Dual Language Education

In the midst of multiple international conflicts, an interwoven global economy and the shrinking nature of our techno-driven world, language learning can no longer be considered an elective subject, but should rather be a necessary core to modern education. Typically, we put language learning on hold through much of elementary school, but this is the time when children’s minds are most adept for absorbing words and languages.

Schools throughout the country are realizing this need and implementing Dual Language Education.

From neighborhood schools to charters and magnets, these schools are providing their students with greater opportunity to academically compete with students abroad by diversifying their skill sets in areas of communication, problem-solving, critical thinking, and analysis. Some education leaders are even predicting that dual language education will be the future of American schools.

Dual Language Education vs. ESL/ESOL

Dual Language Education is often confused with ESL/ESOL programs. While there are similarities between the two, there are major differences in their agendas.

The Breakdown: Compare & Contrast

Dual Language Education
– Schoolwide approach
– Goal: To provide ALL students with the skills (reading, writing, speaking and listening) necessary to become fluent in both languages
– Programs usually begin at a young age (kindergarten or 1st grade) and continue for at least five years
– Students automatically opt in by enrolling in the school
– Depending on the type of program, requirements are placed on instructional time in partner language
– Not available in every school

ESL/ESOL
– Select group of students
– Goal: To provide non-native English-speaking students with the proper skills (reading, writing, speaking, and listening) necessary for academic success
– Program entrance is on an individual basis and can begin at any grade for any length of period
– Students may opt in or may be chosen based on entrance exams/placement tests
– Program is supplemental to classroom curriculum
– Most public schools have ESL/ESOL

Variation in Dual Language Education
Within the last few years, there has been a steady increase in the number of dual language programs throughout the United States. Results vary depending on the type of program and structure implemented however overall results remain positive. Parents and educators have taken great interest in such programs because they feel they will provide students with multilevel thinking strategies, stronger linguistic skills, and greater communication skills to succeed in the interdependent world.

Dual language programs can be classified into four categories:

1. Two-way Immersion- This type of program requires an enrollment of both native English-speaking students and native speaking students of the partner language. Schools may choose to implement programs that are either full-immersion (50-50 model) or partial-immersion (90-10 model). Both immersion programs have been proven to have high success rates.

2. Heritage Language Programs- Participants of this language program are dominant in the English language but have parents, grandparents or other ancestors fluent in the partner language. This program addresses the needs of heritage language learners.

3. Foreign Language Immersion- Also known as one-way immersion, foreign language immersion involves students that are native English speakers in hopes to become fluent in the partner language. It is more in-depth than spending a portion of your day in Spanish class or French class.

4. Developmental Bilingual Programs- Enrollment in this type of program is specific to those who are native speakers of the partner language. Participants of this program will develop the necessary skills and strategies to not only succeed academically, but also be fully proficient and comfortable in both languages.

Currently, the vast majority of dual language programs in the U.S. are in English and Spanish however other languages with growing popularity include: Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.

These variances in languages are a determined by a combination of factors including, but not limited to, school district demographics, community needs, and educator or student interest. Dual language programs are most commonly used in states such as Texas, New Mexico, California, and Hawaii however schools nationwide are looking into implementing this type of curriculum.

Success of Dual Language Education
Singapore’s current national bilingual education policy is an excellent example of how successful these programs can be.

By government order, students in the Singaporean education system are required to learn two languages, English and one of the other three official main languages of the country (Mandarin, Malay or Tamil). This has allowed nearly the entire literate population of Singapore to be fully bilingual all while unifying all members of its nation without sacrifice to any heritage.

Promote the Maintenance and Development of Heritage Languages

Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) has worked with partners, particularly the National Foreign Language Center at the University of Maryland, on the Heritage Language Initiative to promote the maintenance and development of heritage languages in the United States (languages other than English used in immigrant and indigenous communities around the country). Bilingual programs in schools and communities are key elements of this movement. In 1999 and 2002, CAL and its partner organizations organized and sponsored two national conferences on heritage languages and produced proceedings from the conferences.

They also launched the Alliance for the Advancement of Heritage Languages in order to continue to collect and disseminate resources for the field, including profiles of heritage language programs. Bilingual education is also relevant beyond the borders of the United States, and the Center has sought to contribute positively to the improvement of the education of second languages worldwide. In 2004, for example, the Center published a report titled “Expanding Educational Opportunity in Linguistically Diverse Societies,” which profiled programs in 13 countries where a key element was instruction in the mother tongue.

The current global Education for All effort has not yet focused on language, despite the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) argument for the use of the mother tongue in primary instruction, and CAL’s efforts are directed at informing international and national educational institutions about this issue. Throughout the Center’s history, the education of ethnic and linguistic minorities has been a constant concern.

In its research, resources, and services, the Center has sought to integrate a better understanding of language and culture to improve learning opportunities and language development for these students. These efforts are described in the next section, along with CAL’s involvement with the development and implementation of two-way immersion bilingual education.

The Cradle Of Humankind – A World Heritage Site In Our Backyard

The Cradle of Humankind has been a world heritage site since 1999 yet how many of us locals have been there? This intriguing location is only about thirty minutes away from the north-western suburbs of Johannesburg and yet to some of the city’s inhabitants it is still an undiscovered gem. Perhaps the adage of ignoring what is under one’s nose can be said to have applied in the past but times are rapidly changing. The Sterkfontein area, where many prehistoric fossils were found, is no longer merely an attraction for archaeologists; it is now a thriving tourist destination. People come from all over to learn the secrets of this captivating region and to enjoy its hospitality.

Even if you are not one of those people who is captivated by the past, the Cradle of Humankind is a lovely area to visit from the point of view of natural beauty. Usually when one thinks of Gauteng, the cities of Pretoria (its capital) and Johannesburg (the City of Gold) come to mind, and whilst both these towns have a rich history and specific cultural flavour, they are commercial hubs rather than tranquil getaway spots. The Cape has Table Mountain and fynbos, and Kwazulu Natal has The Midlands, but Gauteng has until recently been lagging in the ‘natural wonder’ stakes, not because it lacks natural wonders but because the province has traditionally been recognised for its social history and commercial viability rather than its appearance. The Cradle of Humankind is a feather in the cap of Gauteng and should not be underestimated, not only in terms of its relevancy to humankind, but because of its unspoilt beauty. It is a world heritage site, after all…

Because the Cradle of Humankind is so close to present-day civilisation, it is easy to make a day trip there. However, should you wish to stay awhile, there are a number of different types of accommodation options available; from bush camping sites to four- and five-star boutique hotels. Game estates are another feature of this bountiful region where you can enrich your breakaway with a spot of game viewing. It is great to be able to see kudu, zebra and hippo, to name but a few, in their natural environment, as well as a multitude of bird and insect species. The region is also a great place to hold conferences and corporate breakaways as it offers solitude without skimping on the amenities.

Whatever your reason for visiting the Cradle of Humankind you will be doing yourself a favour if you visit the Maropeng Visitor Centre. Here you will be able to find out all you ever wanted to know about the cultural and historical significance of the region and get a clear perspective on why it is a world heritage site. Apart from the goings on at its educational facility, Maropeng has a number of tours and events on its calendar, which, combined with other activities like game drives and hot air ballooning offered in and around the area makes for a fun and educational experience for any city slicker.