Speaking in tongues

Kim Constable has set up a business teaching young children languages through play. She spoke to Workingmums.co.uk.

It is often repeated that children absorb languages best when they are very young. Research shows that the ability to absorb new languages decreases after the age of three. That’s something Kim Constable wants to capitalise on so she has set up a business which offers language classes to young children in the form of play.
Kim herself has four children, aged six, four, two and five months. Her background is in marketing and sales, but she was a stay-at-home mum in Belfast when she went to the US and heard about a new organisation that offered language teaching to children through play. No English was spoken so that children had to absorb the languages in order to communicate.
“I was at a friend’s house in New York and I saw children who were four years old understanding three languages. I couldn’t believe it,” she says.”I could see the opportunities that learning languages opened up for these children.”
She was hooked and stayed in the US for three months with her then three children to learn about it. She returned home with a Mexican girl in tow who became her first teacher or multicultural development specialist [MDS] and a programme which she has adapted to suit Northern Ireland. She pays a franchise fee to the US company, but is not officially a franchisee.
Her company, Rainbow Garden NI employs MDSes who not only teach languages but also cultural issues since all are native speakers. “I want to teach children to feel part of many cultures, not just one and that people from other cultures are not separate from them,” says Kim.
The languages she offers range from Arabic and Mandarin to Spanish.


The MDSes go into people’s homes to teach children from babies upwards and Kim recommends they do at least three hours or more of childcare and language teaching at least three times a week. “It’s about giving children constant exposure to different languages through experiences that make them happy and that they will remember. That’s the best way to teach them to speak them fluently,” she says.
Eventually she aims to set up a nursery which she says will make the classes more cost effective for parents. At the moment the service costs around £16 to £20 an hour. Most of Kim’s clients are mums who are at home and want extra help with their children. MDSes can also pick up older children from school and do after school sessions.
Kim, who runs playgroups with MDSes at her house, has already had interest from schools for after-school clubs in, for instance, Mandarin. Her first priority, however, has been to build and train a strong team of MDSes who love children and have the patience and understanding to teach them languages through play. This has been fairly difficult. It took her 18 months to find her Arabic speaker, for instance.
Kim herself speaks good French and worked in France as an au pair for two months as a teenager. “Being in France my ability to speak the language exploded and I came back speaking almost fluently. It’s something you never forget,” she says.
She herself uses MDSes to look after her own children in her home. That allows her to work on marketing the business and be around for her children when they need her.
She is keen not only to build her business, but also to branch out into other areas. She has started a blog called Lipstick Entrepreneurs which focuses on promoting efficient time management.
“I thought the blog would centre on educating women about being entrepreneurs, but the feedback I got was about my own time management system. Other women seemed to be struggling with time management and they wanted to learn how I did it,” says Kim.
She adds that it is about identifying the things that are important to you, delegating things you are not good at, setting specific goals and planning your diary accordingly. “If you have the right system, disasters will not disrupt it,” says Kim, who is currently testing her system on new entrepreneurs. “It’s vital that women get a system in place before they start a business so they stand a better chance of success.”

* Workingmums.co.uk has just launched its Workingmums Business Zone to give parents who want to set up their own businesses all the tools, advice and support they need. Check it out

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