Givology Staff's Blog

Two-Way Dual Language Immersion Programs: What Are They? (#1)

During my kindergarten and first-grade school years, I biked up the street from my home to attend a local Spanish immersion elementary school. Although my own educational path moved to an independent study school after those two years, several years ago, I learned that my original elementary school had switched from a traditional Spanish immersion program to a two-way dual immersion program. The district had decided that this methodology would produce better outcomes for the population it was serving.
Having this school so nearby and as a part of my initial education, I thought I would start a blog series to discuss this niche of the educational landscape. Fostering relations among children with different native languages and cultures also feels particularly relevant at this time, given the highly visible ethical divide between those who work to strengthen global connections and those who turn inward. This first post will simply try to provide a basic understanding on the concept of two-way dual language immersion programs, while future posts may discuss benefits that result from such programs and highlight specific ones.
According to three nonprofits that focus on various aspects of education — the[url=] Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL)[/url], the[url=] Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA)[/url], and[url=] Dual Language Education of New Mexico[/url] — two-way dual language immersion programs within schools teach curricula in two languages: the primary language spoken in the broader community, plus one other. Unlike in a traditional immersion program, the student population in a dual language program is balanced between students who speak the community’s primary language as a first language and students who speak a different language as a first language. This even distribution reduces the likelihood of one language becoming predominant or favored over the other, while also increasing cross-cultural learning opportunities among students of varying backgrounds.
Students are taught the same content and held to the same standards as students in single-language programs, but teachers and administrators deliberately plan when to use each of the two languages across both core and supplementary subjects. Some dual-language programs choose to split the content delivery evenly between the two languages. Others deliver content through a model whereby the students start their first year (generally kindergarten) with 90 percent of the content in the chosen second language and 10 percent in the primary language of the community. Each year, the ratio of content delivery moves closer to 50/50, until each language is used for half of the total instruction.
[url=]Kristin Grayson, M.Ed., with the IDRA[/url], discusses strategies that have been foundational in the implementation of these programs. For instance, it is notable that there is a “complete separation of the two languages without use of translation or repeated lessons” — the students are truly taught the same content as in a traditional school, but just switching between languages! Grayson also notes that the integrity of the programs is dependent on teachers who are skilled at delivering highly interactive learning methodologies (in order to support language acquisition through visual and kinesthetic understanding), as well as at working effectively with other teachers in order to present a consistent model to students.
Two-way dual language immersion is a long-term commitment, often lasting throughout an elementary school education. By the end of the program, it is expected that students will be proficient in both languages, as measured by both written and oral skill.
Next time with “Intercultural Learning as a Foundation for School,” I’m interested in taking a look at the potential benefits of these programs. Hopefully, such reflections on topics that involve understanding and collaboration across cultures can be useful in this time that requires increased empathy for individuals in circumstances that are different from our own.

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