Learn a new language and get a new soul.”
– Czech Proverb
Many families choose to enroll their children at AIM in order to ensure their children continue speaking their parents heritage language: many of our Japanese students, for example, have at least one parent of Japanese origin, and may be exposed to Japanese at home. If you speak either Japanese or Mandarin at home, you may be exploring AIM as a way to enable your child to gain full bilingualism in the language so that your child can stay connected to your family, some of whom may not speak English, and be at home in your culture of origin, for example, by being able to travel to Japan or China and attend school or work there in the future.
A large group of AIM parents, however, have made a conscious choice to equip their children with a language not spoken in their home. AIM is uniquely qualified to help you achieve this goal, as our immersion program continues beyond preschool all the way up to 6th grade; we are the only Montessori Chinese/Japanese immersion program in the East Bay that continues through 6th grade!
Whatever your background, there are good reasons to offer your child the gift of a second language. Becoming bilingual, especially from an early age and at higher levels of proficiency, offers a wide range of benefits to children.*
- Personal benefits. Learning another language, whether Chinese or Japanese, today allows your child to further enjoy his tomorrow. Being able to speak another language enables your child to more easily and more joyously travel the world and to interact with Chinese- or Japanese-speaking people in our communities and families. Long-term, knowing a second language can free up a student’s time to pursue other activities in his later schooling: high school language requirements will be met with ease and college admissions look favorably on students who can speak more than one language. As an adult, knowing a second language of course can open up additional job opportunities.
- Cognitive benefits. Recent research indicates that being bilingual may actually make people more creative and better at solving complex problems. Bilingual children may also have an edge in executive function, or the ability to consciously direct their activities, which is highly correlated to school and life success! Recent studies have even shown that full bilingualism may delay the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms!
- Academic benefits. While some educators and parents may be concerned that speaking and learning in more than one language may negatively impact academic achievement, many studies actually point to opposite results. Knowing another language well actually imparts a stronger ability in meta-language skills, such as understanding grammar rules. Compared to mono-lingual children, bilinguals also appear to have an edge in achieving high scores in standardized tests, such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT).
*Content adapted with permission from www.leportschools.com.
At AIM, we offer a truly multi-lingual environment. We aim to not just expose children to another language, as many schools do. Our mission is to equip children to become truly bilingual and literate in English and the second language, whether it be Japanese and Mandarin. In contrast to many other language programs, which have one teacher speak the "target language", maybe just for part of the day, our AIM program is a full language immersion program.
- Our toddler program is a dual immersion Chinese/Japanese environment. One teacher in each class speaks exclusively Mandarin, the other one, Japanes. Toddlers thus learn the basic building blocks of both these languages, and have a foundation to later on delve deeper in one or both.
- In our preschool program, mornings are taught exclusively in Japanese or Mandarin Chinese. From the start of school through lunch, our children live in a Japanese or Mandarin environment. All teachers in the Chinese class speak to all children and with each other only in Mandarin; they give all lessons in Mandarin, and students are encouraged (once they have sufficient language skills) to speak with each other in Mandarin. We sing Chinese songs, play Chinese games, read books in Chinese. Children are immersed in the language and culture: this is essential in subtly encouraging them to not only understand, but actually speak the second language, especially if they come from an English-speaking background.
- In our elementary program, each child has both a Chinese/Japanese teacher, and an English teacher. This means that most lessons are taught in both languages—in addition to dedicated reading and writing instruction in both Chinese/Japanese and English.
- Teachers are native speakers and are passionate about sharing their language and culture with the children. Our Japanese teachers speak in Japanese to all children (even those in the Mandarin program.) They are willing to provide the extra support a non-Japanese speaking child may need to transition to the new environment, and eager to challenge a native speaker to go to the next level.
- We teach reading and writing in both languages. To achieve lasting bilingualism, children need to learn to read and write in the second language. Starting in preschool, our students learn to read and write in English and either Japanese or Chinese, in parallel.
- Our program continues through elementary school. Studies have shown that for a second language to stay with a child, he has to achieve a certain level of fluency, both in speaking the language and in being able to write and read in it. That’s why AIM offers a program that continues with multi-lingual instruction as a core part of the day all the way through elementary school. As far as we know, AIM is the only Montessori program in the East Bay which offers either Japanese or Mandarin immersion all the way through sixth grade, ensuring that your child will become literate in Japanese/Mandarin, in addition to English, and will sustain his early language experience into adulthood.