The kindergarten ‘Die Rheinpiraten e.V. ‘ in Leverkusen-Hitdorf is a bilingual kindergarten. The concept is called ‘Immersion English’; it means that there are teachers who only speak their native language. There are three native speakers, two of them are from the United States and one is from Ireland.
The kindergarten has links to the University of Limerick, Ireland. That’s the university where Sarah, one of the native speakers and a teacher, is studying. It’s part of her studies to be six months in Germany, so she can improve her German. She has been here since July and this December she will leave Germany. In January there will also be another student from Ireland to do the same as Sarah did.
The native speakers should only speak English. If they want to speak to the parents of a child and there are children around them then they must also speak English. In comparison to the younger children (under 3 years) the older children are more used to English. The native speakers speak more slowly when they are talking to the younger children. The children don’t have to learn vocabulary, they learn it while they are playing English games or reading a book in the so called ‘Mittagskreis’. When the native speakers speak they use their hands to show the children what they mean. In German that is called ‘GUK’ (Gebärdenunterstützende Kommunikation, i.e. communication supported by gestures). There is more hand action when speaking to the younger children.
The concept of the kindergarten has existed since 2004. By the time this text was written there were six native speakers in total.
Celine Dumont, year 10 (Käthe-Kollwitz-Schule)