COLUMBUS, Ohio — When parents here say that children speak a language all their own, they may not be too far off the mark.
That's because they are speaking in the second languages which surround them all day at school.
The Columbus school system has launched two specialty education programs in Spanish and French this year at two schools.
The programs are an extension of those offered at alternative schools, school officials said.
The children learn the standard elementary fare, except that it is taught in Spanish or French. No English is spoken in this form of "immersion" teaching.
Some 150 students in kindergarten and grades 1 through 5 at Kenwood Elementary School were greeted in September by signs printed in French, and teachers who spoke only French.
The same was true in Spanish at Gladstone Elementary School where about 110 students are enrolled.
Kindergarten students and first-graders at Kenwood receive all instruction in French, said Diane Ging, the school system's foreign language supervisor. The only English instruction they heard the first day of classes was outside the classroom when the principal gave them safety instructions and told them how to catch the bus.
"There was an interest by parents in the district to do some foreign language education in the elementary schools," Ging said, explaining the reason for the program. She said the city had tried inserting a foreign language program in some elementary school programs about 20 years ago.
"It was not terribly successful because the students couldn't learn a language in 15-20 minutes a day," she said. "We looked at some Canadian programs where they do actual elementary instruction through a second language. Then we looked at some programs in the United States that have tried the immersion concept and found them successful."
Officials said instruction in English will be phased in so that, by fifth grade, pupils will get about 75% of their lessons in English, 25% in French.