In American schools, bilingual education has been around for decades. Despite earlier research that found bilingual students underperformed, recent studies show they make progress toward academic success, maintain and develop pride in their home languages, and gain comfort with diversity and different cultures.
To foster these goals, teachers in dual language programs should create a classroom environment that is physically separated by languages, display student work in both languages and avoid mixing them within classwork.
Language immersion programs can be a powerful tool for teaching a child to think in another language. These programs focus on the development of a second language while providing students with a quality education.
Studies of bilingual two-way immersion students indicate that they outperform monolingual students in both English and Spanish on standardized tests at the elementary level. However, there are some pitfalls to this type of language learning program:
For one, teachers must be thoroughly trained in the language being taught. They should have a high language proficiency level in the language they are teaching and be certified in elementary and language education. Additionally, the school must ensure that all textbooks and resource materials are written in the target language. This can be challenging for schools with limited funding and resources.
In dual language programs, students learn in two languages and build academic skills in each one. Often, teachers will alternate teaching subjects in each language over a period of days or weeks. For example, students may spend the mornings learning in English and then switch to their home language for the afternoon.
Ideally, these programs should begin in pre-k, kindergarten or grade 1, and continue through elementary school. Some also go into middle and high school.
The programs should be widely available, but there are some barriers to ensuring that every child has access. It could be due to local enrollment policies that exclude disadvantaged neighborhoods, or incentives for schools to offer dual language immersion programs for more affluent communities rather than for English learners.
With the ever-increasing number of ELL students in our schools, it's important that educators have access to quality resources. Here are five tools that can help.
This tool allows districts to collect, analyze and report data on their EL student populations. It can be used to identify gaps and provide targeted support for EL students.
This website offers a collection of audio podcasts that teach English grammar and vocabulary. It also helps students understand the culture and context behind word usage.
Studies show that learning a second language at an early age gives children a distinct academic advantage throughout their lives. They’re able to better understand other cultures and languages, have higher levels of cognitive flexibility, and demonstrate an increased ability to think outside the box.
Bilingualism also improves your child’s communication skills, both in their new language and in their mother tongue. One study even showed that people who are bilingual are better at interpreting intent, making them more effective communicators.
In a world that is increasingly globalized, bilingual education can set your child up for success in the workforce and beyond. Regardless of the language they choose to learn, it’s important that they have access to the most widely used languages in the world.
Bilingualism and biculturalism help students develop a greater appreciation for different cultures. They are more empathetic and have a stronger ability to connect with others across cultural boundaries.
This can be achieved by inviting students to share their special traditions, holidays, and foods throughout the year in a variety of ways. Students can also write or deliver presentations on famous figures from their culture.
Teachers can encourage multilingual teaching by using the student’s home languages in class, especially to greet them in the morning (T1, interview 1). However, it takes a lot of trust for teachers to be willing to do this. Many felt uncomfortable with this type of teaching and were unsure how to proceed. This is where PD workshops can be extremely beneficial.