I am so excited! We have finally settled on a kindergarten for Samantha. And it’s one I’m excited about!
Last week my friend, Vivian (hi Viv), went to an informational meeting at a Mandarin immersion program and was really excited about it. Her daughter won’t go to kindergarten until next year, but she picked me up a registration pack, just in case.
I went to a tour on Monday (with my registration packet filled out, just in case.) The school is about twenty minutes away in Venice. It’s a new program, so they currently just have 2 kindergarten classes. Next year they will have 4 kinder classes and 2 first grade classes. It’s in a regular elementary school, but they don’t have much interaction with the other students.
The kids are taught half the day in English and half the day in Mandarin. They have a strict no English policy in the Mandarin classroom. Parents who volunteer in the Mandarin classroom can’t talk if they don’t speak Mandarin. The teacher never speaks English in the classroom. Some of the kids are fluent in Mandarin and don’t speak English, some are fluent in both languages, and some are fluent in English only. The bilingual students serve as interpreters a little bit in the beginning of the year. Otherwise they learn by singing familiar songs, drawing, and pointing.
When we toured the Mandarin classroom, I was floored. It was just like a kindergarten classroom. The teacher was writing on the board and asking questions, the kids were sitting on the floor, some were raising their hands, some just shouted out the answers, sometimes they wrote their answers on a little dry erase board. All in Mandarin. It was amazing to see how much these kindergarteners knew after just one year.
They talked about studies that we’ve all heard before that it’s easier to learn a language when you’re young. And clearly, it is. The bilingual parents, who don’t all speak at home, were saying the kids have perfect pronunciation. They speak like native speakers. I had to take their word for it, since I couldn’t understand a thing, but they sounded good to me.
The idea is that they will be fluent in Mandarin by fifth grade. It isn’t like how I took Spanish in high school, just one class where we learned vocabulary words and sentence structure, often with the lessons taught in English at least partly. This is school taught in Mandarin. They learn math, science, reading, writing, art, music, and whatever else, in Mandarin. They aren’t learning how to ask where the bathroom is, they’re learning regular school subjects, in Mandarin.
I was so impressed I ran to the office to register Sammy. They told me they would put me on the wait list, and probably call by the end of this week to let me know she was in, after the principal made sure there was room. They called two hours later.
We picked up our permit from them to have signed by our local school. If you remember, we did not get a permit to leave the school district. Well, turns out, district policy is to grant all permits if you’re choosing a foreign language experience. So, the local school signed it, I picked it up this morning, brought it to the Mandarin school, and she is now officially enrolled.
I’m really excited about this program. I think Mandarin is a very useful language to be fluent in and could set her apart when looking for jobs. Who knows, maybe it will be something she’ll want to pursue as a career? Maybe it will spark her interest and she’ll want to learn other languages as well? It’s supposed to be one of the hardest languages for English speakers to learn, so maybe it will make it easier for her to learn another language in the future. Even if she decides to not continue after elementary school, she should be fluent and it will hopefully come back easily if she wants to use it as an adult.
I also realized yesterday when I was worrying about not being able to help her with her homework, that our neighbors are from China. I envision occasional knocking on their door in the future. :)
Also, this solves my worry that my girls will be in three different schools. The other two should be able to get into this program pretty easily. No lotteries to deal with. Then my only problem is they can talk about me behind my back and I won’t be able to understand them.
Have your kids done an immersion program? Any advice for me?