This year is a special year for us. Our eldest has begun her Spanish (our minority language) Wednesday school. Ever since I had been expecting her, I had wanted her to attend the Agrupaciones de Lengua y Cultura Española (Association of Spanish Language and Culture) known as ALCE. When I met my husband, we met a French acquaintance of Spanish descent, whose Spanish left us speechless. He was a completely balanced bilingual who, to top it all, had a perfect accent in both languages. This young man had attended ALCE throughout his childhood. When we were expecting my daughter, my mind was set on enrolling her there.
What is the ALCE?
ALCE are free classes of Spanish language and culture for children of Spanish descent or Spanish children living abroad. They are funded by Spain’s Ministry for Education and are available in several countries worldwide; sometimes in several cities of each of these.
Classes start from age 7 (I still curse myself for missing out last year’s enrollment deadline!!) and they provide 3 hours of classes a week outside of normal schooling hours; half of which are on site and the other online on the Aula Internacional website. The aim is to take the children from an A1 language level in Spanish to a C1 level by the time they are 17. This is recognised by a certificate from the Instituto Cervantes.
What benefits are there to attending it?
The obvious one mentioned above is the literacy aspect. Children get a formal education in their minority language as well as the culture… something much more intangible and complicated to pass on.
And the cherry on the cake is that the whole thing is recognised thanks to a language certificate, which will be an asset throughout their career.
The literacy teaching is suddenly less of a headache as it is taken on by professionals. The only struggle you might face is if your child does not want to attend class or do their homework. But that is something we also experience with the Majority Language school too!
Another thing that must not be undervalued is the minority language immersion your child gets from it. They mix with peers. Not just any bilingual kid: kids that speak the same language as them, that are their age. This can have a profound impact on your child. Make them realise that they are not different, that there are other kids like them.
Our experience so far
So far our experience has been positive. My eldest is eager to attend her Spanish school. The teacher is kind and has complimented her Spanish. She even moved her up one level, which is rewarding our efforts as parents to raise her biliterate, but also for my daughter who feels her language skills are valued.
My daughter is eager to make friends, and has already started to make some, and asking if they could come over one day. This adds a social dimension to her Spanish identity.
We have downloaded the workbook which is not very complicated but will teach her to write what she knows orally, perfecting some vocabulary that is sometimes overlooked in day-to-day life. The class is the opportunity to set things down. The teacher finishes her lesson with some singing, which is bound to be very popular with the kids. My eldest was proud to sing it to her grandparents on Skype, and very pleased to discover her cousin also knows this song: a perfect example of picking up the minority culture.
So far the online classes have only been set over the half-term break. The interface is out-dated but has the advantage of being simple for an 8-year old to handle, and gives her the opportunity to learn to work on a computer. This is a novelty and she looks forward to being allowed to work on my computer! 😉 So far the online work involved some reading, labelling, filling the blanks exercises, matching exercises, listening comprehensions based on children’s songs, memorising and spelling vocabulary, and multiple choice questions. My daughter surprised me with how well she handled the tool but also how well she worked and spelt. At the end of each new unit, there is a test which is marked and counts towards the end of year results.
The online service also includes a forum where the class and online teachers can introduce themselves and discuss the tasks set. This is quite nice as it creates a sense of belonging to a class in spite of it being online.
The only thing we are yet to find is our organisation to balance the homework load from ML school, the ALCE and English, our second minority language. For this, we will require a bit more time, but I am hopeful we will find our balance. 🙂
- To find out about your nearest ALCE centre, visit the Registro Estatal de Centros Docentes no Universitarios (RCD)
- Contact your nearest Spanish Consulate if you do not manage to find any information for your country. They are very likely to know about what is available in your location.