Dual Language Programs

What are the benefits of participating in a Dual Language program?

Bilingualism leads to important cognitive development.

Learning more than one language early in life strengthens children’s executive function skills (e.g., attention and effective multitasking, inhibitory control), metacognition (i.e., reflection on thought processes), learning capacity (for other languages, as well as other concepts and skills), and the ability to understand other perspectives. These effects are lifelong. Some research also suggests that bilingualism delays the onset of dementia.

Bilingualism produces social and cultural competence.

Being bilingual helps children interact seamlessly with a wider range of people, as language ability grants unique access to cultural fluency. Thus, children can be “citizens of the world” who are more understanding and tolerant of other perspectives. On a more intimate level, they can also maintain stronger family and community ties, which are crucial to healthy development.

Bilingualism can lead to economic benefits.

Experts emphasize that there are important and wide-ranging economic benefits to bilingualism. People who are bilingual are in higher demand on the job market, and not only for their language skills; bilingual people often have stronger interpersonal and self-regulation skills, which are needed in the workplace.

Bilingualism leads to high academic achievement in two languages.

Overwhelming data continues to point to Dual Language Immersions as the most effective instructional model to close the achievement gap for English learners and English speakers based on long-term standardized assessments. More English does not mean better results in English reading or writing, for either native English Speakers and native Spanish Speakers. Test results show that most dual language schools outperform other demographically similar schools, in the state and local school district.

Biliteracy

In a monolingual setting, literacy instruction usually focuses on reading during the language arts period. In a Dual Language setting, biliteracy is the focus. Biliteracy consists of the idea that bilingual learners use reading, writing, listening and speaking in two languages, throughout their instructional day. In order to attain the goal of being bilingual and biliterate, students need to learn to read, write, listen, and speak in all content areas throughout the day in order to reach ELD (English-language development) standards and SLD (Spanish-language development). The teacher’s objective is to integrate content, literacy, and language instruction with reading, oral language and writing within a wide range of purposes in two languages.

How do you teach for Biliteracy?

According to Beeman & Urow (2013), “teaching for biliteracy has three parts: Spanish (or one of the two languages), instruction, the Bridge (both languages side by side), and English instruction.” Bridging is the golden moment in which teachers help students connect what they have learned in a content area in one language with another language. In the earlier stages of language development, teachers must be intentional about creating these moments for bridging. In later stages of language development, students begin to make these connections on their own.

Considerations When Planning for Biliteracy:

  • Will students be provided with an opportunity to read and write every day in both languages of instruction?
  • Will students be engaged in meaningful and purposeful literacy activities in both languages?
  • Will students be held accountable for learning in the target language?
  • How will Bridging take place within the lessons so that students can connect one language with another?