Bilingual Education for Kids and What You Need to Know

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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.

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

Bilingual Bebe

303 Cooper St 4th Fl., Brooklyn, NY 

347-824-0721

bilingualbebe.com

Bilingual Bebe is an online language school for children ages 3-15. The school aims to make bilingual education accessible for all families by offering curriculums in common languages, like French, Spanish, and Chinese. Each class has a maximum of five students and runs for 45 minutes. Led by native-speaking teachers, students develop traditional language skills (speaking, reading, etc.) while participating in fun group activities such as singing and storytelling. Parents say the well-rounded curriculum helps kids build and maintain proficiency in the foreign language or their family’s heritage language. They offer a free trial class for the first lesson.

 

Manhattan

China Institute Children’s Program

100 Washington Street, New York, NY, 10006

Zeyu Feng: [email protected] 

chinainstitute.org

China Institute advances a deeper understanding of China through programs in education, culture, art, and business. China Institute is the go-to resource on China—from ancient art to today’s business landscape and its rapidly shifting culture. Our programs, school, and gallery exhibitions bring to life the depth, complexity and dynamism of China.

 

Collina Italiana Italian Language and Cultural Center

1556 Third Avenue, Suite 602-603, New York, NY 

212-427-7770 

collinaitaliana.com 

At Collina Italiana, the benefits of learning a foreign language are coupled with the passion of their native Italian instructors to take your child on a beautiful journey with the Italian language and culture. As an immersive experience for kids of all language competency levels, summer camp is the perfect place to start. Children (ages 3-10) learn Italian through games, music, dance, and much more. Can’t make it to camp? Privates and group classes are available year-round! 

 

The École

111 East 22nd Street New York, NY 10010 | 206 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10010

theEcole.org

[email protected]

Located in New York’s vibrant Flatiron District, The École is an intimate and independent French-American school that cultivates an internationally-minded community of students from Maternelle to Middle School. At The École, the goal of education is to develop well-informed, well-rounded, responsible and compassionate students who can create and connect to a world filled with possibilities. This belief is at the heart of their uniquely-designed bilingual program, in which students learn to not just speak, read, and write in two languages, but also to think, feel, and act in ways that are informed by two cultures.

 

German American School

6 E 87th St #6F, New York, NY

german-american-school.org 

[email protected]

German-American School offers an accredited after-school language program. The school has been teaching German since 1892 when it focused on children of German immi- grants. Today it teaches children of all ethnicities.Students graduate with the NY State Regents (FLAC) exam. They also offer AP German.

 

Lycee Francais de New York

505 East 75th Street

212-369-1400

lfny.org/admissions

La joie means joy in French, joy in learning and joy in growing at one of NYC’s (and the world’s) most renowned bilingual schools: Lycée Français de New York. In Nursery, Pre-K and Kindergarten, each class is taught by both a French-speaking and an English-speaking teacher throughout the day. Preschoolers learn skills in reading, math and writing; and self-expression through art, music, and movement—in French and in English, with plenty of time for play. Getting an early start makes all the difference in new language acquisition, and children (and families!) with no previous knowledge of French are welcome across their preschool.

 

Planet Han 

401 West End Ave., New York, NY

1556 Third Ave., New York, NY 

212-724-2421

planethanchinese.com

Irene Coeny, Director

Since 2010, Planet Han has made learning Mandarin fun for students in a fun and engaging,100% immersive classroom environment. Their proven Model-Action-Talk approach grows with your child. The school works to personalize each student’s learning experience so they continue to learn and thrive in Mandarin Chinese as they grow. Your child will achieve Mandarin fluency and speak like a native speaker, giving them the ability to communicate with Chinese speakers anywhere in the world!

 

Westchester

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

fasny.org

Founded in 1980, FASNY is an international and bilingual N-12 day school on three campuses in Westchester, New York. Students are offered the opportunity to participate in either the French-American Program or the International Program, beginning in grade 1 (no French required). Regardless of program choice, at FASNY, the innovative approach is the same, based on values of respect, empathy, and positivity, centered on learning, continuous progress, and the well-being of students.

 

German International School New York (GISNY) 

50 Partridge Road

White Plains, NY 10605

[email protected]

914- 948-6513

GISNY.ORG

German International School New York, an independent, Pre-K through Grade 12 college preparatory school, is the only school in the tri-state area where graduates earn the New York State High School Diploma and the German International Abitur. The German-English bilingual curriculum and rigorous academic instruction with an emphasis on sciences promotes students to become curious, analytical, and conscientious global citizens. German is not required for children entering Pre-K or Kindergarten.

Updated, 03/25/2023

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