Have you ever thought about studying Japanese? Does it sound hard? Well, right now there is a group of students at a public elementary school in Brooklyn who receive half of their education in Japanese. This is not an English to Japanese translation of what they are learning either. These kids are listening to their teacher, responding, and talking to each other in Japanese.
The school is P.S. 147 in Williamsburg, the first, and at present only, New York City public school to offer a Japanese-English dual language program. At first glance, P.S. 147 looks like any other elementary school, but upon closer inspection, the presence of its unique program is quite apparent. It can be seen in the hallways, where posters written in Japanese line the walls, in the library, where there many Japanese books on the shelves, and in the classroom, where students from a variety of backgrounds attempt to communicate with each other in Japanese openly and enthusiastically.
This exceptional program is the reason why Mrs. Abe, the spouse of Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, visited the school while she was in town during the UN General Assembly. Mrs. Abe received a warm welcome from everyone at P.S. 147 and spent over an hour touring their dual language program. Her tour included the hydroponic lab where students were learning about the life cycle of a plant and a class where students sang “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” in both languages. Everyone appeared to enjoy Mrs. Abe’s visit, and as she was about to leave, the children spontaneously ran up to give her a farewell hug.
The program at P.S. 147 was originally championed by the Japanese Dual Language Program Committee, which was formed by a group of parents who live in the area. They chose P.S. 147 for a number of reasons, including the enthusiasm of its principal Ms. Sandra Noyola, the school’s prescient programs, such as its emphasis on environmental engineering and hands-on learning, and the school’s welcoming environment for the students and their families. Now in its second year, the program’s ultimate goal is to provide students with an educational environment that fosters cultural competence and linguistic fluency in both languages.
If you would like to learn more about P.S. 147 or their dual-language program, please see their website at http://www.ps147.org/