WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Welcome to pre-school, or should I say "bienvenido a pre-escholar."
You may not know what that means, but chances are more than two dozen pre-schoolers will by the time they reach kindergarten.
Wilmington's bilingual pre-school is the only one its kind in Wilmington, a fully immersive program where kids dive head first into a second language. It's sink or swim.
"The older you get, the harder it is to learn a second language," says Ayondele Mellor, the school's director. "These kids are at the very beginning of their learning process. Their brains are wired to accept language at this point, so it's very easy for them to pick up."
The pre-school has been up and running now for just a couple of days. Educators had hoped for two dozen students at the start of the school year, but they've already exceeded expectations.
"She just masters language pretty quickly," Mike Euston said of his daughter. "We don't speak Spanish at the house, but we thought we'd try something a little bit different. It's just the standard curriculum, but it's in Spanish. We'll see how she takes to it."
It's not book learning at this level. It's sugar-coating lessons, disguised as play, story time, lunch, and just plain life.
In the United States, less than one percent of adults are proficient in a language they studied in school.
That doesn't mean only one percent speak another language at home. The latest studies show almost 25 percent of American households speak another language.
It's a testament to our melting pot and a growing global economy.
"There's a lot of cognitive benefits that come with being bilingual," Mellor said. "There's lots of studies that show children who speak two languages do better in English, math and standardized testing."