Full Mandarin Immersion Environment
Imagine everyday, your child goes through a space portal and
attends a school in Taiwan or China.
How do young children acquire a language?
Imagine if your family moves to another country with your children, and they attend a local preschool there. In a very short time, your children will pick up the local language. It is similar to how a child picks up English quickly when they move to the U.S. from another country. This is because from birth, a child naturally can learn any language being spoken to them, and they are adept at distinguishing the sounds of multiple languages. You don’t teach language explicitly to young children through formal instructions. At Ya Ya, we believe that the most effective way for children to learn Mandarin is to set up an environment replicating a school setting in a Mandarin-speaking country. Everything children see is in Chinese and everything they hear is in Mandarin. Our school is a welcoming environment where a child picks up the language organically by listening, observing, and imitating the sounds and words spoken in their surroundings.
Difference between 100% Immersion vs 50%-50% approach?
In our school, all daily interactions, conversations, and instructions between our teachers and children take place 100% in Mandarin. We are proud to be the only full Mandarin immersion preschool in downtown Manhattan. All our Mandarin instructions are delivered with vivid visual aids to support comprehension, regardless of children’s prior language background. Our 100% immersion approach drastically differentiates us from a program that split their instruction time into 50% English and 50% Mandarin. English being the primary language in the U.S., it is natural that most children are inclined to speak more English in a classroom environment where English teachers are present. We intentionally choose a 100% immersion approach to maximize the critical period of second language acquisition during the precious early years before children attend Kindergarten.
The Environment serves as the invisible teacher.
In our Ya Ya classroom, the environment itself serves as the invisible teacher. Our classrooms are stocked with books in Chinese, the bulletin boards are written in Chinese, and the walls are adorned with topic-related materials - all with the same purpose in introducing the visual and tactile world of Chinese characters early on to our children. We take pride in having a library of 1000+ Chinese story books that have been collected and curated by our educators for over a decade. Teachers read books to the children each day, and the children also get to choose their own books to “read” to themselves or borrow a book from our library to bring home.
Our school was built from the ground up with children at the forefront of all design decisions. A close collaboration between our architect, a father of 3 children, and our experienced early childhood educators, we have created a home-away-from-home space for our little ones and a place that exudes fun, playfulness, and warmth.
Read Monna's Scoop to get insights on what children do at our school everyday!
Should I worry about my child's English?
English is spoken everywhere outside the classroom. Our Mandarin immersive environment allows our children to maximize their time in listening to Mandarin and learning core content areas in Mandarin throughout the school day. Children pick up Mandarin naturally in our immersive classroom, and they are able to make meaningful connections to their English counterparts when they are outside the school. Following the most organic language acquisition path for a child, even our youngest learners will intuitively be able to code switch between two languages by the end of school year. For more than a decade in running our 100% Mandarin Immersion program, all our graduates had no problem in making quick adjustments to an English-only Kindergarten program, whether they speak English at home or not. What mattered the most between ages 2 to 4 is the children’s cognitive and social-emotional development, which have the most impact on determining their success in Kindergarten year and beyond.
What are the advantages of a bilingual or multilingual brain?
Research has shown that there are cognitive developmental benefits to learning multiple languages at an early age. These benefits include improved executive functioning skills such as working memory, mental flexibility and self-control, stronger attention span, swift response in juggling different tasks, and many more. Because of the fact that bilingual or multilingual children need to determine which language to speak and what cultural cues to follow when they interact with different audiences, they have much more opportunities to develop higher levels of empathy compared to their monolingual peers. Furthermore, being bilingual or multilingual also opens a world of possibilities for children to explore other cultures and traditions, and to start to form a global mindset at a young age.
Watch this video by Maria Polinsky, Professor of Linguistics at Harvard University, on the cognitive advantages of bilingualism on our parent resources page.