Three Seattle organizations have joined forces to open the first Vietnamese-English dual-language preschool in the city, and likely the first in the state.
The Hoa Mai Vietnamese Bilingual Preschool is scheduled to open this fall near the Mount Baker light rail station and is already accepting applications. The first open house is scheduled for Feb. 28.
The preschool grew out of discussions with Seattle’s Vietnamese community. Many parents were dismayed that their children were growing up without knowing the Vietnamese language and culture, said James Hong, director of operations at the Vietnamese Friendship Association. The association, working with Sound Child Care Solutions and Artspace, decided to open a dual-language preschool to help address that concern.
Some parents worried that young children learning two languages might not master either, Hong said, but “research we looked at … shows it pays off in the end.
“It was exciting for us to learn that a child can learn two languages at the same time and not fall behind,” he said.
Seattle already has other dual-language preschools, and a number of dual-language elementary schools, where teachers speak English and either Spanish, French, Japanese or Mandarin Chinese.
Some organizations already offer Vietnamese classes for young children, Hong said, but Hoa Mai would be the first licensed early-learning provider to offer a Vietnamese-English program.
In some of the new school’s classes, teachers will speak Vietnamese one day and English the next, Hong said. In others, one teacher will speak only Vietnamese and a second would speak English. The approach will vary based on the class and age group, Hong said.
Non-Vietnamese as well as Vietnamese families have expressed interest in the program, he said.
For more information, see the preschool’s website.