Gary, a professor of ESOL in New Hampshire and a fellow proponent of using drama to teach languages, reports that he is teaching his 15-month-old niece some English--but he has to do so via the Internet because she lives in Thailand! He explains:
I talk with her every night using Skype with a video cam. It's fun. She's not saying much right yet, but I'm still giving her some English to digest and she is able to count on her fingers as I say, "one, two, three, four," and so on....I can't read stories to her yet, but I will. We hope to be in Thailand from December to March this year [which] will let me do more face to face!
Her parents want her to know English so that she will be able to travel and study abroad easily and later to work either abroad or with an international company in Thailand. It is tremendously important these days for people in developing countries to know and speak English in order to gain an international salary. If one doesn't obtain an international standard of salary, but instead is based on the local currency scale, then one is virtually imprisoned inside the country. For example, a good local salary in Thailand might be around 30,000 baht (for a Ph.D. at a good university). That's about $771. One can't save or travel and one can't really live on that because the cost of everything besides food is the same as in the U.S. Cars, gas, insurance, utilities sometimes are even more than here, even houses if bought. It's a conundrum for the middle class. They spend years to get a good education, but then are daunted by low salaries for the rest of their lives. The only way out is to work for an international company that offers an international standard wage. There are only a few of these and the positions are highly competitive. One must start early! Her cousins (older) (three of them) have chosen to study German and study at German universities for the same reasons.
Gary's niece Anada and my nephew Carl are relatively close in age, so we'll have fun swapping stories about how being both a linguist and an aunt/uncle affects how we try to teach them the second language! I'm also eager to hear more about Gary's use of technology in teaching someone halfway across the world.