Bilingual Education for Kids and What You Need to Know

bilingual education
Getty Images

As New York parents, we’re all too familiar with the many options for school. We know how overwhelming (and time-consuming) it can be to research the different options and find out what would work best for your child. That’s why, we’re coming in clutch with your guide to all things bilingual education!

If you’re considering sending your children to a school that has a bilingual program, then stop the oh-so-exhausting research process now and check out our brief (but informative, as always) summary about what to expect. Bilingual education has become increasingly popular in New York and beyond, so we’ve got the scoop on why that is and how some of these programs are structured. Read on to find out if bilingual education is for your family.

Psst…Learn more about the benefits of a bilingual education!

History of Bilingual Education in NYC

Bilingual education has been around for quite some time now. Private schools each have their own founding stories, many dating back to the early 20th century. But as for bilingual programs in New York public schools, bilingual and ESL education appeared in 1974 following a lawsuit against the NYC’s Board of Education for failing to educate Puerto Rican students with limited English skills. Since the implementation of the Aspira Consent Decree, New York ESL and Bilingual programs have expanded to serve students speaking over 145 languages. While bilingual education began primarily as a way for kids who speak their native language at home to learn English, it has since become attractable to parents of kids who already speak English natively. Why? Keep reading to find out!

Why Bilingual Education?

You may be wondering what all the hype is about bilingual education anyway. First and foremost, bilingual learning not only connects students with another language, but with that language’s culture as well. We all want to see our little scholars grow into well-rounded adults with a strong education, but we also want them to accept difference, celebrate diversity, promote inclusion, and craft an open mind. Bilingual education shows kids from an early age that their own language and culture is not the only one, and it broadens their perspective from New York to the greater world in which we are all a part of.

Not only do kids develop more inclusive views early on, but bilingual education instills empathy. Think about this: your child is learning to speak both English and Italian. All of their friends at school are too, but some of their friends in their neighborhood at home don’t go to a bilingual school. So your child has to think about this, and then decide to use English when communicating with these friends: in other words, they have to think about others before thinking about themself. While this quick decision-making process may seem trivial, it actually kick starts empathy, collaboration, and social emotional skills from a young age.

And finally, studies have shown that bilingual education actually accelerates and improves many academic skills (that extend well beyond the classroom), such as reading levels, problem-solving, math competency, creative thinking, and more. Part of this is because learning two languages at once sharpens their memory, but it’s also because learning two languages shows kids that there is more than one way to approach something. Much like their decision to speak either language based on their situational context, they’ll likely look at challenges in the same way, whether that means coming up with multiple ways to build something STEM related or thinking about solving a math problem on a test in multiple ways.

Types of Bilingual Education

Now that we’ve covered our bases on why bilingual education is so popular, let’s go over the types of bilingual education, because yes, there’s even subcategories within the categories when it comes to New York education.

Public vs. Private

The first decision you have to make is whether you want to send your kids to a public or private bilingual school. Well, before that you should consider what foreign language you want your kids to learn. This is because public schools offer many English-Spanish programs, but if you’re looking for Italian, German, or French bilingual education, you’ll likely have more options with private schools. This isn’t to say that you can’t find programs with these languages in public schools: many public schools offer Chinese, Russian, Arabic, Italian, Bengali, French, and more. But the catch is that if you don’t live in that district, you’ll have to apply to attend that school. As for private schools, your kids will likely have more focused attention on them and their language learning because of the smaller number of students. Many bilingual private schools have two teachers in every classroom — one who natively speaks English, and the other who natively speaks the other language that the school teaches. Both public and private schools have their pros, but if you are hesitant to browse private schools because of financial circumstances, be sure to check out their admissions pages first. Many New York private bilingual schools offer generous financial aid and scholarships, so don’t let this deter you!

English as a Second Language vs. Dual Language

Does your child speak another language at home and you want them to learn English through school? If yes, then English as a Second Language (ESL) is the bilingual education format that you’re looking for. If your goal is for your child to learn two languages simultaneously (half instruction in one language and half in another language), then Dual Language is the right fit.

Hopefully this guide summed up bilingual education for you. If you’re considering sending your little one to a bilingual school, check out our round up of the Best Bilingual Schools in New York!

Bilingual Education Resources

Brooklyn Global Prep
423 Kent Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11249
718- 734-2771

Brooklyn Global Prep is a unique, Reggio-inspired Language Immersion Preschool in the beautiful Oosten building located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Children spend their day immersed in rich vocabulary in Mandarin Chinese or French, while their academic curriculum is presented by loving teachers in an interactive and engaging way. The activity-based curriculum enables students to support the development of physical, emotional, social, and intellectual needs of each child. Through early exposure to language, they seek to provide students with a foundation for future learning and cultivate their long-term interest in the language, in addition to its cultures and traditions. Now taking applications for the 2021-2022 school year. Call (718) 734-2771 or email to schedule a tour.  For more information about their programs, please visit their website, Instagram, or Facebook page.

China Institute
100 Washington St., New York NY 10006
212-744-8181, ext. 143

Founded in 1933, China Institute’s School of Chinese Studies was the first Chinafocused educational center in the United States. Today, the School’s comprehensive slate of courses fosters a life-long learning community for anyone looking to learn more about China’s language, art, culture, history, people, and society. Our education programs build a solid foundation for children to gain linguistic skills, deepen their crosscultural competence, and pursue life with an open mind. The School’s accredited educators provide an engaging, immersive experience developed from a curriculum that instills an enduring interest in a multicultural world.

Collina Italiana Language & Cultural Center
New York, NY 10128 212-427-7770

At Collina Italiana, learning Italian is a holistic experience where students are given a real taste of the culture and language of Italy. Summer Camp: A fun and immersive experience for kids of all language competency levels. Children (ages 3-10) learn about all things Italian through music, dance, and many other activities. Private & Duet Classes: Flexible scheduling and customized programs for all ages. Duet classes are perfect for two siblings or friends. Group Classes: Children learn through a range of fun activities such as singing, storytelling, and dancing. Now offered both online and in-person; your comfort and safety are top priority!

The École
111 East 22nd Street New York, NY 11221

At The École, the school instills their students with a lifetime benefits of a bilingual education, empowering them to create and connect to a world filled with possibilities. Located in New York’s vibrant Flatiron District, the intimate and independent French-American school serves an internationallyminded community of students. From Maternelle to Middle School, the school artfully blends the best of the French and American educational systems, gifting students with deep academic bi-literacy, whole-child skills and knowledge, and an optimistic, multi-cultural perspective. Through their illuminating journey, students grow more flexible and fluid, interested and interesting, persistent and positive.

French-American School of New York
Manor Campus (Nursery-Grade 3)
111 Larchmont Avenue, Larchmont, 914-250-0469

Village Campus (Grades 4-8)
145 New Street, Mamaroneck, 914-250-0451

Harbor Campus (Grades 9-12)
320 East Boston Post Road, Mamaroneck, 914-250-0477

Founded in 1980 as a one-classroom preschool, FASNY has evolved to become an international and bilingual N-12 day school educating more than 700 students on three campuses in Mamaroneck and Larchmont, New York. Teachers are committed to creating an environment that is nurturing yet challenging, one that encourages students to flourish intellectually, emotionally, and ethically. A combination of French and American traditions are hallmarks of school life, as are the arts, music, athletics, and community service; local and international trips; and 20+ club offerings. FASNY is the only school in the New York metropolitan area accredited to offer both the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma and the French baccalaureate. All students also graduate with a New York State high school diploma. New in September 2020: an International Program for grades 1-8, no previous French required.

German-American School
Manhattan, Garden City, New Hyde Park

German-Americna School has 200 children enrolled in its three locations: Manhattan, Garden City and New Hyde Park. In-person classes for all three districts start the week of September 13, 2021 (classes are on Mondays, Tuesdays, or Fridays). With a curriculum that services grades K through 10, this is the only German-American afterschool program accredited by the New York State Board of Regents. They offer once-per-week afterschool German language programs beginning with basic alphabet and phrases through comprehensive grammar, culture, history and conversation. Apply for school year enrollment. See the registration form on their website.

German International School New York (GISNY)
New York (GISNY) 50 Partridge Road, White Plains, NY 10605
914- 948 6513

Open a world of opportunities for your child with the bilingual Pre-K to grade 12 college preparatory program at German International School New York. Their rigorous curriculum with an emphasis on the sciences allows their graduates to earn the NYS High School Diploma and the German International Abitur, a globally recognized diploma, which facilitates access to universities worldwide. GISNY’s Pre-K and Kindergarten programs offer a bright, spacious, and nurturing environment, and with their Nature-Based Early Childhood Education Program the students enjoy exploring, learning, and playing outdoors on their beautiful 20-acre campus. Entering Pre-K or Kindergarten children are not required to speak or understand German and will build the foundation of being bilingual by first grade.

German School Brooklyn
9 Hanover Place
Brooklyn, NY 11201

GSB is dedicated to making bilingual education attainable to all families. GSB enrolls students without prior knowledge of German. The school currently offers Lower (K-5) and Middle School (6-8) and Upper School (9th Grade starts this fall) education.  A brand new school building is under construction at Rogers Ave & Sterling Place in Crown Heights, set to open in 2022.  GSB’s mission is to amplify the unique potential of every child, so they can achieve the greatest version of themselves – as learners, leaders and global citizens for the future.  GSB tailors an academic experience based on each child’s specific needs, interests and abilities. As an independent international school located in the heart of Brooklyn, the school brings together different cultures.  Languages are a powerful foundation for learning, they are used as different lenses for understanding the world. GSB is currently accepting applications for the 2021-22 school year for grades K-9.

German School Manhattan
74 Warren Street New York, NY 10007

German School Manhattan is an international private Kindergarten & Lower School. GSM is the first bilingual English-German school in Manhattan and will grow one grade per year into a full K-5 program. GSM combines proven teaching methods and curricula from Germany and the United States, crafting a unique, child-centered curriculum that represents German and New York State Department of Education standards. Teachers expose children to different cultures and ways of thinking, they encourage questions, connections and creative thinking. Students without prior German knowledge can apply. Children at GSM are community-minded and take deep pride in themselves and their fellow students. The Tribeca location is well situated, surrounded by parks and playgrounds and easily accessible by the Chambers Street station (A,C, 2, 3) and City Hall station (R and W). Currently enrolling grades K-3 for the 2021-22 school year as well as Summer Camp 2021. After school program available.

The International Academy
4 East 90th Street, New York

The International Academy of New York is a multicultural and diverse school for toddlers through 5th Grade and the only bilingual school that offers Chinese and Spanish immersion through the arts. Located at 4 East 90th Street, right next to Central Park, students are approached as individuals through small classroom sizes, and learn a second language while developing the skills to navigate the world with confidence, empathy and resilience. Placement is available for the fall. Apply now or sign up for a virtual tour at ianyc. org.

Language & Laughter Studio
137 Nevins St
Brooklyn, NY 11217
718- 596-2233

LLS is a French and Spanish language center and immersion French preschool located in the heart of downtown Brooklyn. Their programs nurture children and provide them with the building blocks needed for a lifetime of learning, critical thinking while exposing them to the benefits of speaking a foreign language in a supportive environment.  The French Nature Preschool “Mini Maternelle” program offers a unique hybrid of outdoor and classroom-based learning with as many mornings as possible spent exploring nature in Fort Greene Park. Children grow excited about learning by building on their own discoveries and interests and nature provides an incredible setting for these experiences. 100% of the children who graduate from LLS leave the program fluent in French with a real sense of ownership of the language. Many of them go on to attend public or private dual language (French-English).

La Scuola d’Italia Guglielmo Marconi
12 East 96th Street, NY, NY 10128
212 369-3290

Rooted in Italian excellence since its founding in 1977, La Scuola d’Italia Guglielmo Marconi has celebrated a global perspective, bridging the best features of European and American educational systems to provide a multilingual education in the heart of New York City. Their families, teachers and alumni span countries and cultures globally. They want each child in their community to thrive and are committed to providing a tailored, global, multilingual program while instilling a love of learning in their students. At its core, La Scuola is a community of warm, talented and enthusiastic teachers, staff, parents and administrators committed to developing their students’ cognitive thinking and emotional intelligence while instilling a love of learning. They are proud to say that they are a community of learners, with teachers at their heart.

LEEP Dual Language Academy Charter School
5323 Fifth Avenue, 2nd Floor, Brooklyn
917- 819-LEEP (5337)

LEEP is a Spanish-language immersion elementary school in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Enrolling at LEEP Academy will give your child the academic, cognitive, and cultural benefits of speaking a second language, along with a challenging academic experience—and no tuition bill. The school is led by a proven leadership team and experienced teachers from across Latin America and the United States, all of them fully bilingual.  Now accepting applications for the 2021-22 school year for children entering K-2, regardless of language background. The school will grow to serve K-5, with a possible continuation into middle school. DOE school bus service is available from most neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Afterschool programs are available until 6pm daily. Learn more or Apply now at:

Lyceum Kennedy French American School
225 E. 43rd St., New York, NY 212-681-1877

Lyceum Kennedy’s mission is to provide students with a unique bilingual education based on the principles of self-expression and differentiated pedagogy (Nursery through 12th Grades). Lyceum Kennedy’s solid foundation allows students to grow into full participants in the world around them while developing and sustaining a passion for knowledge throughout their lives. Their teacher/student ratio allows them to understand and work with each student as an individual in order to ensure academic success and instill a passion for learning. They prepare their students to take the New York State Board of Regents exams as well as an International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP). Learn more about them and register for an Open House event or a private tour – au revoir!

401 West End Ave 1556 Third Ave

Mandarin for all kids! Planet Han provides a fresh approach to teaching children Mandarin Chinese. Located on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Planet Han aims to teach kids ages 1 to 12 Mandarin regardless of ethnicity through our group classes, afterschool programs and private tutor. The program uses the novel Model.Action.Talk. or M.A.T. method for teaching language. Their students are given special tablets to take home to practice their vocabulary, and we send our parents MP3 files that recap what the children have learned. Planet Han offer inperson, online only or hybrid learning options so your child can have access to their fun classes from anywhere! Book a free trial to experience firsthand learning Mandarin can be fun!

Science, Language & Arts International School
Main Campus: 9 Hanover Place, Brooklyn
Early Childhood Annex: 132 4th Place, Brooklyn

Science, Language & Arts International School is an independent Nursery to Grade 8 school in Brooklyn, focused on the hands-on integration of science with visual arts, language, and math, and committed to providing children with a rich and rigorous multilingual, multicultural, and anti-racist education in French and Mandarin. SLA’s International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme has advanced language immersion tracks in French, Mandarin, and Spanish, as well as an English track (with choice of language) for anglophone-only students. The IB framework integrates with SLA’s curriculum, providing the structure for students to become strong mathematicians and scientists, powerful writers, and fluent speakers of a second language. Visit their website to join an upcoming information session for all grades and to find out about open seats, academic scholarships, and admission information.

Smith Street Maternelle
607 Henry St., Carroll Gardens
388 Carroll St., Gowanus

Smith Street Maternelle is a French immersion preschool program grounded in the fundamentals of progressive education and experiential learning. The Maternelle provides an exceptional preschool experience grounded in the fundamentals of progressive education, child development, and language learning. Early Childhood theorists have documented the benefits of learning through play for well over a century. Rudolf Steiner, Reggio Emilia, and Maria Montessori have all established well-known and prominent schools of thought, which each highlight the importance of learning through play. The Maternelle features a French Immersion curriculum that blends the best elements of these prominent education philosophies.  The school is committed to providing a warm, nurturing and secure environment for children to explore and learn, make social connections and develop their expressive and receptive language skills. Applications are open now for both locations.

VHG Group- Early Childhood Language Schools
Arc En Ciel French Bilingual Preschool, Upper East Side

Bilingual Nest French + Spanish Bilingual Daycare and Preschool
West Harlem
212- 665-3354

Petits Poussins too French Bilingual Daycare and Preschool
West Harlem

Petits Poussins Brooklyn French Bilingual Daycare and Preschool
Downtown Brooklyn
Opening Sept 2021

VHG Daycares and Preschools welcome students from all cultures and backgrounds. Their French, Spanish and English speaking teams motivate and guide infants, toddlers and preschoolers to become independent, confident, and caring, in a bilingual setting.