Bilingual kindergarten

My grandson will be attending a bilingual Catholic kindergarten for his first full day experience. I’m a little nervous for him since he understands some Spanish but not a lot, and many of the other students come from bilingual or Spanish-speaking only homes.

Has anyone else had a child in a bilingual school, and how did it work out?

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My granddaughter will be attending one in the fall - French.

Kids generally seem able to learn language more quickly than adults; I suspect that your grandson will be able to go with the flow. That, of course, assumes a teacher who is aware that not all children present are native speakers - in either language.


Depending on how much exposure he gets to Spanish in his school, he may even become fully bilingual, for his age group. It will certainly do his English no harm, if that’s what you’re worried about. Young children learn languages very quickly and easily, but they also soon forget them if they change their language environment – if the family moves to a new country, for example.


Childhood is the best time to learn languages, because the brain is still forming and flexible. A second language is always an advantage.


As others have said the younger the better for learning languages. And as you say many other kids come from bi-lingual or Spanish only speaking homes. With demographic trends this might become more prevalent so it’s beneficial for his future to know Spanish.

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What a lucky kid to be exposed to this opportunity :slightly_smiling_face:


Lucky kid

Science is on his side there, I heard that studies have shown the best age to learn a new language was before the age of 10

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Me - I was one of those children.

The teachers know their way around. I never heard of it harming anyone. My experience: a double intake can really massage your brain…And it creates an awareness other kids won’t have. The babies I’ve seen growing up in bilingual or even trilingual environments do it seamlessly. Kindergarten your grandson will be aware and get home speaking 2 languages at once, hopefully the parents can handle his questions and help him differentiate. Yes, he’ll want to speak both and turn his parents into dictionaries and translators.

The main thing to avoid is differences “us vs. them”. All the immigrant cultural nonsense is to be discarded, meaning everyone is who they are and there should be no emphasizing differences, by way of pride or division. (because there is language and there is culture).

I wasn’t allowed to mix both languages in the same sentence. Either you speak one or the other.

everyone congratulates me on my diction in whatever language I’m speaking. I frequently best natives in pronunciation. (E.g. I don’t speak Chinese, but they say I pronounce the words beautifully. Frequently foreigners tell me I’m the only guy in over a year who’s pronounced their name right.)

P.S. I learned English in just 1 year (80% of what you see me write I learned in that time. But I did have an exceptionally good teacher in that year.)

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I was in a bilingual school growing up, it was a wonderful experience. Children can adapt to things really well - especially when teachers are there to help. If I had stayed at that school I bet I would’ve been bilingual to this day. They even had a very strict method.

The whole school would progress in English and only English for one week. The next week, Spanish and only Spanish. So the Spanish only speakers were the thick of it just like we were. My teachers were great - they really knew how to use tone and body language to help us.

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That’s so exciting! We have a Trilingual Immersion school in our metropolitan area that only accepts Kinder & 1st Grader new students. The only reason my daughter didn’t attend was it was an hour drive one way in traffic :sob:. The teachers said that within 6 weeks the kids all know each of the 3 languages fluently: Chinese, Spanish & English. They absorb new languages so quickly!

Now if I could just get my husband to speak one or the other! He mostly speaks Spanglish.
thanks for all the encouraging comments. Maybe I will even improve my Spanish.


See, you should have sent him to bilingual school in kindergarten :slight_smile:


Pre-schoolers can easily learn 20 new words every single day. When they are around people speaking different languages they often start saying the word in a language that is easier to pronounce and then a little later they say it in the other language/s. If adults are consistent in speaking the same language all the time with the child then the child won’t have a problem learning several languages. If they are mixing two or more languages in a sentence then it is going to be difficult for the child.

Years ago I was visiting an English speaking friend and her 6-month-old son. Little Charlie was in his crib and we were both speaking with the kid in English. He was moving his arms and legs around like crazy and gurgling. Then I decided to speak Swedish with him in the same way I would do if he were my child. My friend didn’t notice that I changed languages but she saw that Charlie stopped moving his arms and legs, went quiet and stared at me very intensely. “What did you do?”. “He noticed that I speak a language he hasn’t heard before.”

I just wish my brain was as flexible today when I am 40+ and learning a new language. On the other hand I am able to connect facts and reason in a way I wasn’t able to do when I was a teenager or young adult.

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Maybe you lack the motivation. As a kid you just kinda know that everyone will be happy and maybe even reward you if you learn something new. As a grownup you either get relaxed enough to do it just for fun or find a good motivation. Like having a book that you want to read in the original language, and you really want to. And to get there, you study it.
Intrusive thoughts of “it’s not worth the time” may also be the cause. For kids everything is worth it, they haven’t got the need for economy and exchange as grownups do. This is why they play so easily while grownups need to do yoga just to stop stressing for everything. :upside_down_face:

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My daughter does. She’ll be in second grade this year. Now, my mother is a native Spanish speaker and I grew up speaking both Spanish and English. My wife and I, only until she started kindergarten, did we start speaking Spanish and reading in Spanish to her. No need to worry. Many children in her class come from monolingual English homes and are doing great. Kids are like sponges and absorb all this stuff. Research shows that around 9 or 10 they will surpass their English only speaking peers academically.


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Our Archdiocese opened up a bilingual school for preschool through kindergarten (and will be adding one grade every year through 8th grade) last year. We have heard many stories of students who didn’t know English or students who didn’t know Spanish picking up a lot of it really quickly. Young children are amazing like that. The more exposure that they get to native Spanish, the better, as many kids, as they get older, tend to default to English since that is the majority language.

I wish that I had had that chance! I had to work and practice many years (through college and through work) to become fluent in Spanish.

I have a girlfriend whose daughter ended up in one. They pulled her in January. It really wasn’t working.

Sure her daughter picked up some Spanish, but because all of the classroom instructions has to be given in two languages, stuff took forever. Which meant that the entire class was behind in other subjects.

The concept may be great. But he careful about the execution.

What seems to work the best, is that the teacher speaks only one language during class. If there are two teachers sharing a class then the second teacher would speak the other language for his/her classes.

Another alternative is that one subject is taught in language 1 and a different subject in language 2. Problem here is that the children won’t know the vocabulary in the second language.

It depends upon how it’s done; there are a wide range of things done under the bilingual label.

In California, it was essentially warehousing non-english speakers until they aged out of school. It was sold as temporary heavy immersion to keep them caught up until their English was adequate for regular classes, but that wasn’t what happened.

When the proposition to end it came about, there was the initial shriek of “racism”–and then even casual inspection showed that it was lead by parents of the purported “beneficiaries” of the programs, upset that their children weren’t getting educated.

My own encounter (before the initiative) was as a volunteer tutor in Alviso (a very poor area).

This kid came in with an extremely elementary list of vocabulary words (e.g., shoes, shirt) that he needed help with! He didn’t have even that much Spanish–yet he was thrown in these classes because of his last name.

And then there were the frequent lawsuits by parents to get their kids out of the “bilingual” classes and be taught in English. They were put in the classes in the first place, over the parents’s objection, because their last names ended in “z”, or other “Mexican” names . . . AFAIK, the parents won every single suit . . .

I’m not saying the you can’t have a wonderful and useful program, but be careful . . .


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I’ve tutored kids with good results. I never took up teaching classes because of the anarchy (social conflict) it generally involves, and also because I’d be taking away a workplace that I didn’t need and for which I’d be both overqualified and under-qualified.

There are the opposite examples, like Canada, Luxembourg, Switzerland…And the countless international schools found everywhere catering to the expats. Bilingual doesn’t necessarily mean imposing both languages in the same class, but catering to the possibility. Some of the cases you described seem like a bureaucratic imposition that isn’t of choice nor takes the person into account. That’s not my idea of what a bilingual system can be. And yes, there are difficulties, especially in terms of formal grammar - not just vocabulary. (But hey, the monolingual system also tends to score low on grammar and math - so that’s more a result of social background and inherited cultural capital than anything else.)

You’d probably be surprised if I told you some of the social conflicts that are common place in Europe with placing kids in better/worst schools. Where I’m living parents enroll their kinds into certain kindergartens the year they are born to ensure the vacancy latter on. (Common sports in one of those places includes horseback riding…)

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