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Foreign language classes for kids in NYC

Little New Yorkers can become true citizens of the world with these educational foreign language programs

Photograph: Junenoire Mitchell/FIAF

As a multicultural melting pot, The Big Apple offers kids plenty of ways to travel the world without leaving home. They can explore an exhibit at one of the many awesome NYC museums, sample new flavors at one of the 50 best family restaurants in NYC, take a family field trip to one of the best places to visit in New York with kids or become even more culturally enriched by learning a new language. Our roundup of foreign language classes for kids will have your pint-sized Gothamite saying bonjour (or hola (learn Spanish!), or konnichiwa, or ciao) in no time. There are after-school programs for all types of learners, including basic and fully immersive courses and private and group lessons. They say learning a foreign language only gets harder as you get older, so check out this list and sign them up today.

Foreign language classes for kids

ABC Language Exchange

ABC designs customized private and semi-private language programs based around children’s interests and schedules. Looking for Cantonese lessons in the a.m.? Done. One-on-one Dutch after school? Sure. ABC's programs incorporate fun, age-appropriate educational activities like singalongs and games to keep kids engaged. With more than 20 languages offered, the hard part is helping your tot decide if she has a knack for le français or Deutsch. Ages 4 and up.

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The Carousel of Languages

Weekly one-hour sessions are dedicated to the use of visual, verbal and tactile learning exercises designed to foster the imagination. Little ones will practice conversational language skills by playing with puppets and learn about foreign culture through arts & crafts projects. Each Italian, French, Spanish, Hebrew, English and Mandarin class focuses on various themes, from seasons to local neighborhoods. Ages 6 months to 12 years.

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Upper East Side

Collina Italiana

In the Girotondo programs, bambinos ages two to five learn the language while participating in age-appropriate arts activities, such as games, songs, dances and movies (think Disney flicks in Italian). Older children (ages five to 12) put together a play entirely in Italian (which they present at the end of the session) in the Teatro Italiano classes. As they prepare their lines, costumes and songs, they’ll also practice Italian vocabulary, idioms and grammar. Collina Italiana also offers Italian homework help for all ages and a drop-off playgroup on weekday mornings for ages two to five. Ages 2 to 12.

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Upper East Side

French Institute Alliance Française

4 out of 5 stars

If you’re after the language de l’amour, look no further than FIAF—a full-immersion school that ties its exploration of the language to French art and culture. Highlights include A Petits Pas, designed especially for toddlers (ages one to four), and a variety of workshops for kids and teens that teach cooking, art and photography alongside language skills. Ages 1 and up.

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Upper East Side

Instituto Cervantes Classes

Want your kid to pick up some serious Spanish skills? At this institute founded by Spain in the ’90s, native Spanish speakers ease children into to the language with games, songs and crafts; they also teach them about Spanish and Latin American cultures. As an added bonus, classes are broken into sections based on students’ level of fluency. My First Words in Spanish is an immersive program designed especially for preschoolers. Ages 3 to 17.

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Midtown East

Language Workshop for Children

This school teaches kids languages through word games, silly songs and peer interaction. Private lessons and group classes are offered in French, Spanish, Italian and Chinese, and each semester students receive new materials, including CDs with original songs, picture workbooks and storybooks. Kids under the age of three can get an introduction to a foreign language in the Parent and Me program, in which they're accompanied by a caregiver. There's also the immersive Preschool program, which can help little ones become bilingual at an early age. Ages 6 months to 8 years.

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Lenox Hill

La Petite École, UWS

Though students here have plenty of opportunities to practice their français, the curriculum goes beyond French language lessons to include art projects and hands-on activities. Little learners in the Preschool program (ages two and a half to four) will take field trips to nearby museums, like the Met and MOMA, and collaborate with professional artists through La Petite Ecole's conenction to the Virgil de Voldere Gallery. There's also a special Mommy and Me program for toddlers and their caretakers, in which les enfants learn basic French through art, movement and song. Ages 18 months to 4.

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Upper West Side

China Institute

In addition to offering regular family programming, China Institute offers seasonal after-school Chinese language classes in their downtown and UES locations. The Chinese for Children & Youth Afterschool Classes follow American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) standards and offer language classes to toddlers, children and teens. Interesting cultural activities are incorporated into the curriculum so that while learning about the Chinese language, kids can also learn about Chinese culture and history. Last, China Institute offers private tutoring and SAT/AP prep. Schedule varies by location. Ages 2–17.

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Financial District

Little Language Playhouse

One-hour classes are conducted exclusively in Italian and emphasize the importance of “multisensory” foreign language learning (think music, puppets and educational play). Visual learners will embrace the tactile, hands-on experience. There's an immersive Italian language program for all ages of kids at this Brooklyn school, including a Mommy & Me program for babies and toddlers, a playgroup for three- to four-year-olds and classes for kids aged five to seven and eight to 12. Students don't just learn to speak Italian here—they learn to sing it, too! At the end of the year, kids perform an annual Italian Spring Music Show. Ages 6 months to 12 years.

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Dyker Heights


Sybil L

Anyway, it does make sense that foreign-language classes should do a lot more to tap into the ways people naturally acquire languages. 
We always hear about how difficult it is for people to become fluent in a foreign language after puberty, with many claiming that the brain just can't pick up languages the same way after a certain age. 
Of course I'll concede that brains change with age, but--I don't see how there's any basis to make a comparison between how babies and small children are introduced to new languages and how teenagers and adults are. 
As experts from http://writemyessay.pro/ report, babies and toddlers get one-on-one language exposure from a person who loves them and learns to interpret their every coo, who gets right in their faces as they repeat simple sentences, celebrate responses, practice language sounds over and over (through simple songs, asking what noises animals makes, etc.), dramatically read picture books while pointing at words, and so on. There's deep investment in the process for both parties (the baby toddler and the parent/caregiver), where they both feel like they're improving communication in fun and fulfilling ways, for totally natural reasons. Meanwhile, the baby/toddler (assuming a stable home life) also isn't weighed down by a lot of responsibilities beyond acquiring such skills. 
Why would anyone expect people to make the same sort of language-acquisition progress by cutting time out of their real lives to sit behind a desk in a classroom for minutes or hours at a stretch?