What is Dual Language Education?

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Dual language is a form of bilingual education in which students are taught literacy and content in two languages. 

The majority of dual language programs in the United States teach in English and Spanish, although increasing numbers of programs use a partner language other than Spanish, such as Arabic, French, Hawaiian, Japanese, Korean, or Mandarin.

Dual language programs use the partner language for at least half of the instructional day in the elementary years. These programs generally start in kindergarten or first grade and extend for at least five years, and many continue into middle school and high school. Most dual language programs are located in neighborhood schools, although many are charter, magnet, or private schools.

Dual language programs foster bilingualism, biliteracy, enhanced awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity, and high levels of academic achievement through instruction in two languages.

Types of Dual Language Programs

There are four main types of dual language program, which mainly differ in the population:

  1. Developmental, or maintenance, bilingual programs. These enroll primarily students who are native speakers of the partner language.
  2. Two-way (bilingual) immersion programs. These enroll a balance of native English speakers and native speakers of the partner language.
  3. Foreign language immersion, language immersion or one-way immersion. These enroll primarily native English speakers.
  4. Heritage language programs. These mainly enroll students who are dominant in English but whose parents, grandparents, or other ancestors spoke the partner language.

Features of Dual Language Programs

All elementary school dual language programs, regardless of the population, use the partner language (the language other than English) for AT LEAST 50% of the instructional day.

There are two basic models:

90/10: In two-way and developmental bilingual programs, the partner language is used most or all of the day in the primary grades (80-90%). Foreign language (one-way) immersion programs that implement the full immersion program use the partner language for 100% of subject matter instruction, and in some cases, also offer specialist classes in the partner language. In all cases, the partner language and English are used equally in the later grades.

50/50: The partner language and English are used equally throughout the program.