How old is your program?
The program was started by our company’s predecessor in 2000.
Is your company/program the same as the Szőlőtő Alapítvány program?
Our operation is completely independent of Szőlőtő Alapítvány (“Foundation”), from whom we have purchased the exclusive license for the bilingual program. Years of experience with the program helped identify areas that needed improvement (e.g. more emphasis on English grammar and writing, the addition of a literature component to the curriculum at each grade level). These changes were implemented in 2014, resulting in more complex competency levels for our students, with particular respect to culture.
What makes your program different or special compared to other bilingual programs?
Our primary school program, just like our kindergarten program, emphasizes immersion principles as extensively as possible, especially in grades 1 to 6. Because English language – and to some extent, culture – are incorporated into nearly all activities, classes and topics, children continue to learn a good deal of their English incidentally, in the same way they acquire their native language. In this regard, the teachers’ presence outside of lesson times – before first period begins, during breaks, and during meal times – is vitally important and is an often overlooked added value of the program, particularly in grades 1 to 4.
Another distinctive element of our program at all levels is our use of the one-person/one-language model of co-teaching, sometimes called the family model. The approach is straightforward: the Hungarian co-teacher speaks only Hungarian, and the Bilingual.hu teacher – a native speaker of English, or on occasion a balanced bilingual – speaks only English. Moreover, our teachers do not evince any understanding of Hungarian, even passively. This allows us to maximize the language immersion and language learning opportunities of the students in our program.
Our goal is the delivery of a bilingual program that takes into account the demands of the Hungarian national curriculum and the course of events in a student’s life as they move through the Hungarian education system.
How does co-teaching work?
The Hungarian co-teacher speaks only Hungarian and the Bilingual.hu teacher – a native speaker of English or on occasion a balanced bilingual – speaks only English.
Co-teaching is the rule of the day in all subject classes, where we adhere to our one-person, one-language rule, offering ample opportunity to the children for code-switching through frequent shifts in focus from teacher to teacher, all with an even distribution of time in each language.
Are English lessons co-taught? What about Hungarian lessons?
The Bilingual.hu program features all subjects in the lower school (except Religion & Ethics and, of course, Hungarian Language and Literature). In upper school, Craft lessons do fall out of our schedule, and Art lesson hours are slightly reduced. Otherwise Bilingual.hu teachers participate in all subjects.
In English classes, in most cases we split the class into two similarly-sized, mixed-ability groups, with one cohort heading to another classroom for that day’s lesson. One split group remains with one teacher for the entire week; the following week, teachers switch groups. Thus students spend an equal amount of time with each teacher over the course of the year. They speak English throughout English language lessons.
Tutorials are another key feature of our program. These are mandatory 30-minute afternoon sessions in the lower school with groups of 3 to 5 children. In contrast to the split groups for English lessons, tutorial groupings are often based on language level. In general, these small group sessions provide the perfect opportunity for reading development as well as further communicative practice and test review.
What level of English will students achieve by the end of 8th grade? What kind of language exams will the be prepared for?
The Cambridge System (“Cambridge English for Speakers of Other Languages Exams System”) is acknowledged and used worldwide for language competency assessment, and is regarded as the most comprehensively designed system of testing available. By 8th grade, we expect our students to be prepared to take the FCE for Schools test. In addition, we use in-house tests to track the development of language competency as per Cambridge system standards in the lower grades as well.
Does your program bring children to a higher level than the standard national bilingual program?
Yes. A distinctive element of our program at all levels is our use of the one-person/one-language model of co-teaching, sometimes called the family model. The approach is straightforward: the Hungarian co-teacher speaks only Hungarian and theBilingual.hu teacher – a native speaker of English or on occasion a balanced bilingual – speaks only English. Moreover, our teachers do not evince any understanding of Hungarian, even passively. This allows us to maximize the language immersion and language learning opportunities of the students in our program.
The methodology we use – what gets the job done – remains, in its essence, the same throughout the entirety of our program. We employ the techniques and insights of TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) combined with the logic and strategies of CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) to develop young people who can speak, read and write English with a great deal of confidence, young people who are years ahead of their peers, young people who are able to go abroad to study, travel, and eventually work – all without missing a heartbeat.
Results so far have shown that our graduates’ English communication skills are much more advanced than those of graduates from other bilingual programs, and without compromising subject competency, which is often also outstanding.
How do you benchmark students’ performance?
Bilingual.hu uses University of Cambridge English Language Assessment tools in order to externally benchmark the performance of its students. Cambridge English Language Assessment is the premier provider of English language exams for speakers of other languages globally, with meticulously well-prepared exams and preparation material for learners of all ages (from as young as seven or eight years old up through adulthood). There is no better way to measure the success of a bilingual education program than through these assessment tools.
Are there bilingual textbooks for every subject?
Students follow the Hungarian curriculum and use a textbook chosen by the Hungarian teacher. Based on joint planning sessions, the native English-speaking co-teacher prepares appropriate English-language course materials for each lesson using a variety of previously compiled course materials, English-language textbooks, and online resources. These handouts are added to students’ notebooks or course folders.
Do the students have difficulty learning grammar in English?
Because English language – and to some extent, culture – are incorporated into nearly all activities, classes and topics, children continue to learn a good deal of their English incidentally, in the same way they acquire their native language. In this regard, the teachers’ presence outside of lesson times – before first period begins, during breaks, and during meal times – is vitally important and is an often over-looked added value of the program, particularly in grades 1 to 4.
Beginning in first grade, and especially from third grade on, students broaden the ways in which they acquire their English. Focused and sustained study of lexical items begins in first grade, reading and writing in English begins at the end of first grade but begins in earnest at the start of second grade (so as not to interfere with the children’s acquisition of knowledge and skills in Hungarian), and English grammatical structures are introduced in increasingly explicit ways from third grade onwards.
In 8th grade, most of our students successfully pass the Cambridge FCE for Schools B2 level mock exam administered by the British Council. However, in previous years, grammar and writing scores were generally lower than expected. Our renewed program aims to help students achieve realistic goals by providing two years of goal-oriented, mandatory exam preparation lessons starting in 7th grade (twice a week), as well as two years of mandatory afternoon tutorials (30-minute tutorials twice a week, in small groups, similarly to the tutorials in lower grades) in 5th and 6th grade.
Where are your teachers from?
Most of our teachers are from the U.S., but there are also British, Canadian, and Australian staff members.
Are your teachers native speakers of English?
Bilingual.hu considers it critical to employ only teachers who are native speakers of English or, on occasion, balanced bilinguals.
What qualifications do your teachers have?
Our teachers may be specialized in Teaching English as a Foreign Language, or in Primary or Secondary Education, and in many cases both. Our Upper Primary teachers are also subject-specialized. This range of background, training, and experience allows our staff to employ the full range of approaches and techniques on which the success of our program is based.
How long do teachers stay with your company?
The majority of our teachers arrive through CETP (Central European Teaching Program), as part of a bilateral agreement between the U.S. and Hungary, usually staying on staff for one or two years. Our goal — especially in kindergarten and grades 1-4 — is to have the same native teacher stay with the students for as long as possible. Consequently, we aim to hire more resident native teachers who are based in Hungary long term. On the other hand, having different teachers has also proven to have a positive effect, as students will be exposed to a variety of dialects, leading to better understanding of native English speakers from all over the world.
Do your teachers speak Hungarian?
The Bilingual.hu teacher – a native speaker of English or on occasion a balanced bilingual – speaks only English within the program. Moreover, our teachers do not evince any understanding of Hungarian, even passively. This allows us to maximize the language immersion and language learning opportunities of the students in our program.
Do your teachers speak Hungarian with the students?
No. In our program, we stick to the one-person/one-language model for the best language learning results.
Can we see a lesson?
Yes. Every year, we hold a number of “open days” at each partner institution, with a variety of lessons open to pre-registered visitors. You can find information about open days at the “Events” section.
Does my child need to be exceptionally gifted (at languages or otherwise) in order to participate in the program?
No. However, we do recognize that this program may not be suitable for all children. The demands of the Hungarian curriculum increase over the years, and the resulting stress may be aggravated by the bilingual requirement. If the child has development issues in their native language, we do not recommend this program, as it may cause further development issues.
Meetings between parents and our English teachers can be arranged in order to discuss a child’s individual language development at any time during the kindergarten years, before entering school, and/or during the elementary school years.
Can my child join the program if he/she’s a beginner? If he/she’s never studied English before?
In our experience, children who acquire a language base in our kindergarten progam do better in the primary school program. For children from non-bilingual kindergarten programs, we offer an English preparatory program (on demand), about which you can also find information here.
Children in 2nd or 3rd grade who are complete beginners can only be admitted into the program if they are exceptionally motivated to learn the language. In such cases, remedial English courses outside the curriculum must be arranged by the family. Although Szőlőtő-Bilingual can assist in finding a teacher, we cannot guarantee that one will be available. Children are welcome to visit our program for a day before making a decision.
In higher grades, beginners are not recommended to enter the program because it is highly unlikely that they would be able to catch up.
Do the parents have to be able to speak English?
No, but the program is demanding, so both parents and children must expect more/harder work than in an average public school.
Can students continue the program in secondary school?
Yes, at our Crossroads Academy.