Dual Language Program Helps Students Succeed

Dual language teacher in classroom Spanish is a global power language with more speakers worldwide than English. Other than English, Spanish is the most widely spoken of the more than 138 languages represented within our Kent School District (KSD) community, which is one of the most linguistically diverse school districts in the country.

One way that our district grows and develops the assets of bilingualism and multilingualism is through our Dual Language program. Our 50/50 Two-Way Spanish/English program currently serves nearly 1,000 emergent bilingual students in Kindergarten through eighth grade at Carriage Crest, Kent, and Neely-O’Brien elementary schools, Kent Valley Early Learning Center, and Mill Creek Middle School.  

Our Dual Language program has been serving students for eight years and is planned to continue through twelfth grade. Our students are on their way to becoming fully bilingual, biliterate, and culturally aware global citizens who will graduate ready for post-secondary, careers, and life in either or both languages. 

Benefits of Dual Language Programs for Students 

  • Higher academic performance than their peers who are learning only in English
  • Greater cognitive development in mental flexibility, creativity, and critical thinking
  • High levels of proficiency in both languages of instruction
  • Positive cross-cultural attitudes and behaviors
  • Enhanced career opportunities

Key Terms & Information About Our Dual Language Program

  • The term “50/50” refers to instruction
  • Students receive 50% of their daily instruction in English and 50% in Spanish
  • At the elementary level, two classes of students learn from “partner teachers,” one who speaks Spanish and one who speaks English
  • Content taught in Spanish includes: Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, Health
  • Content taught in English includes: Language Arts, Math, Fitness, Music
  • The 50/50 model is also referred to as “simultaneous biliteracy,” meaning that students are becoming literate and fluent in both languages starting in kindergarten.

Two-Way Dual Language 

  • About half of the students are native speakers of the target language, Spanish
  • About half of the students are speakers of any other language
  • In KSD, there are more than 20 different languages represented within our DL program. Students whose families speak multiple languages are acquiring additional languages through our DL program

Acquiring a Language vs. “Learning” a Language 

Dual Language is a powerful basic education model because students acquire both English and Spanish in an authentic context through core instruction in both languages. They are learning content in Spanish and English, as opposed to learning Spanish and English merely as languages.  

Many adults who attended US secondary schools learned Spanish in middle and/or high school were taught using a grammar-based approach which focused on verb conjugation, conversational language, and memorization. Language is not acquired in this manner; rather, students learn about the language as opposed to learning academic content in the language. Dual Language students are not only becoming both conversationally and academically fluent (meaning that they can do their jobs, from student to architect to chef – any profession) in both languages, but they are also developing the proper accents and inflections unique to both languages.  

It is critical to develop these facets of language early. As humans age, they lose their ability to produce additional language sounds. A good example is rolling R in Spanish. Students who acquire Spanish starting in grade K will develop this ability in addition to sounds produced in the other languages they already speak. 

How Can Students Enroll in the Dual Language Program?  

Learn more about our Spanish/English Dual Language program and how students can join.  

Article Source: Kent Meridian High School