Learning in Two Languages : Dual Language Immersion 101

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Dual Language Immersion 101

What Does that Really Mean?

If I were not a teacher and someone would ask me: What is Dual Language Immersion? My first thought would be to at least try to break the question into small parts and reply with an educated guess. I would start with 'Dual' which means two, go to 'Language' which is what people use to communicate, and end with 'Immersion' which I would picture someone getting into a pool. So my 'educated guess' would be getting into a pool with two languages. WHAT?

The honest truth is that when I tell friends that I am a teacher at a Dual Language Immersion school, many look at me puzzled. They just do not get it. So I have to break it down and I usually start with what I call 'Dual Language Immersion 101.' Whether you are a teacher, a parent, a college student, or just stumbled on my page my goal is to give you a good overall idea of what Dual Language Immersion really is. Shall we start?

First of all, I will begin by saying that not all elementary schools have a dual language program. While learning in two languages has become more popular in recent years, there are still ways to go - especially with the debate whether dual language education really pays off (which in my honest opinion is the BEST 'investment' anyone could ever make). And yes, there is plenty of research that proves the power of learning more than one language.

What is Dual Language Immersion?
Dual immersion (or two-way bilingual immersion/TWBI) refers to a program where minority students (or language learners) and majority students (or English speakers) learn together in order to develop both their bilingualism and biliteracy. The minority language (or TARGET language) is not only Spanish, but could also be Japanese, Korean, Cantonese, Chinese, and/or Armenian.

Are all Dual Language Immersion Programs created equal?
Not at all. There are two most commonly used dual immersion programs/models.

*90/10: This is the type of program where 90% of the time/day is taught in the non-English language (starting in kindergarten). The ratio usually decreases 10% per year up to when the ratio is an equal 50/50. In other words, kindergarteners will learn at a ratio of 90/10, first graders will learn 80/20, second graders 70/30, fourth graders 60/40, and fifth grade and up 50/50.

*50/50: This is the type of program where the non-English language is used 50% of the time and English is used the other 50% of the time.

It is important to mention that in either program, whether 90/10 or 50/50, instruction is delivered in both languages - ONE language at a time.

How can I find out which schools in my area have a Dual Language Program?
One of the easiest and most reliable sources of information comes directly from the Department of Education. In California, I would contact the California Department of Education and search the site for key words such as 'dual language' or 'two way immersion.' In Texas, I would search for the Texas Education Agency, and so on.

Again, this is a very small introduction to Dual Language Programs. As always, I will keep searching and keep looking for information that I believe could help us all.

Heard/worked at a Dual Language School? I would love to hear from you.

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