In a sunny classroom at the Escuela Bilingüe Internacional on the Oakland-Berkeley border, a group of kindergartners clustered around a table, busily pasting scraps of colored paper onto collages, as their teacher offered guidance and glue.
A boy named Ian bounced up to the teacher, Rocío Salazar, and exclaimed, “Look! I made my name!”
“A ver tu nombre,” she replied smoothly, repeating the boy’s words, but in Spanish. “Donde está tu nombre?”
“Aquí!” pointed Ian, picking up on the Spanish.
“Qué bueno!” encouraged Salazar, who runs her class entirely in Spanish and gently guides her English-speaking pupils toward the new language.
A new school year has begun at the year-old Escuela Bilingüe, believed to be the state’s first and only Spanish bilingual private school, where 110 children, about equally divided between English and Spanish speakers, are starting with a full immersion in Spanish. They are expected to graduate speaking, reading and writing fluently in both English and Spanish and with a mastery of all the usual academic subjects.
Private bilingual schools for students of French and German are well established – there are at least five French bilingual schools in the Bay Area alone – and they’ve long been popular among well-heeled parents with European connections wanting to raise cultured children who can skillfully navigate the global economy.