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Lango--A Foreign Language Company for Kids
A paper blue whale is fished up using a magnetic fishing rod as three year old Chloe smiles, holding her captured drawing happily. She is learning about sea animals and how to say them in mandarin. Chloe is currently enrolled in Lango- foreign language program geared towards kids in Brooklyn.
Sharon N., 35 is the creative director and owner of the company, Lango. It was started by Intrax Cultural Exchange, a company connecting both people and cultures around the world. After seeing the high demand of an easier technique to teach kids foreign languages more effectively, the company decided to create a fun and inventive method in hopes that kids around the world would have a more positive and helpful experience towards learning a different language. During a trip to San Francisco, Sharon came across the franchise, and after seeing what it had to offer, decided to purchase the program for her own neighborhood in Brooklyn.
"I feel like I'm bringing something really beneficial to the community," said Sharon as she smiled.
Prior to branching Lango out through Brooklyn in early 2008, it is now established here in Brooklyn, carrying languages mandarin, spanish and french. Classes consist of ten or less students and parents are welcomed to stay for each class. Age groups for the program range from kids 0-7, with a statistic showing that children 3-5 have the best growth in learning a new language.
With different activities planned for each class, kids learn the specifics of math, english, and science by interacting with their teachers as well as through various exercises. One activity to help kids learn the basics of sea animals was when the mandarin teacher would state a sea animal in chinese, and the child's job was to try and hook the sea animal in a miniature swimming pool using the magnetic fishing rod presented to them. After the activity, kids were each given a drawing of a sea animal and were allowed to color them anyway they wanted, reinforcing the original lesson plan.
During most of the class, parents usually get involved with the activities that their kids are doing, giving them a more hands on experience to what their child is learning. Lango not only provides an opportunity for parents to learn and connect with their kids on a fun level, but an intellectual level as well.
"I think it's getting better every class, the kids relate better," said My P., a parent whose child is currently enrolled in Mandarin. Sharon also believes that the program is becoming more and more effective as each class progresses," I think that other methods are very traditional whereas this gets kids excited through movement, singing, storytelling, arts and crafts, and lots of games and challenges."
As a new mother and an entrepreneur, Sharon started the Lango for one simple reason, and that was to provide her daughter, as well as other kids a more fun way to learn a new language.
When Sharon was a kid, she grew up in a generation where it was strongly encouraged to speak only english when living in the United States. Now in her mid 30's, she has trouble speaking chinese fluently and wishes that she would have spent more time learning the language when she was little.
"I wanted my daughter to have a more positive experience learning chinese when she's growing up," said Sharon.
After introducing her company, Sharon has supervised every class so far, and though she enjoys interaction with the kids during each activity, it has helped her relationship with her surroundings in more ways that one. Sharon now sees Brooklyn as a very multicultural place, and with the help of her business, she sees many people of all different personalities throughout the neighborhood itself.
"I love the variety of people I meet everyday from young students to principals, teachers, and parents, I love that my day is very different," said Sharon.
That included meeting the current spanish teacher, Andrea G. Andrea credits Sharon for helping with move from her original homeland of Argentina. With her current position, Andrea enjoys teaching spanish, her native language to kids every week. She also feels that they have a very nice approach towards learning here at Lango.
"I'm loving it so far but I haven't had real practice so far, I love the songs." said Andrea excitedly as she accompanied her answer with huge hand movements.
With her growing business expanding more and more into different Brooklyn neighborhoods, Sharon like most new moms still finds it difficult to balance both work and personal life. Though it is a tricky balance being an entrepreneur while raising a baby under 1 all at once, Sharon's support comes from the people that she loves.
She has a husband who supports her willingly through this business venture, sometimes even stepping in to help. When Sharon is short on time, her husband Ian usually doesn’t mind buying the supplies or even helping her cut the material for next class.
Though the job keeps Sharon occupied most of the week, it also provides a flexible schedule for her. She spends most of her weekends at home, usually on her cell phone or computer. Most of the classes are done by 4pm, giving Sharon enough time to still do what she loves, which is taking her daughter to the pool on a sunny day.
"I love it," said Sharon," I feel so blessed to have a lot of flexibility with the job."
What did Sharon expect when she first started her own company? She expected to work hard, but also wanted to confirm the hunch she had that kids should be learning a new language as early as possible.
"Nothing feels better when a parent says to me Oh, I saw your flyer at choice supermarket, we really need a language class in this community," said Sharon.
Despite the success of her business, Sharon still has regrets, wishing that she had started it earlier. But with regret comes knowledge, as she now knows Brooklyn much better, and is especially blown away by the diversity of people living right there in her own neighborhood.
Like most people, Sharon has also been affected by the current state of the economy. Though through the recession, she feels lucky to see the demand of spanish and mandarin in the community, especially in her own multicultural neighborhood.
“I feel really happy," said Sharon. "I'm excited by the fact that we are helping to raise little citizens of the world."