Five Reasons Why Dual Language Immersion Programs Are Becoming So Popular
1. BILINGUALISM FOR ALL: In contrast to the remedial bilingual education model, which aims to bring English
Language Learners (ELL’s) up to speed in English so they can be mainstreamed, dual language immersion is an
enrichment model that challenges all students to become fluent in two languages. Classes are often taught by
two teachers who each speak exclusively in one language. There is no translation or repeated lessons. Native
English speakers and ELLs learn a second language together with no stigma attached.
2. CLOSING THE ACHIEVEMENT GAP: The recent move away from traditional bilingual education toward English language immersion was meant to help ELLs catch up with English speaking peers. Instead, standardized test scores from 2003 to 2010 show a widening achievement gap. Numerous studies demonstrate that ELLs become more fluent in English when they learn to read in their primary language. In 2004, Virginia P. Collier and Wayne P. Thomas from George Mason University published an 18-year longitudinal study of dual language programs in 23 school districts and 15 states. They found that dual language immersion fully closes the achievement gap between ELLs and native speakers of English.
3. POSITIVE SCHOOL CULTURE: Collier and Thomas discovered that the effectiveness of dual language education extends beyond academic outcomes. The entire school community benefits when multiple languages and cultural heritages are validated and respected. Friendships bridge class and language barriers. Teachers report higher levels of job satisfaction. Parents from both language groups participate more actively in schools.
4. BRAIN BENEFITS: Cognitive neuroscientist Ellen Bialystok has studied bilingualism for almost 40 years. She recently told the New York Times that people who regularly use two languages tend to perform better on executive function tasks (like self-control and planning ahead) and they maintain better cognitive functioning with age. Bilingualism is also associated with a five to six-year delay in the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms after diagnosis.
5. HAPPY KIDS: Six-year-old Kyra is a first grader who loves her dual language Spanish-English program. "It's really fun because your brain gets to work with two different languages, and your tongue gets to do two different sounds,” she told the L.A. Times. (Source: Grandview Elementary Blog)