Foreign language classes for kids in NYC

Little New Yorkers can become true citizens of the world with these educational foreign language programs
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Photograph: Junenoire Mitchell/FIAF
By Time Out Kids editors |
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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

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Photograph: ABC Languages
Things to do, Cultural centers

ABC Language Exchange

icon-location-pin Chelsea

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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Photograph: Carousel of Languages
Things to do, Cultural centers

The Carousel of Languages

icon-location-pin Upper East Side

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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Things to do, Cultural centers

Collina Italiana

icon-location-pin Upper East Side

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.

Museums, Special interest

French Institute Alliance Française

icon-location-pin Upper East Side

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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Things to do, Cultural centers

Instituto Cervantes Classes

icon-location-pin Midtown East

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.

Things to do

Language Workshop for Children

icon-location-pin Lenox Hill

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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La Petite École, UWS

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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.

Museums, Special interest

China Institute

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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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Photograph: Little Language Playhouse
Things to do, Classes and workshops

Little Language Playhouse

icon-location-pin Dyker Heights

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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