class, so that's why I think they're trying to learn a lot. Learning and having fun at the same time, that's what I think is the best way of teaching."