Germany lends a hand to language lessons

GLENDALE — Six-year-olds are reading German at Franklin Elementary School — and the German government has sent 1,000 euros to keep them going.

The money will support the school’s new dual-immersion German language program — taught 90% in German at the kindergarten level — which the Glendale Unified School District offers exclusively at Franklin, said Linda Junge, the district’s public information officer.

The gift, along with a $1,500 grant from German parents and families who had heard about the program, will pay for books and other classroom supplies that are not funded by the school, said Barbara Haynes, a German kindergarten teacher at Franklin.

“Before, we had only English books,” Haynes said. “And English and German are two different languages. One is phonetic and one isn’t,” she said, explaining that German is more sound-based than English.

The new books, which the school has not yet received, were specially ordered from Germany to help with reading, writing, social studies and math, Haynes said.

German books will help build a stronger connection between speech and reading, she said.

“When you introduce a letter or a sound to the children, they have to hear it and then have to find which position of the word it is,” she said.

Support from Germany and area Germans is especially important to the program, which, like the Korean and Spanish immersion programs, relies on alternative funding sources to provide books and other classroom supplies, Junge said.

“There’s not a whole lot of costs that are real distinct [to the programs], other than you need different books and other materials, and so that’s what the governments are helping with,” said Junge, explaining that supplemental funding for the other immersion programs is not provided by the district.

Although Franklin only has one German immersion class, a 25-student kindergarten group, the materials will support future students and will be the same as those used in Germany’s kindergarten classes, Haynes said.

“They get a much better connection to language and the culture,” Haynes said.

While the specialized German class is still new at Franklin, administrators are already hoping to add Spanish and Italian programs next year, a move that could make it a one-of-a-kind public elementary school, teacher specialist Ana Jones said.

Franklin will host a presentation at 7 tonight in the school’s auditorium to discuss the advantages of bilingual education and the possibility of additional programs next year, Jones said.


 ZAIN SHAUK covers education. He may be reached at (818) 637-3238 or by e-mail at zain.shauk@latimes.com.

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