California: Parent begins campaign for language-immersion classes at Burlingame

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Mon Oct 9 15:01:24 UTC 2006

School looks at new way to teach
Parent begins campaign for language-immersion classes at Burlingame

By T.S. Mills-Faraudo, STAFF WRITER
Article Last Updated:10/06/2006 02:57:14 AM PDT

Growing up in Spain, Burlingame resident Linda Hall has spoken both
English and Spanish much of her life.  That's one reason why it's so
important to her that her children learn to speak two languages as well.
While her son and daughter, ages 1 and 3, are not old enough to attend
school, she's still leading an effort to start a language-immersion
program in the Burlingame Elementary District. By doing this, Hall hopes a
language program will be available for her kids by the time they are ready
to enroll in school. "Being bilingual opens so many doors," Hall said. "It
also helps you a lot with your verbal skills."

In language immersion, students spend about 90 percent of the day learning
their subjects in the second language; the rest of the day, they are
taught in English. The Burlingame school board has agreed to start a
language-immersion program in either Mandarin Chinese or Spanish, as long
as Hall can drum up a enough support. They want to start by having
kindergarten, and possibly first-grade, language-immersion classes. So
far, Hall is close to having enough students for a kindergarten class.

The program may begin as soon as September 2007, but no decision has been
made on what schools would have a language-immersion class. Burlingame
school board Trustee Michael Barber is a huge proponent of immersion
schools. "There's some evidence which shows that learning a second
language helps promote learning English," Barber said. Furthermore, Barber
said there's research that shows children between the ages of 5 and 10 are
much more receptive to learning a language. "They pick it up very fast,"
he said.

But Cameron McIntosh, who is considering enrolling her 4-year-old twin
daughters in the immersion program, has some reservations. "Because
they're teaching harder skills now when they're younger, I'm nervous that
learning another language might be too much for them. I wouldn't want them
to get too stressed out," she said. "My other reservation is, it's a brand
new program, so they'll be working out the kinks." Other school districts
across the county have language-immersion programs, including Redwood City
and San Mateo-Foster City school districts. Menlo Park City Elementary
District is discussing language-immersion as possible way to solve
unbalanced enrollment at its schools.

Currently, Menlo Park has too many students at two of its schools and not
enough students at one school, Superintendent Kenneth Ranella said. The
district is discussing the possibility of starting a language program at
the smaller school, Encinal Elementary, in an effort to draw more families
there. But Ranella said they have not decided if it would be a
language-immersion program or just a program focusing on languages. Many
parents in the Menlo Park district, he said, have shown an interest in
starting a language-immersion program. "Parents in our community recognize
that their children will live in an international community," Ranella
said. "They realize that starting a foreign language early will help them
become bilingual."

The Burlingame school district will have a language-immersion information
night at 6 p.m. Oct. 19 for parents to learn more about the proposal. It
will take place at 1825 Trousdale Drive.


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