Great Language Immersion and Bilingual Preschools in Los Angeles: Make Your Tot a Polyglot
We've all heard that children have a much easier time learning a second language than adults do, but it's not always easy to provide the opportunity. If a parent or grandparent speaks another language, having the language reinforced in a community setting can increase a child's interest in playing along. If there is no other language at home, a bilingual preschool or immersion school may be the only way to give your child the gift of a second language. Immersion preschools can also help to prepare a child to attend one of LA's bilingual elementary schools.
While some preschools may offer an extra class in a language (often after the normal day), immersion schools use the language for part or all of the day, presenting the language in a natural manner and using it for the curriculum. The earlier children begin learning a language, the more likely they are to think naturally in that language, which is the ultimate goal of any language program.
Preschools Offering Spanish, Mandarin, and Russian
WorldSpeak has been operating a preschool since 2000, and its individualized language plan offers children the option of learning up to three languages. Other options include half or full days, 2-, 3-, or 5-day weeks, and an extended day available until 5:30pm. All teachers are native speakers. For those who wish to continue beyond preschool, WorldSpeak also runs an elementary school for grades TK-5 that offers an accelerated math program supported by UCLA’s Department of Mathematics.
Preschools Offering Spanish and Mandarin
2- to 5-year old kids can experience three languages in the MandarinArts Playground program. Classes are taught in Spanish and Mandarin with just a little bit of English. There are two half-day program options: Tuesday & Thursday or Monday, Wednesday, & Friday from 8:30am - noon.
Here kids learn Mandarin, Spanish, and English. Photo courtesy Nihao Chinese Preschool Program
Nihao's Chinese Preschool Program is a trilingual immersion program, with classes held in Mandarin plus 30-45 minutes of exposure to Spanish each day. The school has grown from a single location to an organization that teaches over 2000 students.
Culver City Montessori offers immersion programs in Spanish and Mandarin. Classes are taught in the target language in the morning, and then in English in the afternoon. Art, dance, music, and field trips are also taught as part of the traditional Montessori curriculum. All programs are 5 days per week, with extended-day, full-day, or half-day options. Choosing two languages is also an option, as is an English-only program.
Preschools Offering Mandarin
Founded by a pair of Los Angeles-area working professionals, Mandarin Tree Academy's philosophy is that children don't "learn" a language through lessons and drills. Instead, by being surrounded by the language in a learning environment, they "acquire" it. The very small class sizes are limited to 12 students to ensure a 6:1 student to teacher ratio. The classes are available for 2- to 6-year-olds and run from 7:30am - 6:30pm.
Orange County's LePort Montessori offers the benefits of the Montessori school approach to learning combined with Mandarin immersion daycare and preschool programs. The hours are from 7am to 6pm with a 3pm pick-up option, and after-school programs include dance, music, kung-fu, and soccer. The school accepts children from 3 months to 6 years and has year-round enrollment. (Yes, this school is in Orange County, but it's got such amazing hours and options for working parents that we had to include it. We've also got a full list of more great immersion and bilingual preschools in Orange County.)
Preschools Offering French
Alouette is a bilingual French and English preschool for 3- to 5-year olds. With a teacher-to-student ratio as low as 1:4, kids get plenty of personal attention. The school has a nature garden and special focus is paid to the natural world with a fantastic outdoor exploration area. Topics like language and math are studied twice weekly, once in English and once in French. A typical full day runs from 8:30am - 3pm with an optional after-school program running until 5:30pm.
Preschools Offering Spanish and German
Kigala offers 2- to 6-year-olds half-, full-, and extended-day options for 2-5 days per week. Parents are encouraged to choose either German or Spanish, and all morning programs are in that language. For full-day students, the afternoon brings the classes together for the English program—but German and Spanish are spoken by the respective teachers. Attending only the afternoon program is also an option.
Music, dance, and art take center stage along with languages. Photo courtesy of Ecole Claire Fontaine
Preschools Offering Spanish and French
Claire Fontaine offers a trilingual immersion preschool and kindergarten for ages 2–7. All teachers speak French, English, and Spanish throughout the day. Music, dance, and art are all integral parts of the day. Hot lunch is prepared in-house with fresh organic ingredients. Full-day and half-day classes are available.
The International School of Los Angeles offers preschool through 12th grade (three campuses offer preschool - 5th grade; Burbank offers middle and high school only). Preschool is a full French immersion program, and the school prefers that students begin the program in preschool for the best transition. High schoolers choose between a program that culminates in the International Baccalaureate Diploma or one that leads to the French baccalauréat exam. It seems so far away when looking at preschools, but if these exams are important to you, now is the time to look at your options!
Language Garden is a developmental preschool offering full immersion in Spanish or French—or both! A guided daily activity (new each day) provides exposure to new experiences. Full- and half-day programs are available. If you want your child to be exposed to both Spanish and French, enroll in one language Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and the other Tuesday and Thursday. See the website to register for an upcoming tour.
Kids learn through gardening, cooking, yoga, and more. Photo courtesy Tivoli Rainbow Garden
Preschools Offering German
This home-based preschool offers three German days and two English days each week. Gardening, yoga, cooking, music, art, and seasonal festivals are all part of the play-based program. Half-day and full-day options are available, and children may attend two, three, or five days per week.
The Santa Monica German School has a "Kindergarten" program at Redeemer Christian Academy that's for 4- to 5-year-olds, so it's really more for the pre-K set. This course gives children an introduction to the German language and culture, preparing students for future immersion classes.
Preschools Offering Hebrew
Founded in 2013, this immersion program for children ages 2–5 uses a play-based curriculum to introduce the Hebrew language. Different programs are available depending on a child’s age, such as half-day, full-day, and extended-day options, and the choice of attending three or five days per week.
The Wise School is located near the Sepulveda Pass, just a short drive from the Skirball Center and American Jewish University. The Hebrew Immersion preschool program for children 2- to 5 years old boasts small class sizes and student-teacher ratios. The school has flexible hours and offers financial aid.
Preschools Offering Spanish
Spanish Steps for Kids is an immersion program facilitated by LA Spanish School and held at Santa Monica’s Euclid Park. Potty-trained children ages 3-5 can attend for up to five days per week, from 9am-1pm. Through a variety of games and daily activities, the program encourages imagination, self-confidence, development of motor skills, socialization, separation adjustment, and the natural acquisition of the Spanish language. Caregivers are asked to occasionally volunteer in the classroom.
Bubbles n Colors offers a non-competitive Spanish immersion environment where children gain confidence and develop a love of learning. At this small home-based preschool music, art, dance, and storytime, (as well as plenty of free play) fill the children's days. Yoga is offered two days per week. Half- and whole-day options are available. Snacks and lunch are all homemade.
This article was originally published June 23, 2013