LANGUAGE IMMERSION OVERVIEW
At AIM, our goal is to enable our students to become fully bilingual (or trilingual.) We want our students to be able to understand, speak, read, and write in English and their second or third language.
AIM offers full immersion Montessori programs in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese for children ages 18 months – 5th grade:
Toddlers (18 months – 3 years): dual immersion, Japanese/Chinese
Preschool/Kindergarten (3 – 6 years): choose from a Japanese/English or Chinese/English program
Private school (elementary school: 1st – 6th grade): bilingual immersion in either English/Chinese or English/Japanese. (Some children who speak Chinese at home and attended the Japanese Children’s House program (or vice versa) may continue in all three languages.)
We welcome children who already speak Japanese or Chinese at home. But, we just as readily accept children who speak only English when they start school, as long as they join our Montessori toddler or preschool program before age four (best before age three). Older students may be admitted, based on individual assessments. Please call to inquire about details.
LANGUAGE IMMERSION DONE RIGHT
In the East Bay area, where many parents want a global education for their children, you as a parent have many options to expose your child to a foreign language. One key question you need to ask yourself as you decide between schools is: "what is my goal for my child’s language acquisition – and how does it match with the schools I can choose from?"
At AIM, our goal is full bilingualism. We know, from experience, that full bilingualism requires a specific approach, which we have implemented at AIM.
Starting early. It's best to introduce children to their second language at a young age because they will adapt faster, and become more natural. We strongly encourage parents to enroll toddlers in our Infant Community. For preschoolers, we recommend starting right at age three. While 4- and 5-year-olds can still become fully bilingual much more easily than older children, it requires a longer adjustment period and may delay some of their other developmental milestones, such as learning to write and read in English.
Full immersion. At AIM, we offer a full immersion program. For toddlers, this means 100% target language, all day. The only languages spoken in our Infant Community are Japanese and Chinese. Our 3-year-olds emerge speaking both languages well. In the Children’s House programs, the entire morning (9 am – 1 pm) is taught exclusively in Chinese or Japanese. Both teachers speak only the target language, and children are expected, over time, to speak to teachers and peers only in those languages. In the afternoon (for children ages 4 and older, who do not nap), we introduce English by bringing in another teacher whose entire relationship with the children is in English. Often, one of the morning teachers will remain with the class and continue lessons and interactions in Chinese or Japanese.
A program that continues through the elementary years in AIM’s Montessori classroom. To make a second language a sustained part of your child’s life, you need to ensure that your child becomes literate in that language. This means they need to continue to use and study the language for several years of their elementary schooling, no matter what language they learn. That’s why, in 2012, we switched our Montessori elementary classroom to an all-day immersion environment. We’ve invested in staffing the room with three fully trained Montessori elementary teachers, one of whom is a native speaker of each language (Japanese, Chinese, English). All day long, children receive lessons and speak with each teacher exclusively in that teacher’s language. We are in the process of translating the entire Montessori elementary curriculum into both Japanese and Chinese – something that, to our knowledge, has never been done, anywhere in the world!