FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is dual language immersion?
Dual language immersion is an educational model that integrates native English speakers and native speakers of a target language for the entire school day, with the goals of promoting high academic achievement, first and second language development, and cross-cultural understanding for all students.
In dual language immersion programs, language learning takes place primarily through content instruction. Academic subjects are taught to all students through both English and the target language. As students and teachers work together to perform academic tasks, the students' language abilities are developed, along with their knowledge of content area subject matter.
How is this program different from the traditional “bilingual” programs used in the district? Why is this model successful?
Dual language immersion programs are not traditional bilingual programs. In traditional bilingual educational programs language minority students are given an educational boost by using their primary language to support the transition into English for one to three years. This results in the loss of the primary language and is a deficit or remedial model of instruction.
Dual language immersion programs are a proven better method of addressing the issues facing educating language minority students in California today. They not only provide an effective model of instruction for English learners, where students perform at or above academic achievement levels of their language peers, but they also increase the number of English speaking students proficient in a foreign language. Additional benefits of dual language immersion programs include appreciation of people from different cultures and increased parent involvement. As our educational system strives to educate all students to high standards, two-way (or dual) immersion programs offer great promise for the future.
What is the difference between a 90:10 and a 50:50 model of dual language immersion programs?
The first number refers to the amount of instructional time initially spent for instruction in the target or non-English language in kindergarten. The second number refers to English. In a 90:10 model the amount of the target language decreases yearly as English increases until there is a 50:50 balance of the languages generally in grades four through six. A 50:50 model uses English and the target language for 50 percent of the time throughout the duration of the program.
Which model is more effective - 50:50 or 90:10?
Regardless of the model implemented, both models have been found to effectively achieve the goals of bilingualism and biliteracy; however, the 90:10 model has been shown to create higher levels of bilingualism. For specific research studies visit the Center for Applied Linguistics FAQs at http://www.cal.org/twi/ (Outside Source).
Do English learners get enough English instruction in a 90:10 model?
English time must be carefully defined and implemented. High quality curriculum and instruction are essential. Research shows that when programs are fully implemented according to the program design, English learners in 90:10 models score as well as or better than their peers in other programs on English tests. (Lindholm-Leary, (2001) Dual Language Education, Multilingual Matters LTD)
How can students who speak only English learn when they are instructed for up to 90 percent of the day in a language they don't understand?
Understanding or reviewing the research on which these programs are based best answers this question. Dual language immersion programs are based on years of research from the foreign language immersion models in Canada designed for English speakers learning French. This model, in which English-speaking students have been instructed in French for up to 100 percent of their day, shows students perform as well as or better on tests of English than their English-speaking peers who have been instructed only in English. For more information on immersion programs, visit the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition. Fifteen years of results on two-way immersion programs show similar results.
Is this program a fit for my child, our family?
Parents must carefully consider if Dual Language Immersion is a fit for their family as it is a seven year commitment. For children to gain academic success and language proficiency, families must be willing and able to commit to this program. Because these programs typically have only one or two classes per grade level, your child will work with the same classmates throughout his/her elementary education. This may be an asset for your child.
How can a school in California legally provide a program of instruction in a language other than English?
Parents of English learners must sign yearly waivers of consent prior to placement of their child in a dual language immersion program. Additionally, prior to enrollment in the program, California requires English learners (under ten years of age) to be placed in an English language classroom for 30 calendar days prior to placement.
Why is it okay to immerse English speakers in a language, but not Spanish speakers?
The English speaker is not at risk of losing the English language. English is spoken at home, in the community, and in the media. Dual language immersion programs are not replacing English with another language, but providing the students the opportunity to acquire a second language. Dual language immersion programs are additive programs in that a second language is acquired while maintaining the first language of the students.
Should students enter a dual language immersion program after first grade?
Usually dual language programs do not accept English-only speakers after first grade and English learners after second grade. Bilingual and biliterate students can enter the program at any time.
Must you have parallel materials in both languages in the content areas?
No, materials are acquired according to the language of instruction of the content area. For example, if the decision is made to teach math in the target language and social studies in English, then the mathematics materials should be in the target language and the social studies materials should be in English. The difference is in the language of delivery, not the content.
How will I help my child with homework if I do not speak the language of instruction?
By providing students with a strong foundation in their first language, parents are helping to lay the groundwork for strong second language skills. Parents can support literacy skills as well as content knowledge in the child’s first language by reading together and learning about the topics the child is learning in school. For example, when students learn about community helpers in Spanish, children who are already familiar with the topic in English will transfer the knowledge, making the lesson in Spanish more comprehensible.
Parents can also support students at home by making sure that they have the right environment and tools to get homework done (e.g., a quiet space and enough time, paper, dictionaries in both languages, writing utensils, and art supplies such as construction paper, paste, tape, and colored makers). Parents can also ask questions about the homework in the language spoken at home, thus giving the students opportunities to explain the assignment in their first language.
In most programs, homework sent home by teachers have a translated key for parents who do not speak the target language.
How is a two-way (dual) bilingual immersion program integrated with other programs at a school site?
The dual language program should not be viewed as a separate program. The school should develop a common vision of equity for all students that values the students' language and culture. The same standards-based curriculum is taught in the dual language immersion program that is taught in other school programs. Staff development should be provided for all staff so that the philosophy and program goals are shared. Sufficient time must also be allocated to the specific needs of the two-way program staff.
How can "quality control?" be maintained in a dual language immersion program?
On-going monitoring of the program is very important. Time should be allocated for teachers to meet in grade-level groups and across grades to discuss program design issues and to interpret student data. Such sessions can be facilitated by an administrator, resource teacher, or designated lead teacher who is knowledgeable in two-way bilingual immersion program design and instruction.
Do you need two teachers per classroom to implement a dual language immersion program?
No, one teacher who is proficient in the target language and English can successfully implement a dual language immersion program in the classroom; however, teachers will team teach for the language blocks of instruction, especially in the primary (kindergarten through second) grades so that students identify with a target language speaking model and an English-speaking model.
If I am interested in finding out more what should I do next or whom should I speak with?
You should contact schools in your area that offer dual language programs and schedule a tour to observe the program. During your tour you can ask questions and observe classrooms to see how the program functions and see samples of student work.