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Families in the U.S. are realizing what most of the world already knows: being bilingual offers students a clear advantage. But until now, Berkeley families interested in bilingual French-English education at Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley either had to start in preschool or kindergarten or, for older students with no French experience, wait until 6th grade. Recognizing the gap for young learners, the school has created a new track welcoming students in first and second grades starting this fall.
In the new Accelerated French Program, students will spend 15% of their day with an English language arts teacher and 85% of their day with a French teacher for French language arts as well as math, science, social studies and more. Children enrolled in this program will quickly become comfortable and competent French speakers, and will be able to fully enter the school’s bilingual track after two years.
Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley, an independent pre-K and K-8 school and the oldest and largest bilingual school in the East Bay, has graduated more than 1,600 students in its 45-year history. Its programs are all accredited by the French Ministry of Education.
Every day, Ecole Bilingue students learn, speak, and write in both French and English. The school believes that when students see the world without borders or barriers, they can confidently and capably seize any opportunity. Furthermore, they become more open-minded, adaptable learners who discover their best selves while respecting the differences of others. Bilingualism has a multitude of positive effects at all ages.
But learning a language takes time and dedication. More than 40 years of research consistently documents the power of immersion programs to help students attain high levels of second language proficiency. No other type of instruction is as successful.
Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley is lucky to welcome students with various language backgrounds and French experience. Many children start school with no French at all, though roughly one third of students’ families speak French at home. These children arrive with a strong linguistic background and are great models for the students who are not yet fluent. About one third of students at Ecole Bilingue are already bilingual in English and a language other than French when they start their scholastic journey and it is fascinating to see how easily they absorb the French language. More than 45 languages are spoken within the Ecole Bilingue community, highlighting the school’s international mindset and values which emphasize an open world view and inclusive belonging.
In addition to the new accelerated program for Grades 1 and 2, Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley offers two other entry points for children who have no prior French experience to become fluent in a second language.
For those starting in preschool and kindergarten, children are seamlessly integrated into the school’s bilingual community and diverse culture. They are immersed in the French language for approximately 80% of the day, and naturally develop the language skills they need as they navigate their many environments.
Since 2019, middle school students without previous French experience can join the International Track (IT) Program in Grade 6, reaping the benefits of small group instruction, accelerated language education, and an international community. By the end of Grade 8, students have a much deeper experience in learning a foreign language than their peers in monolingual middle schools and leave the school as strong candidates for high school placement.
No matter when a student joins Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley, they can confidently claim a deep level of familiarity with the French language and French culture, opening up their world to the global connections we all share.