Lancry is CEO and founder of Language Stars, which operates seven learning centers and partners with 50 schools throughout the Washington region to expand foreign language education for young children.
Traditionally, students don't start learning a foreign language until high school. Why the focus on young children?
The brain has a window of opportunity, from birth until adolescence, to learn any language. We enroll children as young as 12 months old. A 2-year-old won't even think about what they're saying. They acquire it effortlessly. Their accent starts to sound authentic.
How did you get interested in foreign languages?
I had two life-changing events. I had a French teacher when I was 11 who gave me a pen pal in France. I ended up staying there three months. I came home dreaming and thinking in French and became a language fanatic. I also held a French summer camp in my backyard when I was 18. I ended up enrolling eight 4-year-olds. I didn't know much about teaching, but by the end of the summer, they were speaking proficiently in French. That's when I knew I wanted to do this.
What is your favorite language?
I truly love them all -- French, Spanish, German, Russian, Japanese and English, of course. I use my French and Russian the most. My husband is French, so my kids speak French, and we have a number of Russian friends. Russian and German are very logical and structured. French and Spanish have wonderful accents. Japanese sounds amazing.
How does foreign language education differ in D.C. compared to other areas?
In D.C., there is greater demand for Mandarin than many other places. It's a visionary language that will be extremely valuable for this generation to speak. The D.C. metro-area parents are already thinking of that -- they're ahead of the game. We also have more parents enrolling their children in multiple languages than other cities.
- Brian Hughes