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Dual Language Immersion Explained

What is Dual Language Immersion?
In a Dual Language Immersion school, students spend part of the day learning in English and part of the day learning in a different language.  Students are taught academic subjects in both English and a partner language. For example, students study math in Spanish while learning history in English.  By being taught not just language fundamentals but core academic subjects in two languages, students learn both languages without losing a step in their studies.

What is the difference between a 90:10 and a 50:50 model?
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. Our Dual Language Immersion is the 90:10 model. Our program reflects the 90:10 model, where the instructional day consists of 90% Spanish and 10% English in Kindergarten, increasing to 50% English and 50% Spanish by fourth grade.

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, consult the Center for Applied Linguistics FAQs.

What happens in a Dual Language Immersion (DLI) classroom?
Language is the vehicle for instruction in immersion classrooms. The partner language is not taught as a separate subject (with students memorizing prepared dialogues or presentations). Rather, for 90% of the day, the language of instruction is Spanish, and the other 10% is English. Students speak, read, write, do the math, do experiments, sing, etc., in the partner language. Instruction in one language builds on concepts learned in the other language. We do not translate and repeat our lessons. 

What are the criteria for students to be in a two-way bilingual immersion program?
There are no specific criteria for students except parental choice and motivation.

How will my child understand if he/she does not speak a second language?
Teachers in the Dual Language Program are specially trained to make the information meaningful through the use of visuals, objects, gestures, and specialized instructional strategies. The students also help each other!

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. Two-way 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.

Do Dual Language Immersion students meet academic standards?
Immersion students attain the same level of competence not only in language skills but in standard subjects as well.  Furthermore, Immersion students develop the critical thinking needed to exceed standards much earlier than their peers.

Does Dual Language Immersion work for a wide range of learners?
Immersion programs serve students of all backgrounds and levels of academic ability. Academic challenges do not preclude students from success in immersion, and they achieve higher levels of proficiency in their second language.

Why Dual Language Immersion at a Catholic School?
By learning two languages in a Catholic school, our students develop communication skills, empathy, cultural understanding, and acceptance in order to collaborate effectively with others as they commit to making the world a better place for everyone.  Our teachers create an intimate class environment that encourages high-quality interactions between students and teachers, where their intellectual, faith, moral, and character development matters.

How does Dual Language Immersion differ from standard language learning programs?
The key aspect of Dual Immersion is that students do not just learn a language but learn to think in that language.  While in the second language classroom, the students receive a higher level of exposure to the language.  The learning takes place in a different cultural environment, so everyday learning takes place as if the student was in another country. Thus, the student’s language becomes not just functional but second nature.

Will learning Spanish interfere with my child's English ability?
No. Research shows that students who acquire advanced levels of proficiency in two languages often experience cognitive and linguistic advantages when compared to monolingual students. Spanish Immersion students perform better on tasks that require divergent thinking, pattern recognition, and problem-solving and have enhanced levels of metalinguistic awareness.

How does Dual Language Immersion affect cultural appreciation?
Immersion students do not lose any appreciation for their first language culture. Immersion programs are associated with a higher level of understanding and tolerance for the second language.

How long until my child is fluent in a second language?
Research states that it takes between 5 and 10 years to become fluent. The amount of time it takes for a student to be fully fluent will depend on the student’s learning patterns, parental involvement and dedication, learning environment, and learning capacity. Every child learns differently, whether they are learning in English or Spanish.  Our teachers will work with every student to ensure that they are learning at their unique optimum level.

Will my child speak exactly like native speakers of the second language?
Although the second language will be spoken extensively in school, it is necessary for Immersion students to interact with native speakers outside of the classroom if they want to achieve native-like competence, including fixing grammatical errors and increasing vocabulary and idioms.

Can my child enter your Dual Language Immersion program after Kindergarten?
Yes.  Most importantly, the applying family must have high motivation and support for entering a dual language immersion program.

Why Dual Language Immersion Programs?
This particular school model operates on an additive perspective, not a deficit. It recognizes that children come to us with language, and just because they may not know English yet, doesn’t mean they start out with a deficit. On the contrary, as mentioned by the National Literacy Panel and the Center for Research on Education, Diversity, and Excellence, these students need to fully develop their native language and have the opportunity to build strong literacy skills so that they can then more successfully acquire their second language. You may be asking, well, what about students who only speak English and are enrolled in these school models? Research shows that these students continue to show academic gains without detriment to English.

What are the goals of the program?
The goals of Dual Language Immersion are bilingualism, biliteracy, and biculturalism. In other words, by the time students graduate from St. Vincent, they will be able to listen, speak, read, write, and learn academic content in both languages. They will equally learn to embrace differences because this model celebrates exactly this, culture and language.

What if I don’t know the language?
One of the main concerns for parents in a dual language immersion program is how they will be able to help their child if they don’t know the language. One way that we plan on addressing this concern is that teachers will send a newsletter regarding overarching topics students will be viewing in class. This will include items that will help you engage your child in conversations and ask questions. However, a large part of enrolling in this program is being confident that your child will learn independently of you. Encourage your child to go to class a couple of minutes before school to ask the teacher for help. If they are too young or shy, accompany them to ask the teacher for help, eventually, they will be asking without your help. This will guide them into becoming independent learners and empower them to take charge of their learning. Also, use other parents in your child’s class as a resource.

What language should I speak to my child at home?
Speak to your child in the language you feel most comfortable in and read, read, read in that language. Research from the National Literacy Panel and the Center for Research, Education, Diversity, and Excellence suggests that students learn their second language best when they have strong literacy skills in their native language. That means that by helping them with their English, you are indeed helping them with their Spanish!

What are the critical components of the Dual Language Program?
Classes are made up of both English and target-language speakers

Instruction of archdioceses curriculum and academic standards through two languages

Highly trained and committed quality teachers

High standards where language instruction is integrated with challenging academic instruction

Strong parent involvement

Strong administrative support

Integration with other school programs

Cross-cultural emphasis

Will a second language interfere with my child’s English ability?
No.  Research shows that students who achieve advanced levels of proficiency in two languages often experience cognitive and linguistic advantages when compared to monolingual students.  Bilingual students perform better on tasks that require divergent thinking, pattern recognition, and problem-solving and have higher levels of metalinguistic awareness.
Parents can support their child’s language development whether or not they are bilingual/biliterate

Dual language schooling is a long-term commitment

The development of bilingualism at a young age has lifelong social and career advantages

The development of biliteracy has lifelong social, academic,  and career advantages

Experiencing the Catholic faith in two languages has lifelong advantages
"Two new studies demonstrate that multilingual exposure improves not only children’s cognitive skills but also their social abilities."

"Dual language learning has been found to be the only method of second language acquisition to facilitate the full closure of the achievement gap between English learners and English speakers in primary and secondary education."

"Students in schools following this model are achieving high levels of academic proficiency in reading and mathematics"

"Students who participate in these programs gain grade level academic ability, well-developed language and literacy skills in two languages, and cross-cultural competence."

"People who regularly use two languages tend to perform better on executive function tasks and maintain better cognitive functioning with age."

"Multilingualism has been shown to have many social, psychological and lifestyle advantages. Moreover, researchers are finding a swathe of health benefits from speaking more than one language, including faster stroke recovery and delayed onset of dementia."