Posters of the Eiffel Tower, pictures of the Great Wall of China and French and Chinese flags will be the likely reminders for students to check their English at the door and immerse themselves in another language and culture.

That’s at least the goal of Bilingual Global Citizens Public Charter School, which will soon become Baltimore County’s only language immersion school and its second charter school. The school, which will teach kids how to speak French and Mandarin, isn’t set to open until the 2025-2026 school year, but founders Bertrand Tchoumi and Henriette Sindjui already have an idea of what it’s going to look like.

They want students to “feel like they are in a different world,” Tchoumi said. And they hope it’ll lead to a more peaceful and tolerant world.

“When we learn about other people’s cultures, we’re more likely to accept those people,” said Tchoumi. “That’s really the vision we have around Bilingual Global Citizens.”

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According to Tchoumi, most of the teachers at a bilingual school are native speakers of the languages the students are learning and may have immigrated from another country. That gives students another opportunity to learn about backgrounds different from their own.

Tchoumi and Sindjui both speak French, and Tchoumi said one of the board members used to teach Chinese in Baltimore City. They’re still working to recruit more Mandarin- and French-speaking teachers, which could be a challenge.

There’s already a shortage of educators in Maryland and around the nation. But Tchoumi is optimistic they’ll find potential educators at other bilingual schools or at conferences.

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Tchoumi spent most of his career in bilingual programs and charter schools. He was the assistant principal at Baltimore International Academy East in the city. That’s where he met Sindjui, who is now the academy’s world language coordinator. Tchoumi later became the founding principal of Baltimore International Academy West and is now the principal at New York French American Charter School.

“We live in a global world where having a second language is an added value. It’s an asset for students,” Tchoumi said. “We want to give the students of Baltimore County that added value, that edge in a competitive world.”

Research has shown that students in bilingual education often perform better academically than students who are not. One study found that when English-speaking Canadians were immersed in the French language, their test scores in the English language “are equivalent to or better than those found for children in English programs (even though most instruction is in French in the primary grades).”

The charter school will open with grades kindergarten through third grade and add grades in subsequent years. The goal is to have 192 students the first year. In the school’s public interest survey, it pledges to prepare students for rigorous high school programs and immerse them in the life of the communities they are studying.

The survey advertised a “balanced literacy framework,” but it’s not referring to the method of teaching reading that’s being phased out in most Maryland public schools. Instead, it refers to the balance of learning through two different languages, Tchoumi said.

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Students will be selected through a lottery system. They will have two teachers in the class, one English-speaking and the other in Mandarin or French, who will teach the lesson in two languages. The goal is to build on top of the lesson instead of simply repeating it.

“It’s not just about learning how to count, conjugate verbs,” said Tchoumi. “It’s about reading in French, reading Chinese texts, comprehensive texts, discussing the text the same way you do in English.”

Tchoumi called French the second-most-important language in the world.

“It’s the language of the United Nations, the language of NATO” and it’s the second language the Olympics use to announce the winners after English, said Tchoumi.

Mandarin Chinese, on the other hand, is one of the most commonly spoken languages in the world but much less likely to be taught to American students.

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Sindjui, who recently visited China, said it’s one of the most economically important countries in the world, and job opportunities, like translating English to Chinese, could stem from it.

Bilingual Global Citizens opted not to offer Spanish for now, since there are already a number of opportunities for students to learn it. The founders said they hope to create more bilingual charter schools through a nonprofit called Partnership for Infinite Education, and one of those schools might focus on Spanish.

In the meantime, they have to focus on finding a building for Bilingual Global Citizens.

McKenzie Allen, executive director for the Maryland Alliance of Public Charter Schools, said Bilingual Global Citizens was part of the organization’s incubator program for charter school founding groups. She’s proud that they were approved and called the school an “incredibly unique and awesome opportunity.”

There aren’t many charter schools in Maryland, especially compared to other states in the nation. However, Allen said, there are more to come. Two recently opened in Anne Arundel and Garrett counties this year. And a school in Prince George’s was just approved. That will make 54 charter schools in Maryland — the most the state has ever had, said Allen.

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“It’s a huge deal for someone to successfully apply and open a charter school in Maryland,” Allen said. “It takes years of preparation and dedicated people who are … volunteering personal time and sometimes finances.”

A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Bilingual Global Citizens Public Charter School would be the first language immersion program at Baltimore County Public Schools. The story has been updated to reflect that it will be the only such program when it opens.