Sending your child to a foreign language school makes good sense when you have been posted to this country from abroad and in other circumstances as well.
In the United States a foreign language private school is a school in which the primary language is not English. 80% of our population speaks English, therefore it follows that private schools which teach in other languages are few and far between.
I also want to point out the difference between a K-12 private school which uses a language other than English for teaching and intra-school communications and the proprietary schools which offer instruction in foreign languages. K-12 private schools which teach their students in German or French, for example, offer a comprehensive academic curriculum with specified goals and objectives for their graduates. The proprietary foreign language schools generally aim to have their students achieve fluency at varying levels in a foreign language. For example, you could learn how to speak Spanish in a business setting starting at a beginner's level and working your way up to advanced proficiency.
Reasons Why You Would Consider Foreign Language Schools
Now, back to our original question. Why would parents consider a foreign language school for their children? For several reasons the first of which is job-related. Let's say that you are a German national who is an executive with a German firm with locations in the United States. Your firm decides to post you overseas in the New York office. Your children are ages 10 and 12. What will you do about their schooling? You know that the posting in New York is likely to be no more than three to five years at which point you will return to Germany. That's where the foreign language school becomes an option. The German International School in White Plains, New York, for example, offers a high school curriculum which is college preparatory. The school uses the same challenging Gymnasium system as you would expect to find back home in Germany. Not only can you be assured of your children receiving an education which is recognized back home, your company will more than likely pay for your children's schooling as part of your expatriate compensation package.
This short video introduces you to the German International School in Beaverton, Oregon.
Private schools which follow the Japanese educational system afford parents the opportunity to educate their children in a mainstream setting with minimal influence from foreign cultures. If this is something which is important to you, be sure to ask questions about what curriculum is used in the school or schools which you are investigating. Determine the strength of the Japanese cultural component before you decide to send your child to a particular school. Of course if your choice of schools is limited, you will have to figure out how to provide the kind of cultural influences which you feel are important. Actually this is true no matter what school you choose. Ultimately it is up to you to ensure that your child is schooled as you wish.
If you need reassurance that students at foreign language schools are involved in their communities, this video makes that case very clearly.
Many French language schools offer their high school graduates the option to earn both an American high school diploma as well as the French Baccalaureate. Ask about the curriculum and find out where their graduates matriculate when you are researching schools.
Children learn languages a lot quicker than we adults do.
I know! I know! English is not a foreign language. But the reality is that the British use a different system of education than we Americans do. We may share the same language but words and expressions have quite different meanings as you are well aware. So, if a British style education is essential to you, you ought to explore these proprietary British schools. If a somewhat less orthodox approach works for you, then explore schools with "international" in their names. Many of these schools will offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. The IB diplomas are recognized worldwide.
Depending on the area you may well find day schools offering other language options such as Chinese, Hebrew and Arabic. In some cases where the local demographics do not support operating a day school, you most likely will find courses in various languages and cultures which take place after school and on weekends. These courses may be offered by for profit and non-profit organizations.
I would suggest looking into this option in situations where you have identified a day school which offers everything you are looking for, except for the language and cultural instruction components. Your children's language programs then become an enrichment activity which you can tailor to suit your particular needs and requirements.
If you have questions, do not hesitate to contact me via Twitter. @privateschl