Raising a Bilingual Child in the East Bay (it’s easier than you think) - 510 Families
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Raising a Bilingual Child in the East Bay (it’s easier than you think)

This guest post comes from Stephanie Meade, founder of InCultureParent.com, an online magazine for parents raising little global citizens.


The Bay Area is blessed with more bilingual schools than any other region in the nation, outside of perhaps New York. Ok, so that’s not an actual statistic but more of an observation. The East Bay in particular, has a very high number of bilingual schools in many different languages, including some public school options. Living in Berkeley and Oakland means it’s easier than ever to raise a bilingual child, even if neither parent is bilingual, since there are so many excellent bilingual schools. And isn’t raising a little global citizen the goal of most of us parents in the 510?

This overview focuses on elementary schools within Berkeley and Oakland.

Private Schools


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École Bilingue (Berkeley): French immersion school (pre-K through 8th). Insider tip: French nationals can pay less than non-nationals, thanks to a grant from the French government, although the discount is not what it used to be.
What it costs: $19,360 + $9.30/hour for after-care and extra costs for school vacations


Escuela Bilingue  (Berkeley): Spanish immersion school (pre-K through 8th). In its fifth year of operation, EBI follows an International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum.
What it costs: $16,500 + $2500 for unlimited after-care and vacations.



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Shu-Ren  (Berkeley): Mandarin immersion school (pre-K through 8th).
What it costs: $14,200/year + $2800 for unlimited after-care and vacations.

Global Montessori International School (Berkeley): Mandarin immersion school (pre-K through 8th). No tuition info given on website.

Japanese and Mandarin

American International Montessori (AIM)  (Berkeley): Japanese and/or Mandarin immersion (infant through 8th) No tuition info given on website.

Pacific Rim  (Emeryville): A Montessori approach providing Mandarin or Japanese immersion (infant through 12th) No tuition info given on website.


German International School of Silicon Valley  (Hillside): A bilingual German school located at the historic Hillside School in Berkeley (pre-K through 8th).
What it costs: $14,300/year +$5,000 after-care


Oakland Hebrew Day School  (Oakland): While not an immersion school, the curriculum focuses on giving children starting from K through 12th a command of Hebrew. No tuition info given on website.


Golestan Kids  (Berkeley): This one is a daycare/preschool (starting at age 2), however they have after after-school care and summer camp for ages K and older.


Berkeley Russian School  (Berkeley): This is an after-school/weekend program only in Russian for kids ages 3 through 16.

Is the high price of private education a bit daunting? Then you can breathe a sigh of relief because both Berkeley and Oakland have public, bilingual education available as well.

Public Schools

Berkeley Unified School District: Each of Berkeley’s three zones has one immersion Spanish school. Word on the street is they are tough to get into, but it’s a lottery system, based on many factors including socioeconomic status, parents’ education level, race/ethnicity and Spanish exposure (I hear they aim for 1/3 children who are only Spanish-speakers, 1/3 bilingual and 1/3 who are non-Spanish-speakers).

Yu Ming Charter School  (Oakland): Chinese immersion with an approved charter as of November 9, 2010 (K through 8th). It’s open to all residents of California, not just Oakland. Manzanita SEED School (Oakland): Spanish immersion (K through 5th).

Didn’t see your language covered? You may have to look outside the Berkeley/Oakland lines a bit.

  • For Italian, try Girotondo Italian School in Marin
  • For Arabic, check out Fame Charter School in Fremont, although it’s not full immersion. Learning a second language firmly sets your child on the path of becoming a true global citizen. Admittedly, I’m totally biased. We’re raising bilingual kids, whom we hope to send to school in a third language. Even if you don’t speak a second language in your household, I’m a firm believer that bilingual education is for everyone.

*Please feel free to add any schools I have left off in the comments section.

Thanks, Stephanie! To learn more, visit InCultureParent.com, an online magazine for parents raising little global citizens. Stephanie is passionate about languages and speaks Spanish, French, Portuguese, some German, tiny bits of Armenian and Russian and is just starting on Arabic. Together with her husband, who is from Morocco, they are raising their two girls (ages 3 and 4) bilingual/bicultural in Arabic and English in Berkeley. They hope to send their kids to school in French or Spanish.

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10 thoughts on “Raising a Bilingual Child in the East Bay (it’s easier than you think)”

  1. Thanks for the comprehensive list and the info about how Berkeley’s public immersion schools work.
    To add to the info you have about Escuela Bilingue, they also introduce Mandarin into the regular curriculum in 3rd or 4th grade.

  2. As a monolingual parent of two toddlers I have been impressed with what a smooth transition it has been for us to raise our daughters as confident bilingual speakers. Through our organization – PAASSC – our website intends to support and encourage monolingual parents that want to raise bilingual children and more specifically create a network for Parents of African American Students that are Studying Chinese (PAASSC).

    Thanks for a great article and I hope that more families are encouraged to raise bilingual children – regardless if they speak a second language or not.

  3. Seesaw offers language courses in Spanish, Portuguese, French, Japanese, and Korean. The classes are all designed with a unique edge that engages the children.

  4. This is a great roundup. As an update, EBI (Escuela Bilingüe Internacional) has two campuses. One in Oakland (not Berkeley) and the other is Emeryville. We have two kids there and LOVE IT!

  5. Music Together, a terrific and systematic program for teaching music to babies, toddlers, and young children, is now offering Spanish bilingual lessons. The summer session will be held in the Rockridge area, at 11:30 AM on Saturdays. It’s great fun for kids and caregivers alike!

  6. Thanks for information, I think you are missing The Renaissance International School. Last year, I was looking for a bilingual school in the East Bay . I visited some of the schools you have listed. They are all wonderful but I was looking for something else. TRIS (The Renaissance International School) has in addition to French-Spanish immersion, a strong Music and Visual arts program. My kid enjoys the school a lot, and I am happy to see my kid talking with his teachers in 3 different languages in the same classroom. I think he is really immersed in two other languages and cultures.

    Here is the website: http://www.therenaissanceschool.org

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