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[Video] Bilingual US Preschool Teaches Vietnamese to Students

Earlier this month, the rainy American city of Seattle opened its first bilingual English-Vietnamese school.

The brand-new Hoa Mai Preschool offers classes to three- and four-year-olds, as well as a toddler class for two-year-olds, reports the Seattle Times. The school has received positive feedback so far, particularly from Vietnamese-American parents who want their children to stay connected to the language and culture.

“We are really grateful that Hoa Mai exists,” Vu Le, a parent of one Hoa Mai student, told the Seattle Times. “There’s only so much that I can do to teach him Vietnamese. It takes more than just one person. He needs to learn in a structured environment where he’s surrounded by people speaking the language.”

Each Hoa Mai classroom is outfitted with dual-language books and signs. Kids learn Vietnamese songs in class and even try to eat with chopsticks at lunchtime.

But what's most interesting is that the majority of Hoa Mai's students are not of Vietnamese descent, though more students of Vietnamese origin are expected to attend Hoa Mai in the coming year.

Hoa Mai is part of a local initiative known as the Seattle Preschool Program (SPP). This voter-approved effort aims to provide low-income students in the Seattle area with high-quality schools, some of which include bilingual instruction.

“There’s a dramatic amount of research about how great bilingual programs are for kids,” SPP community outreach manager Rachel Schulkin told the Seattle Times. “They help kids develop higher cognitive skills as well as better math and social skills.”

 At the moment, the preschool joins 14 other locations around the city in SPP's first year of its four-year pilot program, in which 280 students are enrolled. By its final year, SPP hopes to have 2,000 students in 100 classrooms citywide, as well as more bilingual education in Spanish and Chinese as well as Vietnamese.

[Photo via Hoa Mai Preschool]

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