I am privileged to have been born and raised in Queens, and now I love that I get to raise my son here as well. My husband and I are committed to raising him in a multicultural and multilingual environment, we currently teach him Spanish and French, and he is also learning English. I love that he is exposed to people from many different backgrounds; I believe this will enrich his life. Queens is the most ethnically diverse county in the United States, boasting people from over 100 countries; where 138 languages are spoken, according to NYC.gov. Despite the diversity of our borough however, you may be surprised to know that bilingual education has not made its way to Queens. Sure, there are many dual language programs in Manhattan and Brooklyn, but that is not the case in Queens. I recently attended an information session led by parents who are working with the French Consulate in opening French Dual Language programs in public schools in NYC. My hope is that one day we will have a program like that in Queens. My hope is that Queen’s first French dual language program will be open in Astoria.
Bilingualism is a hot topic right now. Recently, the New York Times exclaimed that “Bilinguals are Smarter.” And one study found that the higher the degree of bilingualism, the later the age of onset of dementia. There are of course, other obvious reasons, bilinguals and multi-linguals can communicate with more people, and knowing more than one language is crucial in today’s globalized world. From what I hear around me, Astoria knows a thing or two about bilingualism. I hear all sorts of languages in my neighborhood: Greek, Italian, Spanish, Bangladeshi, French, Arabic, and on and on. I loved that I the Toddler class my son was attending had children who spoke Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and French.
What is a Dual Language program?
It is a program where instruction is 50% in English and 50% in another language. The teacher is completely bilingual, and usually the class is made up of 50% Anglophone children and 50% Francophone children.
There are very successful dual language programs in Brooklyn and Manhattan, where children are thriving in both languages. The first step and the most important to make this a reality is community support. If parents are interested, we can make it happen.
If you are interested in learning more about this initiative, I invite you to email firstname.lastname@example.org to add your name to the list. This summer we will be guaging the interest in the community to see if we can make this happen. Fabrice Jaumont, the Education Attaché at the French Consulate has been incredibly helpful in starting this process and is a huge advocate of this initiative. You can check out more information on this initiative at the New York in French website here.