If my child starts in kindergarten, how will she catch up with children who did preschool in the language?
There will usually be at least one other child in the kindergarten class who has just started the language, so your child won’t be alone. Try to expose him or her to the language before school starts – watch short videos (you might find some on the web), check out music from the library, look for a library story time in that language. It doesn’t matter if your child is not understanding the words – don’t put pressure on her to get meaning. The idea is just to get her used to the sounds and rhythm of the language so that it sounds familiar when she gets to school.
Your child may experience a bit of frustration at the start – feeling like she doesn’t understand anything when other children do. It may help to prepare your child for that feeling, let her know that it’s ok and that other children feel it too. Children’s brains are remarkably flexible in kindergarten, and they start understanding before they even realize it.
How can I help my child with the transition to language immersion?
Encourage your child by telling her how proud you are that she is learning Chinese, Spanish, or Japanese. Take advantage of opportunities to expose your child to the immersion language and culture outside of school. This helps her see that the language is not just something for school, but something for life.
Try not to put your child on the spot to “say something in Spanish” until she shows the initiative herself. Recognize that your child may not speak the language at home for a long time – at pick-up or drop-off you may be surprised to hear your child use her new language when talking to the teacher!