Thursday, October 25

No German Immersion in JAX

I was hoping that my 10th search might get some results, but there's still no German immersion classes, schools, or anything in Jacksonville. Weirdly specific, you think, me looking into this language here. Let me explain.


I speak French. Not as fluently as twenty years ago, but I can still hold my own. I speak it because I was part of Milwaukee's French Immersion School, from K4 until 12th grade. I know, it's surprising. Wisconsin has a mandatory K4 program. And language immersion is a real thing there. French, German, and Spanish. MPS might have tried Mandarin, too, but I am not sure about the status of other languages. And the Spanish school was a bit more like an ESL/immersion school, since half the kids I knew who went there spoke Spanish at home. But the French and German programs were top-notch.

Actually, the French program was never quite as amazing as the German one. MGIS--Milwaukee German Immersion School. My kids went there for five years. I guess my daughter was there five years, anyway. Immersion really does work. They can still speak and understand it, but it's starting to disappear.

When we were in Kansas, we tried the German School of Northeast Kansas in Lawrence. It was fine for kids who maybe grew up in Germany as part of a military family, but my kids were a bit beyond learning the alphabet, so that one didn't last. We also had a German-speaking babysitter one evening, but they don't really need those anymore. One of the parents at the Lawrence school told me that a similar German school in Atlanta was pretty awesome, but my wife got the job offer in Jacksonville. So I searched.

The only opportunity I found was a German speaker Meetup, which I joined. However, the group meets at the German Schnitzel Haus and local bars, and it's all adults, so probably not for two kids not yet in middle school. Still searching, I came across the International Learning Center in Jacksonville because the website must mention German. But it's an ESL school, so not really what I initially wanted. However, I did find out if the kids could volunteer. Here's the message I sent:
I was looking into opportunities for my kids to speak a little in their second language when I came across your website. We are always interested in the kids volunteering, so I thought I'd send a message. Both kids  are good students with decent language skills. Both speak German and would love to help a German-speaking child, if that's even a need around here. If not, I am sure they could help other ESL kids their own age or younger. I realize my kids might be younger than your usual volunteers, but they are responsible and always enjoy helping others. Thanks.
We'll see if that ends up amounting to anything, but it still leaves that German immersion void. You can always contact me if you know something I don't know about Jacksonville. A quick search seems to show there are some "dual language" schools, which are discount immersion schools for people who are afraid of kids who can't read or write in English. And nothing in German. In fact, it would seem Lee High School would be the closest one to us that even offers German. I'm not sure about private schools. If you're a German teacher in Jacksonville, I'd like to hear from you about why your private school would work for my family, too.

Anyhow, if you're heading north to Milwaukee, I highly recommend MGIS. There might be one or two other public programs like it in the whole country. I wonder why a school system here in Jacksonville (or even St. Johns County) wouldn't espouse true language immersion. I turned out fine, and my kids are both reading above their grade levels in English. They have a more global perspective, and we've even met (and hosted) people from Germany. Really, the best time to learn a language is very young, not as a high school elective. I barely learned any Spanish when I took it in middle school, but I still know French well enough to make someone from France believe I'm a proficient French student from England. And that's better than being a loud American over there.

[UPDATE]
Our kids cannot volunteer because the ILC in Jax does not accept volunteers under 15 years of age. Oh well, their loss. I did find out that the kids can take online German classes at the high school level, even before high school, so I guess they'll end up doing that rather than volunteering. For any of you thinking of doing this with a middle school kid, you just have to understand that the GPA count for high school starts whenever you start taking these classes, no matter the age. So the kids who are responsible at a young age cannot volunteer but can be counted as older than they are if they want to take online classes.