Dual Language Programs Explained

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Submitted by Deborah C. Trejo, Bilingual Parent/Lawyer/Former Bilingual Educator

 

What are Dual Language Programs?

Dual language is a form of education in which students are taught literacy and content in two languages. They are considered  “additive” bilingual programs because they “add” a second academic language for students, instead of trying to extinguish a minority language and move a student to exclusively use English.

The majority of dual language programs in the United States teach in English and Spanish, although increasing numbers of programs use a “partner” or “minority” language other than Spanish, such as Arabic, Chinese, French, Hawaiian, Japanese, or Korean. Dual language programs generally use the partner language for at least half of the instructional day in the elementary years. Dual language programs generally start in kindergarten or first grade and extend for at least five years, although many continue into middle school and high school. These programs aim for bilingualism (the ability to speak fluently in two languages), biliteracy (the ability to read and write in two languages), academic achievement equal to or greater than that of students in non-dual language programs, and cross-cultural competence. Most dual language programs are located in neighborhood public schools, although many are charter, magnet, or private schools.

https://www.polk-fl.net/staff/teachers/documents/wlDualLangResearch.pdf

One-Way and Two-Way Dual Language Program Models

One-Way Dual Language refers to the group of students participating in the program as being all from only one of the two languages used in the program model. One-way programs support one language group of students to become bilingual, bi-cultural, and bi-literate. For example, students whose primary language is Spanish would learn in English and Spanish in a one-way dual language program model. Another example would be for students whose primary language is English to learn together in Mandarin and English.

Two-Way Dual Language refers to the group of students participating in the program as being from both of the languages used in the program model. Two-way programs support two language groups of students to become bilingual, bi-cultural, and bi-literate. For example, a mix of first language Spanish-speaking and English-speaking students would learn in both languages.

Benefits of Dual language program

Dual language is the only model that closes the academic achievement gap for English language learners (ELLs), those students whose first language is not English, through 12th grade (Thomas & Collier).  Research shows that in successful, strong one-way DL programs, ELLs begin to outperform those in traditional bilingual ed models beginning in 4th grade and they achieve an average of 50th percentile in tests of reading and writing in English beginning in the 7th grade (in traditional bilingual ed, ELLs never reach 50%)  (Thomas & Collier).  Research shows that in successful, strong two-way DL programs, ELLs begin to outperform those in traditional bilingual ed models beginning in 4th grade and they achieve an average of 60th percentile in tests of reading and writing in English beginning in the 6th grade (Thomas & Collier).   Overall, research demonstrates that SLLs who are enrolled in successful DL programs have better educational long-term educational outcomes than their peers not in DL (Thomas & Collier).

Dual Language Programs:

–     provides a means for students to stay connected to their own parents and extended families and thus, leads to less behavioral problems and long-term greater social and academic success.

–    lets students be prideful that they are able to be connected to two cultures and languages.

–    provides greater opportunities for careers in many fields such as medical, academic, business, communications, technology, law.

Furthermore, research also demonstrates that students who have low-social economic status (low-SES) and even students with learning disabilities in special education will significantly outperform their peers not in DL program.  For low-SES African-American students, research shows that it is the most successful academic model at closing the academic achievement gap (Thomas & Collier).

To learn more about the public dual language programs in your area, see the following sites:

Austin AISD:  https://www.austinisd.org/academics/ell/duallanguage

Round Rock ISD:  https://roundrockisd.org/departments/state-and-federal-programs/bilingual-education/

Leander ISD: http://www.leanderisd.org/default.aspx?name=ELL.DL