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Immersion Preschools, Proceed With Caution

by Margot F. | April 22nd, 2014 | Preschool, School

background-20860_640Language immersion preschools have become popular in recent years. Programs emphasizing French in Canada and Spanish in the United Stare are the most popular, although Chinese (both Mandarin and Cantonese) preschools are also in demand. Are there different criteria for language based preschools versus regular preschools? Why would you choose to send your child to a language immersion program?

For parents from different cultures, sending a child to an immersion preschool might seem like a good way to help their child learn the language and traditions of the country the family originated from. Parents who only speak English might send their child to a language based preschool in the hope the child will learn another language and culture, thereby broadening their horizons. Depending on your location, there are a few kinds of language immersion programs to choose from.

A “partial” immersion is where 50 percent of the time is spent learning the new language and the other 50 percent is speaking English. A two way immersion program encourages proficiency in English and the new language. The most common immersion curriculum teaches only in the foreign language because theoretically, young children learn the new language quickly, without realizing it, through play and interaction with supportive adults.

To choose an immersion preschool, use the same criteria as you would when looking at a regular preschool. Given the high demand for popular language immersion preschools, it is easy for institutions to cut corners.

Ask friends and relatives about prospective institutions, then visit them yourself to ensure that the preschool meets your standards. A valid license and teacher certification should be clearly visible at the preschool. Each teacher needs to be qualified as an early childhood educator first and then have expertise in the foreign language. The facility should be clean and well organized. There should be a variety of toys that are clean, in good condition and age appropriate. Are there books and artwork on display? Regardless of the foreign language, it is important that literacy and creative activities are encouraged.

Inquire about the curriculum. Is it laid out in a structured manner to help the children feel successful learning a foreign language? Also, is there a calendar available listing important events at the preschool? Parents are busy and need time to arrange their schedules to ensure they are available to attend concerts or cultural activities that support their child.

One of the most important goals of preschool is to promote a positive educational experience to encourage future learning. If your child has a persistent “tummy ache” or seems unhappy at preschool, it might be a cue that this preschool is not appropriate for your child. Whether the preschool has a language immersion curriculum or regular English program, your child needs to be happy to succeed.

Be as critical when choosing a language immersion preschool as you would in assessing a regular preschool. Proceed with caution and for the sake of your child, choose carefully.

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