5-year-old, Queens, N.Y. Prodigy Can Speak Seven Languages, Play Six Instruments
Seven languages. Six musical instruments. Two types of dance and two sports. It all adds up to one busy little Queens girl.
Five-year-old Mabou Loiseau’s parents spend $1,500 a week on tutors and lessons – and she spends seven hours a day in some type of instruction, with Sundays off.
She grew up speaking French, Creole and English, but her immigrant parents didn’t want to stop there. She’s also learning Spanish, Mandarin, Arabic and Russian.
“Russian is my most favorite. I just hear something, and if I don’t understand I say, ‘What does that mean?’ and they’ll tell me,” said Mabou, whose Laurelton house is plastered with flashcards in different languages.
She can sing her ABCs in Spanish, count in Mandarin, read fairytales in Russian, and already has an ambitious list of career goals.
“I want to be a firefighter, and I want to be a doctor, and I want to be a dancer, and I want to be a princess,” Mabou said with a smile, sitting shyly on her mom’s lap. “And I want to be an actor, and I want to be a musician, and I want to be a singer, and I want to be a veterinarian, and I want to be a mom.”
Mabou has her own dance studio with a mirrored wall where she learns tap and ballet. Her mom recently got rid of the kitchen table to make room for a full-size drum set. She’s also learning to play the harp, clarinet, violin, guitar and piano. When she’s not taking ice-skating or swimming lessons.
“All the sacrifices in the world for her,” said her mom, Esther Loiseau, a piano teacher who taught French at an American school before leaving Haiti for Queens 15 years ago. “Furniture is not important. Education is.”
Loiseau, 47, said friends and neighbors were initially shocked that she was starting Mabou on such a regimen so early – instead of just letting her be a kid.
“But I make sure I leave enough time for her to play,” Loiseau said. “All she knows is learning. What becomes fun for someone is what they know.”
Loiseau tells the tutors to play with Mabou, speaking in their native language, for half of the lesson. They spend the other half reading, writing and practicing vocabulary.
She said a sure way to make the opinionated only child behave is to threaten to cancel one of her lessons – especially Russian.
“It’s a great experience for me, honestly. A lot of even adult people can’t understand what she does,” said Rogneda Elagina, 24, Mabou’s Russian tutor. “We like to read together … we started with the alphabet and connecting letters, and now she can read real folklore.”
Mabou’s dad works 16 hours a day as a parking attendant in Manhattan to pay for everything, and the Loiseaus have also started hosting other students for classes at their house.
The proud parents homeschool Mabou but found out last week that she scored in the 99th percentile on the city test for gifted and talented schools.
“Honestly, I just want to open doors for my daughter,” said Loiseau. “She is really my princess.”