Students’ Languages at SWS

Seattle World School has open enrollment and accepts non-English-speaking students throughout the academic year.  Each year as many as 500 youth attend the school, with roughly 375 students as of Fall 2019.  These young people come from all over the world, particularly from centers of conflict in developing countries.  A multitude of languages and dialects are spoken at the Seattle World School.

Currently, Spanish or indigenous language speaking students from Central America, Mexico, and South America form the largest language group, at 60%, followed by Vietnamese students (15%).   The proportion of students from each global area changes regularly, with new arrivals daily.   During the nearly forty years the school has been serving Seattle, there have been continual dramatic shifts in the population served, corresponding to world events, and changes in policies on refugees and immigration.

As of Fall 2019, the following are languages represented among our students.  Many students speak more than one language; these are their first languages.  Indigenous languages spoken by Guatemalan students include Maya-Quiche, Aguacateco, and Mam.  Many of these students do not speak Spanish.  Besides Spanish and the indigenous Central American languages, other languages at the school currently include: Vietnamese, Cantonese, Mandarin, Arabic, Japanese, Afghani, Tagalog, Ilokano, Urdu, Thai, Portuguese, Swahili, Uzbek, Cambodian, Fallani, Taishan, Kinyarwanda, French, Russian, Creole, Amharic, Oromo, Tigrinya, and many other African dialects.  (Note: the table below is currently being updated.)


The World School employs many teachers and instructional assistants who speak one or more of the students’ languages.  This allows for instructional support in the students’ native languages, for the largest language groups.