She’s a blue collar, working mom. Grinding out work weeks that sometimes eclipse 80 hours, she balances the challenges of being a single mother while raising her son, Rishon, who has Asperger’s. This is the story of Jay and Rishon Sylvain, a proud Language Stars family.
Rishon, 9 years old, is an experienced student of the Language Stars French program. After a promise from his mother to take him to France when he graduates high school, learning French became a priority. Since then, Rishon has attended class every week, ready and motivated to become bilingual.
“Rishon is brilliant. He attacks the world a little differently (than most kids),” said Sylvain. “If anything, his learning disability has enhanced his ability to learn a new language.”
While parents may assume a learning disability is a barrier to becoming bilingual, Rishon has proven that anyone who is motivated to learn a new language can become bilingual.
“He (Rishon) is very willing to try and is willing to takes risks in his pronunciation,” said Caroline Guérin, Language Stars French teacher. “He showed me quickly how interested he is. He seems to enjoy every activity that we were doing and always participates in signing, crafting, games, even dancing.”
“The small class sizes have helped Rishon learn without becoming overwhelmed,” said Sylvain. “Every week, Rishon teaches me in the same way his teacher teaches him. When he teaches me, it reinforces his confidence and empowers him and builds his confidence. (His classes) are critically important to Rishon’s well-being both emotionally and mentally.”
Ahead of each 1.5 hour-long commute to the Language Stars Andersonville Center, Sylvain mentally prepares Rishon for his classes by asking him questions that require his use of French. At home, Sylvain will place labels on items in her house and ask Rishon to translate the item to French. It’s no accident Rishon is wildly successful in the classroom and in life. Sylvain’s hands-on parenting has helped Rishon thrive on his journey to becoming bilingual.
“It’s extremely important for children to learn new languages to bridge the gap between people who come from different backgrounds,” said Sylvain. “It opens yourself up to diverse experiences to understand and accept people who have different life experiences.”
The journey to Language Stars and beyond
The Sylvains’ journey to Language Stars started when Sylvain realized she wanted to expose Rishon to French culture in a small-group environment.
“I realized the best way for Rishon to learn French was to expose him to the language through classes at Language Stars,” said Sylvain.
Since his first class, Rishon has thrived at Language Stars while his dreams for the future have grown.
“I saw Rishon started to blossom in my class. I had many new students (some beginner, some very advanced) who were struggling more than him when it was time to complete repetitive activities,” said Guérin. “I see him (Rishon) as a leader, the one who knows many answers and the one who shows (his peers) proper pronunciation or how to figure out the meaning of something.”
“Rishon has many plans for the future,” said Sylvain. “He wants to become a film producer, movie director and to create board games.”
Like any bilingual young adult, Rishon has a world of choices ahead of him. But one of his biggest dreams will come true once he graduates.
“I’ve promised Rishon if he continues to work hard and do well in school, we’ll take a vacation to France,” said Sylvain. “He’s excited for that opportunity to experience France and use the language skills he’s learned at Language Stars.”
This story was sponsored by LanguageStars.com. Are you interested in providing world language education to your young learner? Visit LanguageStars.com for more information or call 866.55.STARS to speak with a representative of a conveniently located center in Deerfield, Wilmette, or Lincoln Park (Chicago).