Preschool-12 Bilingual Education in
Two Locations in the Bay Area

Bilingual Learning

GISSV's bilingual education provides our students with a head start for today's globalized society.

Our dual-immersion concept is designed for the needs of international students, regardless of the language spoken at home. It offers children an effortless, natural language acquisition in both German and English. At GISSV, both languages are used for social as well as academic communication.

Why Bilingual Education?

Immersion in a second language equips children not only with an amazing capacity for language acquisition, but also a deep understanding of and appreciation for other cultures. Studies show that bilingual children display more creativity in problem-solving skills and possess a greater sensitivity to cognitive flexibility such as divergent thinking, concept formation, verbal abilities and general reasoning. A second language enables children to reinforce reading and writing skills as well as comprehension in their native language. And what’s more, it gives them a head start in language requirements for high school and college and offers them increased educational and career opportunities.

Why German?

German is the language of Beethoven, Goethe, Einstein and many other famous thinkers and artists as well as the inventors of several innovative brands. Not to mention the soccer world champions! The most widely spoken language in the European Union, German is spoken by 120 million people and currently being taught to more than 17 million people worldwide. Germany is one of the world’s strongest economies and the home of some of the most preeminent cultural, scientific, educational and entrepreneurial institutions.

Bilingual Concept at GISSV and Admission Requirements

While we welcome children with no prior knowledge of German, we recommend its acquisition as early as possible. For non-native speakers, our early education program, the Kibili, is the best entry point into our school. In elementary school and up, admission decisions are made individually based upon language assessments. Depending on the child’s ability in both German and English, GISSV offers special programs at all grade levels that support language acquisition and fluency.

Our Kibili program features a 50/50 immersion program. In grades 1 and 2, German is the primary language of instruction. For English, the emphasis is initially on oral language acquisition and comprehension, with more formal instruction and subject areas added as students progress through the grades. Upon high school entry, the distribution of classes taught in German and English is again 50/50.

Learn more about our language concept through the grades

Goal: Natural second language acquisition

One teacher - one language

In our Kibili classrooms, both languages are taught in tandem by teachers sticking to one language each, and language learning happens in a spontaneous and playful way. Both English and German are used as social and communication languages, with German being used as the main teaching language. The mix of different language backgrounds and language levels offers each child the opportunity of feeling self-confident in both the first and the second language.

Phases of language acquisition

  1. Pre-phase of speech
  2. Babbling- phase
  3. One word phase
  4. Two word sentences
  5. Multiple word sentences
  6. Sensitive phonetic acquisition
  7. Acquisition of the complexity of the language
  • Enough time for both languages is provided
  • The contact with each language is multisided, intensified and long term
  • Listening and comprehension, speech and use of the second language
  • Bilingualism


  • Two teachers in the classroom - one teacher speaks German, the other teacher English
  • natural language learning in a child-appropriate environment
  • language learning through all senses
  • Communication and introduction to different cultures
  • The environment is put into an active context
  • The different language culture, literacy, values and traditions are communicated
  • Small group activities in homogeneous language groups
  • Phonetic awareness (sounds, phonetics, structure of the spoken language)

Entry Requirements

The elementary school principal, along with the Kindergarten director and teachers and the in-coming first grade teachers, will recommend the GISSV Kindergarten students who are prepared to begin their education in first grade. This recommendation is based on school-readiness standards. Any elementary student who applies to GISSV after first grade is required to complete a language assessment in German; then the school will decide if the student is eligible to enroll based on their German language skills.

German Language Acquisition

Formal reading and writing instruction begins first in German. Two out of seven German classes are conducted in a team teaching setting in all elementary classes. At least one of the teachers in the classroom is an expert in teaching German as a second language. This allows the teachers to provide individualized language support to students who need extra guidance in their German language acquisition during regular German lessons. Also math, music, art and sports are taught in German to ensure the development of the German language in oral and written communication.

English in Elementary School

During the first semester of first grade, the emphasis in the English classes are focused on oral language acquisition and comprehension. The English teachers’ lessons center around topics from the social studies and science curriculum. Formal English language arts instruction begins in the second semester. Once the first grade students are ready for academic instruction in English, they are assessed and then grouped according to their language needs. In all elementary grades, we have a beginner level group intended especially for students who are new to our school and to the English language. The curriculum focus of this group is to prepare the students to work at the corresponding mainstream level. Using a variety of diagnostic tools, the English teaching team determines the placement of mainstream students. These flexible groups allow for differentiation within the grade level as well as within each group.

Methods & Standards

In grade three and four, we begin teaching bilingual lessons in social studies and science (NuG). This is in preparation for our bilingual concept in middle and high school. The bilingual lessons are planned and taught by a German and English teaching team.

An English and a German language club is offered in the morning or the afternoon to support our second language learners in their oral communication skills, as well as providing cultural awareness in traditions, customs, and mannerisms of each country.

All third grade students take part in a standardized test in German, and in fourth grade, all students take an American standardized test in English. The results of these tests are comparable to those from German and American schools.

GISSV adheres to the standards of Thuringia for all subjects taught in German. For English, we follow the standards set by the State of California.

Entry Requirements

GISSV assures the admission of German-speaking students in every level of the German school system (Hauptschule, Realschule, Gymnasium) and it guarantees a successful start for students who enroll during the school year. For these students the school also offers extra programs in English (additional fees might apply).

For older students with international language backgrounds, the principal and the teachers decide about each admission individually. In each individual case, the subject teachers and the language teachers guarantee an ideal language development and differentiated learning methods for students who join later in the school year.

Middle School

The Sekundarstufe I (grades 5-10) is based on the students abilities in German and English according to the standards set by the German Government and the California curriculum.

Not only do the language teachers support the language development of the students, but all the other subject teachers as well. Subjects taught in English, such as American History and Economics, as well as bilingual subjects broaden the variety of subjects in the English language that are taught in the Sekundarstufe. The amount of English increases up to tenth grade in subjects like Geography, History, Biology and Chemistry. Additional languages offered by GISSV are French and Spanish, starting in grade 6 and again in grade 10.

High School

In grades 11 and 12 German, bilingual and English subjects are offered to the students as well as an additional foreign language. All these subjects are credited for the German International Abitur.

Cooperation with partner schools in the Bay Area, in Germany, France and in North and South America helps to foster language acquisition (e.g. with hosting exchange students, projects with other schools, etc.).