Welcome to Mandarin Immersion Montessori!

LePort Montessori Schools is excited to give children the gift of bilingualism by offering Toddler and Preschool Mandarin Chinese immersion programs. Early language immersion is one of the best ways for children to become fully bilingual – a privilege that has life-long benefits. Our Mandarin Immersion programs are integrated into our Montessori programs, so parents can give their children both in one place.

LePort’s language immersion preschool programs began in 2012 at our Huntington Harbor school with Spanish Immersion. Parent reception was so positive that we now offer Montessori immersion programs at nine of our schools (as of fall 2015); we’re planning to offer either a Spanish or Chinese immersion option at most new campuses that are large enough to accommodate this option.

We are honored to be able to give our students this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to effortlessly master Mandarin Chinese while also providing an authentic Montessori education.

Mandarin Chinese immersion preschool is a great option for English-speaking families who want to give their child the gift of bilingualism! Mandarin is such a different language from English that unless a child learns it at a young age, he will need to dedicate an inordinate amount of time to master it. For instance, as we age, our brain loses the ability to hear differences in tones specific to Mandarin that denote meaning; without being able to readily hear the tones and to reproduce them correctly, we are unable to speak the language in way that’s easy for native speakers to understand.

Our Mandarin Chinese preschool is also a good option for children who have at least one Mandarin-speaking parent, to retain their Mandarin skills beyond the toddler years. Many families who speak a language other than English at home report that children lose their motivation to speak the language once they are surrounded by English in preschool or in elementary school.  By surrounding your child with Mandarin language and Chinese culture throughout the formative preschool years, you will increase the chances that he will continue to speak Mandarin for life. Importantly, by equipping your child with the ability to read books in Chinese early (through his mastery of Zhuyin), you can help her to sustain her Chinese vocabulary development: she’ll be able to absorb both oral Chinese and Chinese characters from reading books independently.

“I highly recommend taking a look at LePort’s Mandarin immersion option if you’re interested in bilingual education. I’ve been blown away so far.  My son is going on 5, and he has been in Mandarin immersion Montessori schools for three years (this is his 4th). He’s a strong reader and writer, and just voraciously curious about everything. This kid likes to read a natural history encyclopedia for his bedtime story. Everything from the learning opportunities he’s had (he was going on and on about prepositions last night), to the elated look on his face everyday after school, to the high level of service we have experienced as parents, has been exceptional.”

Full Chinese language immersion to achieve bilingualism.

Children learn language best by experiencing it naturally, by being immersed in it. Our Mandarin Immersion program is led by two native Mandarin-speaking teachers: a Mandarin-speaking Montessori preschool head teacher and a Mandarin-speaking assistant teacher. Both teachers speak in Mandarin all day with the children so they can absorb it effortlessly.

Montessori preschool environment.

A rich Montessori preschool environment supports optimal Chinese language learning by tying language to a broad range of day-to-day activities. Children learn all Montessori preschool skills and activities, from Practical Life to Sensorial, from language to math, in Mandarin, and thus naturally acquire a broad vocabulary in Mandarin.

Discover the benefits of Mandarin Immersion Montessori

Hear parents explain why they choose to give the gift of bilingualism–and get a glimpse into Mandarin immersion Montessori classrooms at several LePort Montessori schools.

Program Highlights

  • Full Mandarin Chinese immersion in a Montessori environment. Both the head teacher and the assistant are native Mandarin speakers, and speak only in Mandarin with all students and with each other. Our goal is for children to understand and speak Mandarin; for English-speaking children, we recommend enrollment as young as possible to achieve this goal.
  • English language teachers work with children ages 3 ½ and up for a few hours each week on English literacy skills–such as using the Sandpaper Letters to learn to write English letters and using the Moveable Alphabet to begin to “write” by building words.
  • We will use traditional characters and Zhuyin (bopomofo) to teach Chinese writing and reading. We will introduce Zhuyin early, starting around age three to four, during the children’s “sensitive period” for language learning. Our goal is to enable children to phonetically read simple Chinese sentences, and to recognize 30-80 traditional Chinese characters by the end of the third year of primary (the equivalent of traditional kindergarten).
  • A Chinese cultural environment. From equipment in the Practical Life area to stories and songs, from celebrations (think Chinese New Years) to art (such as Chinese brush drawings), our campus will have a strong Chinese cultural influence.
  • Program enrollment is open to all children who will be between 18 months and four years old when they start school. Older children may be admitted if they have sufficient Chinese skills and/or come from a strong Montessori background.

Program Details

  • Program enrollment is open to all children who will be between 18 months and four years old when they start school. Older children may be admitted if they have sufficient Mandarin speaking skills and/or come from a strong Montessori background
  • Full Mandarin Immersion in a Montessori environment is achieved with highly-trained, native Mandarin speaking bilingual teachers, who speak only in Mandarin with the students and with each other throughout the day. They will speak in English with the parents. Our goal is for children to understand and speak Mandarin; for English-speaking children, we recommend enrollment as young as possible to achieve this goal.
  • We use traditional characters and zhuyin (bopomofo) to teach Chinese writing and reading. We will introduce bopomofo early, starting around age three or four, during the children’s “sensitive period” for language learning. Our goal is to enable children to phonetically read simple Chinese sentences, and to recognize 30-80 traditional Chinese characters by the end of the third year of primary (the equivalent of traditional kindergarten).
  • To integrate English reading and writing, an English-speaking expert teacher will work with students ages 3 ½ and older in the afternoons, to ensure they learn both Mandarin and English literacy skills.
  • A Chinese cultural environment. From equipment in the Practical Life area to stories and songs, from celebrations to art, the Mandarin immersion classrooms are imbued with culture from Mandarin speaking countries.
  • Do you want more details or have questions?  View our detailed Mandarin immersion FAQ, which addresses questions from why we are teaching traditional characters to how to best transition children into this new environment.


Our Mandarin Immersion Montessori programs currently enroll children between the ages of 18 months and 3 ½ to 4 years for immediate start at our Irvine Mandarin school.

Our Mandarin Immersion Montessori programs are designed for children who have some English language background at home: At least one parent should be able to speak English at home, and commit to speaking and reading in English daily with your child at home, especially if your child is an infant or toddler and has limited exposure to English in the community.

We welcome children with Chinese knowledge into the program. Just note that our Mandarin Immersion programs are not designed for native Mandarin-speakers who will not be able to learn English outside of school; those children may be better served in our English-language Montessori classrooms, where they can complement their strong Mandarin skills from home with English language skills. If you only speak Mandarin at home, one option to consider is starting your child in our English infant or toddler program, to give your child a strong grounding in English. Then, when your child turns three, she can move on into the Mandarin immersion track. In either case, we encourage you to meet with a LePort Head of School, to discuss your family’s unique circumstances, and to develop a plan that is tailored to your child’s needs.

Our Spanish and Mandarin immersion program is designed to include the full three-year Montessori cycle in mind; that is, it extends until your child has reached the age of 6 (this includes the traditional kindergarten year). This ensures that your child is in the Mandarin immersion program long enough to acquire not only strong Mandarin skills but also to learn the fundamentals of English literacy. Since the first few years focus strongly on Mandarin language skills, it’s important to stay for the 3rd program year (kindergarten), where we invest significant time in English written language skills.

Program Parameters and Schedule

To enable children who do not speak Mandarin to acquire an ability to not just understand but also speak Mandarin, we put in place a full immersion environment, where both teachers in the classroom speak only Mandarin with the children for a large part of they day.

Younger children experience Mandarin completely during the academic day (8:30 am – 3 pm) and will only interact in English at school if they stay for extended care. Older children, once their Mandarin skills have solidified, will receive some instruction in English (from a few hours to several afternoons a week). This afternoon English instruction focuses on acquiring literacy skills in English.

Our full Mandarin immersion environment enables children to gradually transition from speaking only in English to understanding Mandarin (i.e., having passive language skills), to naturally speaking Mandarin  (i.e., having productive language skills or “fluency”).

Children who enter our program naturally speak in English as their native language. In the Mandarin immersion program, teachers will consistently respond to children in Mandarin and give lessons in Mandarin only. As children speak to teachers in English, teachers will provide the Mandarin expressions and encourage children to repeat back in Mandarin as well.  Experience shows that in an immersion preschool class, over time children naturally switch to speaking in the new language: when they have mastered the Mandarin vocabulary needed to express their needs and thoughts, they naturally want to use their new, exciting language!

We do not force children to speak in Mandarin. Ever. We want Montessori school to continue to be the joyous, natural environment children enjoy in any language. In every one of our Montessori classrooms, a child’s voice is valued, whether he is speaking English, Spanish, Chinese, or another language. We know that the child has an inner desire to use his new words, so there’s no need to rush his progress and destroy that personal development. All children will communicate in their nascent second language, but all children will not do so at the same time — and in our school, that is okay!

Language Development

In our Mandarin Chinese Immersion Montessori programs, our goal is to help your child acquire strong Mandarin language skills. By the end of the 3rd year in Montessori preschool (the equivalent of traditional kindergarten), we aim to enable your child to:

  • Understand age-appropriate Mandarin Chinese.
  • Sustain age-appropriate conversations in Mandarin Chinese with teachers and peers.
  • Acquire a starting level of literacy in Chinese and will learn the basic strokes that make up Chinese characters; students will also be introduced to Zhuyin, the phonetic alphabet used in Taiwan to help children learn to read Chinese phonetically, at the same time as they are learning to write and read English. Children will be able to form words with Zhyin, and write Zhyin characters, in addition to being able to read simple books with Zhuyin next to Chinese characters.

All these goals assume that your child will join the Mandarin immersion program by age 3 and stay in the Montessori preschool classroom until age 6 (that is, through the 3rd year in the Montessori preschool cycle, the equivalent of traditional kindergarten). Of course, children who join late or leave before the 3rd year may not be able to achieve all of these goals.

As children learn a second language, it is normal for them to sometimes mix languages. We encourage parents to read up on language development in bilingual children — see resources here.

Because our immersion programs focus on building Mandarin language and literacy skills first, your child’s literacy skills in English may lag initially in comparison to his peers in our English-speaking Montessori preschool rooms. Rest assured, though, that he will stay on or ahead of track in English compared to children attending play-based or traditional preschools: Our Montessori students are so far ahead of normal preschool children in academics that a delay of a few months compared to English-only Montessori children still means your child will be better prepared for first grade in English literacy than he would in a traditional kindergarten setting.

  • Less time spent on English literacy. In the Mandarin immersion program we introduce English letters and sounds in parallel to Chinese Zhuyin phonetics, starting as young as age three or three-and-a-half: Dr. Montessori identified a sensitive period for learning the sound-letter association, and we want to ensure that children on the Chinese track do have the same joyful experience with the Sandpaper Letters that their English- and Spanish-program friends have. English literacy is brought to the classroom by an English-language Junior Teacher, a few times a week, usually in the mornings for our youngest students (those who still nap in the afternoon), and during the afternoon work period for those ages four and up. Some Montessori activities typically done in English  (e.g., Montessori sound games to identify beginning and ending sounds, Metal Inset work to strengthen pencil control) may instead be offered only in Chinese, as these skills transfer readily between languages.
  • Slightly delayed mastery of advanced English reading skills–but progress at least on par with non-Montessori six-year-olds. Because children receive English literacy instruction in parallel to their work in Mandarin Chinese, they don’t spend quite as much time on English writing and reading skills as their peers in our English-language monolingual programs. While many (but not all) English-only Montessori preschool students can read regular books by the end of the kindergarten year (i.e., they read at a 1st or 2nd grade level), a typical Mandarin immersion preschool student can expect to read at grade level in English (that is, be able to decode phonetically controlled text with no or limited multi-letter phonograms). He or she will be well prepared to enter a normal (public-school) 1st grade program–and, of course, be ready to thrive in our English language Montessori elementary classrooms. If he continues on to our English-language Montessori lower elementary, he may need some extra time to catch up to his mono-lingual peers in English written language skills, a process which our Montessori teachers will, of course, support actively.
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Spring Education Group is controlled by Primavera Holdings Limited, an investment firm (together with its affiliates) principally based in Hong Kong with operations in China, Singapore, and the United States, that is itself owned by Chinese persons residing in Hong Kong.

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