Bilingual is Better

La Maestra's Corner: Tips For Non-Native Speakers with Children at Dual-Language Schools. Back to School- Part III

This past Monday was the orientation for parents with children entering kinder at my dual immersion school. It was quite a crowd as tons of eager parents walked through the school gate and headed toward the different kindergarten classrooms. What I loved about this big group was how diverse it was. For some reason there is a common misconception out there – that most children attending these types of schools are native speakers of the target language and this could not be further away from the truth.

As a matter of fact, many of the families who apply to get in come from very diverse backgrounds especially non-native speaking households. Yet, with that brave decision to enroll a child in a dual immersion program come many questions and concerns. Here I have compiled a few tips I hope will help put you at ease. One thing for sure, being bilingual or multilingual is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your child.

  • If your child is entering kinder, the fact is that it can be a scary time. It does not matter what language the program is in. Now add to this the fact that he/she may be entering into a room where his/her native language is not spoken (as an adult I would be terrified), but REST assure that his/her classroom teacher has a plan and knows exactly how to handle the situation.
  • At first, it is VERY likely your child may be confused and even think you put him/her in the ‘wrong’ class. Assure him that he/she is in the right place. Even though small children may not fully understand the benefits of this program, it is always helpful to explain the reasoning behind your decision (in a kid-friendly language). Use real-world examples to explain the advantages of speaking more than one language such as traveling, reading diverse books and even watching television (I am not a huge fan of T.V. but children can easily identify with this).
  • Stop viewing yourself as the “non-speaker.” Share this learning experience with your child and you too become a student. As I have said it in other posts, children learn by example. It may sound silly, but this is really powerful. Be honestly interested in the ‘other’ language, listen to songs, check out books at the local library (picture books work ideally) – share the learning.
  • A common and very valid concern is the level of academic vocabulary that comes with being enrolled in these types of programs. As children move up in grade levels, so does the content/level of difficulty of the subject matter. Your involvement is crucial. Most schools offer additional support before and after school, so take advantage of them to ensure your child keeps up. This includes parent-training specifically targeted in aiding your child at home. Ask the front office.
  • REMEMBER that becoming bilingual is a process that takes time. It does not happen overnight.
  • Get involved in school by volunteering in the classroom before/during/after school. You will gain a better understanding of how the program works.

Super important: Keep in mind that if your child does not want to speak a foreign language to relatives or peers, do not force him/her. Putting too much pressure and/or criticizing him/her can associate negative feelings with the second language.

I know this is a really important topic and by no means I am trying to cover all the possible concerns one may have; however, I hope this has clarified some of your doubts. I love to hear from you and read your emails as it is what keeps me writing. Please let me know if there are any specific concerns you may have, I will be happy to help you.

And please remember that your support and encouragement are key elements in helping your child succeed in this program. I applaud you for your commitment and willingness to give him/her the best – to give them the tools towards becoming world citizens.

Much love,

Kelly

{Photo by grubbenvorst }

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