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A Global Exchange

Morning Circle at YingHua International School

Opening Doors for Young Students Through International Language Immersion

By Taylor Smith

The study of foreign language begun at an early age has been shown to set children up with an undoubted advantage in terms of socialization, critical thinking, memory, and listening abilities. Thankfully, within the greater Princeton area, there are many opportunities to expose children, teens, and young adults to summer camps, schools, and coursework related to foreign language and culture that are exciting and enjoyable. A bilingual education from a young age also increases a person’s overall language learning ability, making it easier to study and acquire additional foreign language aptitudes later in life. Broadening of the mind and seeing the world and the people within it in a global fashion is yet another undeniable positive. Some would argue that with the current environmental and political state of the world, teaching the next generation the art of collaboration and contribution is more important than ever.

Chinese New Year performance at YingHua International School. 

Language Learning Opportunities for Young Children

The YingHua International School (yhis.org) in Kingston is a 2.5-year-old through eighth grade private, co-educational learning school that is focused on dual language immersion in Chinese and English. Children are exposed to fellow classmates from various multicultural backgrounds and are given the opportunity to practice Chinese and English language learning in a curriculum that extends from fine arts to sports, musical training to the sciences. YingHua’s celebrated faculty members aim to inspire in children a sense of comfort and ease so that they are more willing to take risks, make mistakes, and try again.

Founder Bonnie Liao says, “When we started, we were the first in our country that followed the International Baccalaureate Curriculum framework and also as a Chinese Mandarin immersion school.” Much of the language learning takes place in an inquiry-based format at YingHua. This means that a child’s natural curiosity is used as a jumping off point for acquiring language aptitude. Students move from one classroom to the next, from indoor to outdoor spaces, and rather than place an emphasis on memorization or competitiveness, they are guided by their own desire to explore. For admissions and general inquiries, email admissions@yhis.org.

The French American School of Princeton (FASP) (ecoleprinceton.org) is a pre-K (starting at 30 months) through eighth grade bilingual school that features a dynamic and challenging learning environment that prepares students for success in today’s multicultural world. For more than 20 years, FASP has built a reputation on graduating students who are critical, independent thinkers, and well-rounded global citizens.

Located on a beautiful campus at 75 Mapleton Road in Princeton, FASP’s students, parents, faculty, and staff represent over 30 different countries. FASP believes that children have an innate ability to become bilingual. The benefits of speaking, reading, writing, and thinking in multiple languages and combining the best of French structured learning and American teaching methods are many. Students become bilingual and biliterate in a diverse setting featuring a rigorous curriculum of academics, art, music, physical education, and STEM that encourages self-confidence, creativity, free expression, and mutual respect. For those who would like to schedule a personal tour or simply start a conversation, email admissions@ecoleprinceton.org.

Princeton Day School (PDS) serves as the home to the Princeton Chinese Language School (pcls.org) on Sundays throughout the school year. What are known as “Traditional Classes” are available for pre-K through 10th-grade students who regularly speak some Chinese at home. This is recommended for children of parents who are native speakers. These classes are taught in Chinese with an emphasis on reading and writing. Chinese as a Second Language classes are open to non-native speakers and/or those who would like to learn Chinese for the first time. This program is open to children ages 4-14 with students being grouped by age rather than by ability. Coursework begins with basic conversation and ascends through reading and writing over time. Culture classes are also a feature of the Princeton Chinese Language School. Primarily for ages 4-10, children can learn Chinese chess, dance, taekwondo, and painting. Culture classes for adults and parents include flower arrangements, basketball, badminton, and adult erhu, all on the PDS campus. For inquiries, contact hello@pcls.org.

For those who might be interested in summer language learning opportunities, PDS typically offers a variety of summer academic classes that can include everything from foreign language immersion to cooking international cuisine to cultural history projects. For updates on 2023 camp offerings, check back regularly at pds.org/summer-programs-thanks or email Heidi Spillane, director of summer programs, at hspillane@pds.org.

Princeton Montessori School (Photo by Tamara Gillon)

Several other private schools in Princeton also offer noteworthy early immersion foreign language programs. This is largely due to each school’s unique philosophy on the importance of introducing foreign language at a very young age, when brains are more receptive to change, growth, and adaptation. Princeton Montessori School (princetonmontessori.org), Stuart School’s Co-ed Preschool Program (stuartschool.org/academics/early-childhoodpreschool), Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart (stuartschool.org), and Princeton Charter School (princetoncharter.org) all introduce some form of world languages between the ages of pre-K and kindergarten. For example, at Princeton Charter School, world language instruction begins in kindergarten and evolves into a full period day of language study in the first grade. This continues through grade eight.

Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart (Photo by Monica Vogel)

At Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart (princetonacademy.org), Spanish language classes begin in kindergarten, where listening, writing, reading, and speaking skills are developed. Both Lower School (K-4) and Middle School (5-8) students benefit from interdisciplinary instruction. social studies, religion, and art enhance the world language program through the teaching of global awareness, cultural understanding, geography, history, and current events. By studying the people, traditions, and faiths of the world, Princeton Academy students engage and complement their study of Spanish. Princeton Academy’s Spanish educators are native speakers and dedicate themselves to “preparing students to be citizens of the world.” Interested in learning more about Princeton Academy? Begin the admission process by filling out a short inquiry form at  princetonacademy.org/inquire.

Princeton Junior School (princetonjuniorschool.org), an independent school for students ages 2 through sixth grade in Princeton, offers a “Windows to the World” class where children explore what it means to be internationally- minded through a lens of global children’s literature. Spanish instruction is integrated into the school day, with students communicating in real life situations that require the ability to convey important ideas and collaborate with others. In addition to Spanish class, instruction opportunities include Morning Meeting, bilingual read-aloud, during “Learning Through Landscapes” Forest School, and at Spanish-speaking lunch tables. Princeton Junior School has been an authorized International Baccalaureate (IB) World School since August 2015. The transdisciplinary curriculum framework aims to develop well-rounded children with compassion for humanity and the desire to care for our world. For more information, call 609.924.8126 or email info@princetonjuniorschool.org.

Chapin School’s (chapinschool.org) Early Education Program includes Pre-K Explorers and Kindergarten groups. These 3- to 5-year-old students experience world language instruction in the form of Spanish and Mandarin. This, combined with music, art, library, co-curricular activities with small and large group classes, technology, and physical education classes, certainly makes for a dynamic toddler. To learn more, visit chapinschool.org/admission/inquire.

Princeton Montessori School (Photo by Tamara Gillon)

The Wilberforce School (wilberforceschool.org) is unusual in that it teaches Latin classes in the beginning of Class Three in the Lower School. Students learn the structure of language through the study of Latin vocabulary and grammatical forms. Memorization and chants are said to enliven the children and prepare them for the continual study of Latin at Wilberforce through the later years when lengthy readings and translations will be in order. Although Latin might seem an outdated form of language instruction, it is in keeping with Wilberforce’s instruction in the Bible, hymns, chants, and rhetoric. For admissions information, call 609.924.6111.

St. Paul School’s (spsprinceton.org) traditional core curriculum includes Spanish instruction beginning in preschool. Classrooms are divided into PK Little Cubs (3-year-olds) and PK 4 Little Lions (4-year-olds). St. Paul School has set a standard for Catholic coeducation for the past 130 years. Students graduate in grade eight and have shown exceptional preparedness at area high schools and/or boarding schools. Latin language and reading instruction are introduced as a supplemental program in grades six through eight. For admissions questions, email Michele Cano, director of admissions and advancement, at mcano@spsprinceton.org.

Princeton International School of Mathematics and Science (PRISMS) is exclusively for day and boarding students in grades nine through 12. Although it is a high school, rather than an example of a pre-K or kindergarten model of foreign language education, it is undeniable that the school stands as an example of international excellence. The curriculum, like the name of the school, is indicative of the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics study. The core features of the school are research projects, scientific concepts, language arts, industry, and innovation, all woven together.

PRISMS Principal Matthew Pearce says, “By the time our students leave this school, we expect them to have a true sense of confidence and self-worth that will empower them to pursue not only personal interests, but also goals that would benefit their community and society at large. By understanding and respecting the differences of others they can address local and global problems in a creative and ethical manner.” For admissions inquiries, visit prismsus.org/admissions/inquiry.

Photo Courtesy of Princeton Public Schools

World Languages Offered by Princeton Public Schools

A local private school is not the only place in Princeton to introduce your child to another culture or way of thinking. Princeton’s highly-rated public school district offers many roadmaps to foreign language instruction that can appeal to different learners. Beginning in grade two, students are introduced to Spanish. The language is interwoven throughout the curriculum, three to four days per week. Several Princeton Public Schools elementary schools offer Spanish instruction in kindergarten.

By the time students arrive at Princeton Middle School they are given the option to continue with Spanish or switch to French. If they want, seventh grade students may add Mandarin Chinese coursework to their Spanish or French language classes. The Mandarin course meets five days per week from 7:45 to 8:30 a.m.

At the Princeton High School level, six world languages are offered. These include Spanish, French, Italian, Latin, Mandarin, and Japanese. Students can choose to take one or more languages from grades nine through 12.

Photo Courtesy of Princeton Public Schools

PPS Dual Language Immersion

In the PPS Dual Language Immersion (DLI) program at Community Park School, established in 2015, is open to all Princeton Public School students and transportation is available to CP. For the 2023-24 school year the district will add a Dual Language Immersion preK program hosted by Community Park.  

Students in Kindergarten through 5th grade spend approximately 50 percent of their core academic day learning in Spanish and the other 50 percent learning in English. Every DLI student has two main teachers, one for English instruction and one for Spanish. Students learn math, science, and Spanish language arts in Spanish, and language arts and social studies in English. Specials, such as physical education, music, or library, are taught in English. This 50-50 model allows students to maintain proficiency in their native language while adding another language.

At the completion of elementary school, students will be on their way to becoming biliterate and bilingual in both Spanish and English. Research has shown that this DLI model is highly successful at teaching grade-level content while developing impressive levels of language proficiency in students.

Dual Language Immersion continues in middle school with an advanced Spanish-language class and a Social Studies class in taught exclusively in Spanish. The first cohort of Dual Language Immersion students will enter Princeton High School in September 2023 where there will be a Spanish class taught at their (advanced) level as well as a science elective La Horticultura, offered in Spanish.

More information is available on the PPS website: https://www.princetonk12.org/academics/dual-language-immersion

Community Language Programs

Princeton Public Library (princetonlibrary.org) offers a Chinese Book Group and world language story times for young children in everything from Russian to Spanish. There are also adult virtual or in-person language learning options in over 12 languages including Korean. Additionally, the library’s world cinema collection broadens cultural understanding through the art of film.

Berlitz Princeton Language Center (berlitz.com/language-centers/princeton) has courses for kids, teens, and adults. Programs are either virtual or in person. All classes are taught by native fluent speakers. The flexible learning options are well-suited to full-time students and working adults.

No matter what route you or your child takes towards world language learning, recognize that it is also a path to better cross-cultural understanding.

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