The first entry in this series described the operations of two-way dual language immersion (TWDLI) programs in schools. So now, it makes sense to examine their potential benefits to communities.
Personally, as I studied abroad in Mexico last fall, it was evident that this immersion experience accelerated my Spanish skills by necessity, even as a high school student. Not surprisingly, the Mexican students at the local school often wanted to speak English with the American students so that they, too, could practice their second language. So it intuitively reasons that elementary students, with more pliable linguistic neural pathways, who are experiencing dual immersion, would enhance their language skills quickly as well. And beyond dual language learning itself, there are additional advantages that such educational programs offer.
School districts, families, and broader communities are often concerned with comparing students academically across various educational program choices. Specifically on this topic, studies have been conducted to compare students in TWDLI programs with other students. On the metric of standardized state tests, students in TWDLI programs are scoring as high as or better than students in conventional classrooms.
For instance, through a study conducted in the[url=https://res.cloudinary.com/bdy4ger4/image/upload/v1446848442/DLI_Year_4_Summary_Nov2015v3_1_jwny3e.pdf] Portland Public Schools (coordinated with RAND Education, the American Councils for International Education, and the U.S. Department of Education in 2015)[/url], state testing on English reading scores revealed that TWDLI students were ahead by seven months in the fifth grade and nine months (almost an academic year’s worth of study) in the eighth grade. This same study did not find any appreciable difference between TWDLI and conventional students in regard to math and science scores.
Another[url=https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3838203/#:~:text=Bilingual%20Two-Way%20Immersion%20programs%20may%20enhance%20reading%20and%20math,-language%20elementary-school%20children.&text=Bilingual%20education%20policy%20in%20the,Wiley%20&%20Wright,%202004).] study published by the NCBI in 2013 by Viorica Marian, Anthony Shook, and Scott R. Schroeder[/url] examined TWDLI student scores in the third to fifth grade in a Chicago-area school district. These researchers focused on two different comparisons: 1) students who spoke the primary community language as a first language were compared between those in a TWDLI program and those in a conventional program; and 2) students who spoke the primary community language as a second language were compared between those in a TWDLI program and those in a transitional program of instruction (a model whereby students spend most of their time in a conventional classroom but also receive supplementary services in English as a Second Language). The study found, in both sets of comparisons, that the TWDLI students outperformed the comparison population in both reading and mathematics.
So, research seems to support that TWDLI programs can benefit students academically in regard to both language learning and academic testing. In addition, there appear to be social advantages for these students. A[url=https://www.edutopia.org/article/dual-immersion-solution] 2018 Edutopia article by Conor P. Williams[/url] indicates that such programs foster cross-cultural connections and understanding that strengthen communication skills, with lasting effects beyond school years. More immediately, TWDLI programs may encourage a higher number of parents to become involved in supporting their children’s schools and classrooms.
While support for these TWDLI programs has grown, articles from[url=https://www.edutopia.org/article/dual-immersion-solution] Edutopia[/url] and the[url=https://www.americancouncils.org/news/language-news/dual-language-immersion-will-change-achievement-american-public-schools] American Councils for International Education[/url] highlight some of the difficulties in supporting such valuable offerings in schools. One major obstacle is the identification and recruitment of bilingual teachers to successfully implement these programs across cultures — as mentioned in the first blog of this series, the integrity of the programs often is dependent on highly interactive learning methodologies and close collaboration among teachers. According to[url=https://www.edutopia.org/article/dual-immersion-solution] Williams[/url], another impediment to TWDLI programs sometimes comes from inherent bias in the school communities regarding a resistance to welcoming people from other cultures and including their languages in the educational system.
This form of resistance often is rooted in a fear and ignorance of cultural differences. People may be taught in their communities and families that their own culture is superior and that certain other cultures are less worthy, less intelligent, less trustworthy, less useful — any misinformed notions that reinforce disdain for and exclusion of people from unfamiliar backgrounds. Or, people may experience a lack of exposure to and awareness of cultures and ideologies that differ from their own, which can lead to similar future misinformation and prejudice. These deeply ingrained assumptions cause some people to discredit and object to community efforts that are aimed at connecting disparate cultures — including TWDLI programs. They may feel threatened both by the incorporation of a second language and by the integration of a new culture.
However, it is possible that such programs could provide an opportunity to shift these biases, particularly given the measurable benefits discussed. As students learn from each other, play and grow together, and demonstrate their proficiency, communities could see a more open and welcoming perspective develop among their citizens.
Such increases in cultural sensitivity across all kinds of borders are critical right now, given the intractable global issues facing society. Refugees and immigrants, often attempting to escape unbearable living conditions, should be treated with dignity — not suspicion. Economically distressed regions disproportionately affected by the pandemic should be bolstered — not actively ignored. Communities of color who have been historically and systemically disenfranchised should be empowered — not silenced. Given the ever-growing interconnectedness between people, nations, and cultures, a more conscious appreciation hopefully will develop for the strength, character, and inventiveness that arise from diverse individuals working together toward common goals.
Would you like to support the specific issue of two-way dual language programs and/or the broader concept of multicultural interconnections?
- If you have appropriate language skills, you can assist with translation among students and community families.
- You can tutor in classrooms where teachers need extra support.
- You can hold fundraisers or donate directly to districts that need supplies and relevant multicultural experiences.
- You can speak positively to others about the benefits to society of bilingualism and cultural inclusion.
- And if you’re interested in translating, donating, or advocating via [url=https://www.givology.org/]Givology[/url], please don’t hesitate to reach out to us to see how you can help today!
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