When I was only four years old, my family moved to Chile for my father’s job. No one in the family knew Spanish but my parents figured I would catch on quickly if I were enrolled in a pre-kindergarten program in my new neighborhood. By the time I entered kindergarten, I was already at ease playing with my classmates and chattering at my teachers in Spanish. My parents, although they also were surrounded by the language every day and attended intensive Spanish classes, were far behind me a year later.
This is a pattern that repeats itself for many families who move and have to master a new language. Often this leaves parents concerned about passing on fluency in their native language and leaves them unable to really be involved in their child’s education because of language barriers.
Groups like the Dual Language Consortium are promoting models in which children are taught literacy and content equally in two languages. Dual language programs can focus on maintaining a native language while teaching English. Education Week reports that in the 2008-2009 school year, there were 5.3 million children in public K-12 schools who were considered English learners. These numbers are growing and this dual language approach could help everyone in the classroom—helping native English speakers to gain valuable fluency while respecting and maintaining immigrant children’s native languages.
Education is central to the American Dream: Through hard work and education, social and economic mobility is possible. By ensuring that we are providing excellent language programs to second-language children—as well as finding ways to include parents who speak another language in their child’s education—we can ensure that we are not barring anyone from achievement and success just because of the language they speak in their home.
How do you feel about dual language education?
Have you seen this kind of program in your area?
What other suggestions do you have about language education?
Originally published at www.OurValues.org, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.