As a bilingual school, BBS supports families who are raising their children with English and German in Berlin. In many cases, children growing up with two or more languages cannot read and write in the non-school language, as family interaction is largely conversational. In dual-language households, children often answer their parents in the language of the country in which they are living, rather than in the language spoken by one or both parents, with the result that even their spoken language skills are inadequate in the non-local language.
At BBS, our objective is for children to become not just fully bilingual but bi-literate, able to read and write in a language on the level of an educated native speaker. This is a process that begins in the primary school and continues into the secondary years. Even in monolingual children, the development of academic language takes many years, as children acquire vocabulary in every academic field and engage with language on a complex, creative level. Ultimately, our aim is for our students to achieve local and international qualifications that will give them a wide range of options in their later lives.
Learning to write in two languages at the same time is challenging. Spelling in the early years reflects the fact that children are internalizing rules, but apply the rules from one language in the other (for example, capitalizing nouns in both German and English). While progress in spelling may at first be slower than in monolingual children, children who attend Berlin Bilingual School become proficient readers and writers of both languages.
Students attending Berlin Bilingual School work and play in an environment in which everyone speaks at least two languages in and out of the classroom. Language skills are reinforced on the playground and on weekends, when students gather with their friends. This interaction also gives our students insight into other cultures and ways of doing things.
At BBS, we assess the language skills of applicants before they are admitted to the school to ensure they have sufficient proficiency to thrive in a bilingual program on a day-to-day basis.
- Children entering Year 1 are assessed on a Saturday in the autumn before they begin school. Given that the children do not yet read or write, this informal assessment is oral/aural.
- Children entering Years 2-6 are invited to the school for a trial day, during which the teachers evaluate the child’s ability to follow instruction, participate in class and interact with other students.
- Students entering Years 7-10 are invited to the school for a trial day in order for both applicants and students to determine whether the school is a “good fit”. In some instances, students have high proficiency in one of the school languages, but not native proficiency. They are assessed on a case-by-case basis. Prior school reports are taken into consideration, as is the student’s motivation.
Bilingual Program in the Primary School
Lessons in the Primary School take place in English and German in order to support the languages of the bilingual children who attend our school. We assess children’s language skills prior to admission to ensure that they have sufficient proficiency to follow a bilingual program.
Each class is taught by two teachers, both native speakers of their respective language, one of whom teaches in English, the other in German. While teachers do not team-teach (both teachers in the class at the same time), they coordinate their lessons in order to reinforce the differences and similarities between languages.
Physical education, art and music are taught by subject specialists, usually in English.
|Subject||Language of instruction|
|Math and German||German|
|Social studies/science and English||English|
|Sport||English and German|
Beginning in Year 1, students learn to read and write in English and German simultaneously.