Kids say hola, bonjour and more at this multilingual Chicago preschool

CHICAGO — Sandra Dodds said her multilingual skills have opened doors in her life and career.

Now, the Belgium native hopes to provide those same opportunities to children by teaching them a foreign language as early as infancy.

Four years ago, Dodds founded Living the Language preschool and daycare in Chicago’s South Loop. Dodds said she modeled the school after European preschools, where multilingual education is common.  At the school, the children spend their days fully immersed in a foreign language.

Dodds speaks French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch and English.

"Because I had so many advantages in the job market," Dodds said, "I wanted kids to have the same advantages."

Students learn to read, write and do arithmetic in both French and Spanish.

Dodd said multilingual children exude self-confidence. The education prepares them for a more "worldly' life.

"Living the Language has actually allowed children to be open to different cultures, different languages, different people," she said. "They love everyone."

Dodds wants to make sure children understand not everyone has the same opportunities in life. Every year, Living the Language hosts a toddler marathon in an effort to fundraise and sponsor children in Africa through World Vision.

From infants to school age, these young minds quickly absorb the languages being taught. But what may make this preschool program most successful is the genuine love and excitement Dodds has for her students.

“This is my perfect match,” Dodds said. “Living the Language was created with my two biggest passions: children and language. I’m in heaven here.”

Sandra Dodds she is one of Chicago’s Very Own.

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