Half or more of all students who join the AIM program have some exposure at home to either Chinese or Japanese, and many are fluent speakers even as they join our classrooms at age 18 months or three years. With this many students who are native speakers, a child who can already speak the language will find peers to speak it to from day one, an important factor of motivating children to speak a language other than English!
Choosing a language immersion environment if one or both parents already speak Japanese or Chinese at home still provides many benefits.
- A guarantee that your child will keep speaking your language after he starts preschool.Many parents who speak another language at home find that children switch to English as they enter preschool. This is especially a risk if only one parent speaks Japanese or Chinese, as the family language naturally is English. But even if both of you speak Japanese or Chinese at home, English often becomes dominant as soon as children are surrounded by English speaking peers. By enrolling your child at AIM, you ensure that he will be in an environment that values Japanese or Chinese, and surrounded by peers who speak the language, too.
- The best way to enable your child to become literate in Chinese or Japanese. Given the complexity of Chinese and Japanese writing, few American-born children become truly literate in Chinese or Japanese, even if their parents speak to them exclusively in these languages. Efforts such as Saturday Chinese or Japanese school can help, as can specialist classes offered after school in other private school or public school programs. Neither of these is ideal, though: the best way to acquire a large vocabulary and learn many characters is to instruct in Japanese or Chinese throughout the school day – which is exactly what happens at AIM in our Montessori preschool and private school program.
- An environment that brings to life Japanese and Chinese culture. One reason English dominates in America is that American culture is all around us: libraries are full of English books, celebrations around the year center on American traditions. At AIM, we counteract this English dominance by purposefully celebrating both Japanese and Chinese traditions, from Japanese Children’s Day and Setsubun, to the Chinese Lunar New Year ad Moon Festival. Our Spring Performance also focuses on Chinese and Japanese culture, as students dress up in traditional costumes, sing songs and perform theater from both cultures. We also benefit from many parents with Japanese and Chinese origins, who bring these cultures into our daily experience by volunteering to demonstrate calligraphy, by bringing Japanese and Chinese foods to our events, and by just speaking in these languages, exposing children to the fact that they are living languages, used around them! For many parents, AIM has become a way to find other native-speakers, and families often get together outside of AIM, surrounding the children with Japanese or Chinese speaking adult role models.