French Dual-Language Programs Expand in Brooklyn

P.S. 20 in Clinton Hill will have French dual-language classes in which French- and English-native kindergarteners will be in the same class. (Photo by Jonas Cuenin via The Nabe)

P.S. 20 in Clinton Hill will have French-English dual-language kindergarten classes in which native speakers of each language will be in the same class. (Photo by Jonas Cuenin via The Nabe)

P.S. 20 in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, will offer a different type of bilingual immersion at the kindergarten level in the upcoming school year, reports The Nabe’s Amanda Woods. French-English dual-language classes will consist of half native French-speaking students and half English-speaking students, learning together.

(…) The school, on Adelphi Street, already has a French program in which students receive at least 2 hours of French instruction per week, according to the principal, Lena Barbera. The dual-language program, funded by a $20,000 grant from the Department of Education and a $5,000 grant from the French Embassy, will take a different approach in that students will be exposed constantly to French.

P.S. 20 will be home to a French-English program for kindergarteners in September. (Photo by Jonas Cuenin via The Nabe)

P.S. 20 will have a French-English program for kindergarteners. (Photo by Jonas Cuenin via The Nabe)

According to an education professional at the French Embassy, dual-language programs in French first began in New York City in 2007 and by this September, they will be in eight schools, in 30 to 40 classrooms, and have 40 different teachers and around 100 students. He elaborated on the program:

Of the 180 days in the school year, French dual-language students usually receive the equivalent of 90 days of French instruction and 90 in English, according to Fabrice Jaumont, the education attaché of the French Embassy’s Cultural Services. Typically, at the kindergarten level, one teacher instructs all of the classes; she wears a flower on her jacket to indicate that it’s time to speak French, and takes it off when class will be conducted in English, Jaumont said.

Jaumont added that the time is ripe for kids to learn additional languages.

“People are understanding now that it’s a good thing to be bilingual,” he said. “You don’t have to hide your mother tongue like you used to. People started seeing the advantage of maintaining your language and learning a new language as early as possible.”

Next year, once the inaugural kindergarten class will have graduated, P.S. 20 is looking to add a dual-language class for the first grade, and all the way to the fifth grade with each successive year, at which point English speakers are, for the most part, “functional” in French, said Shareen Anderson, a parent involved in bringing the language program to the school.

A few miles away from Clinton Hill, another neighborhood is already home to French immersion classes, a reflection of an emerging demographic in the northern Brooklyn area.

P.S. 58 in Carroll Gardens, the city’s first school to offer a French-dual language class, just graduated its first fifth grade dual-language class in June, Anderson said. The school was a magnet for Francophone families from various neighborhoods, according to Anderson. With P.S. 20, local French-speaking families now have an option closer to home.

“There is a growing French community in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill,” Anderson said. “There is definitely a community that would benefit. There are a number of French immersion pre-schools and playgroups in the area.”

Visit the Facebook page for P.S. 20’s French-English dual-language program.

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