Kindergartners and first-graders will start learning Spanish this year at nine Department of Defense Dependents Schools in Europe. The pilot program will require the children to take three 30-minutes classes per week.

“The younger, the better,” said Debby Greenberg of Stuttgart, Germany, who has been teaching Spanish for 27 years. “It’s easier for them to grasp because they have no interferences. They don’t think about it. They just say it, speak it, learn it.”

The program is also being started at eight Defense Department schools in Asia and 10 in the U.S.

Chinese is also being offered this year at four secondary schools in Asia and two in the U.S.

Teachers were trained this summer to teach Spanish to the youngsters. The technique is similar to teaching Spanish-1 to ninth-graders, Greenberg said.

“It will just be less writing and reading, and more speaking and listening,” she said.

There are many areas in the U.S. where Spanish is the primary language, according to Jim Somers, instructional systems specialist for foreign languages at DODDS-Europe.

“Spanish is definitely the second language in the United States,” Somers said. “If you travel to Florida, California, the Southwest, Spanish is widely spoken.”

Several DODDS elementary schools in Europe already have immersion programs, where classes are taught exclusively in German, Italian or Spanish, Somers said.

He said he expected foreign-language teaching to expand in elementary schools in coming years.

The DODDS effort coincides with the U.S. military’s goal to train more servicemembers in foreign languages so they can work more effectively in foreign lands, according to Air Force Col. Mark Wells, chief of the language office at the U.S. European Command in Stuttgart.

“It’s clearly been recognized that having (more) translators and people who are versed in an area’s culture, history and regional religions will enhance our efforts,” Wells said.

Participating schools

Elementary schools in Europe that will be teaching Spanish to kindergartners and first-graders:


Boeblingen, Patch and Robinson in Stuttgart; Hainerberg in Wiesbaden; Ramstein.


Feltwell, Lakenheath.





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