The thing about effective bilingual education is that you can’t give up on them and start translating out of fear that they don’t understand. And “more English classes first” isn’t necessarily the way to go.
You need to use a heck of a lot of TPR and to accept the fact that the kids are going to give you blank stares for the first month or two. But, under no circumstances, should anyone be translating anything in a bilingual classroom. Either the class is in English or the class is in Chinese. If you’re doing dual immersion, the English teacher says something in English and the Chinese teacher says something else in Chinese. Nothing is ever, ever, ever, ever, ever translated. You demonstrate, you act it out, you point to pictures, you move on and know that the students will eventually understand what you mean. But you NEVER translate.
Once they start to understand English, they still won’t be able to speak it, but they’re listening and processing what is being said. You need uberloads of input before you can produce output; that’s language learning 101.
The way Taiwan has approached this is set up with the intention of failure: Put two teachers, one a native English speaker and one a native Chinese speaker in the room and have them teach. No training about different methods of bilingual instruction. Just throw them in the room and have them teach in two different languages. The Chinese-speaking teacher is unable to hold back and watch the kids suffer through not understanding what the English teacher is saying and immediately starts to translate every single thing. The English-speaking teacher may or may not understand just how much their language needs to be super simplified, and is probably using words and sentence structures that are too hard even for native speaking 1st graders to understand. It’s a problem of training (there is none), not the teacher themself. The students quickly learn that the Chinese-speaking teacher will translate everything the English speaker says, and then they never have to think about what any of the English words mean. They might passively realize what some simple words mean, but they rely on the Chinese translation to really understand what is being said instead of thinking about what it might mean (a very necessary skill to develop when learning anything new). There’s also a good chance the Chinese-speaking teacher uses English as well, but uses grammar and pronunciations are are far from that of a native speaker, further confusing the students.
Meanwhile, the entire crew of people in charge of Taiwan’s bilingual ed haven’t bothered understanding that this is an excellent way to delay students’ ability to learn to struggle through, and therefore effectively learn English by using their own god-given brain. So they don’t learn English if they’re not in cram schools and getting private tutoring. And everyone says “start with the non-academic subjects so that they don’t fall behind”. Or “make sure they know the basics before you start trying to teach them academic things”. And the “bilingual” schools continue to be full of kiddos who can’t speak English, but admin who won’t shut up about how much more advanced their students are.
I’ve posted this before: an effective bilingual program starts out in kindergarten or first grade with 90% -10% target language class time to native language class time. Then goes to 80-20 (1st or 2nd grade), 70-30 (2nd or 3rd grade), 60-40 (3rd or 4th grade), and finally stays at 50-50 for the remainder of the bilingual schooling years. That’s class time in academic subjects. The problem is that the Taiwanese government is afraid of it working if they approach it that way, not to mention the fact that they would actually have to train their teachers to use methods that work, instead of continuing to use methods that are proven to not work. So they continue to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results.