The International School of Louisiana (ISL) is starting a Mandarin-immersion program that will see its first class — kindergarteners — take their seats in the Algiers Point school (502 Olivier St., 504-274-4571) in August. The school opened last year with a Spanish-immersion program. The application deadline for the 2012-2013 school year is Friday, Jan. 13. Applications are available at the school or online here.
Students and teachers in the new immersion program will speak Mandarin throughout the school day, including instruction time in all core subjects.
In 2008, the ISL made Mandarin, the official language of China, a requisite for middle schoolers at its East Bank campus (1400 Camp St., 504-6541088), but Sean Wilson, CEO/head of schools at ISL, says it hasn’t been available to lower school students until now. He says the plan is to add a grade to the Mandarin-immersion program at the West Bank school each year through fifth grade, when students will transfer to the East Bank ISL campus, where Mandarin already is available in sixth through eighth grades.
Wilson answers some questions about the focus on Chinese immersion below the jump.
GAMBIT: How does an immersion program help children who normally speak a different language at home?
WILSON: The first thing we like to say is that now a child has multiple references for a single item. For many of our students it opens neurological pathways [in the brain]. They tend to be more verbal and more critical in their thinking processes. What the research has shown is that students who are multilingual have a tendency to perform, overall, academically better. Our students are academically fluent and literate in the languages they speak, in speaking, writing and carrying on complex conversations. If they stay for all nine years, they will be fully functional in that language. It will, in a way, be their first language.
G: How many students will be accepted into the first kindergarten class for Mandarin?
W: We believe that full enrollment in a class is 24. To make a full class, we need 17 students.
G: How many different languages do you have immersion programs for?
W: Currently we are specific to French and Spanish and are looking to expand that to Chinese.
G: How many campuses do you have?
W: We will be moving into Jefferson Parish as an immersion school. 2012 is when it will be opening. We’re working with Jefferson Parish in terms of location. We’re pretty excited about the fact that it’s happening now and will give more parents the opportunity for their children.