Bilingual Education: Can a Child Really Benefit From a Dual Language Class? By: Tara Agnesini and Rong Zhang

Bilingual education is when most subjects in schools are taught through the use of two different languages. This form of education is recognized throughout the world and its programs are slowly growing. There are many forms of bilingual education that several of the schools programs follow, the two main types are: Transitional bilingual education and Dual language bilingual education or also known as “two-way”.

Transitional bilingual education is when schools try to transition students into “mainstream, English-only classrooms as quickly as possible.” In the United States for example, a young child that grows up in a Spanish speaking household may only recognize his or her native tongue as Spanish. When they begin to attend school, that child will be enforced to attend English speaking schools only. This is to assure that the young child will slowly transition from a Spanish speaking child into an English and Spanish speaking child. This process may be extremely difficult for the child however; it will benefit them later in their lives especially while living in the United States.

Dual bilingual education or “two-way” education is intended to help native or non-native English speaking people to learn another language and culture in an educational setting. Typically, a dual language classroom usually consists of one half of the classroom being English speaking students, and the other half of the classroom containing native speakers of a foreign language. These classrooms not only help English speaking students learn another language, they also help those students of a minority language to learn and perfect their English speaking skills as well.

Usually in a dual language class, the teachers tend to switch their language on an every other day basis; one day English, the next day Spanish and so on. Some people claim that when a young English speaking child enters a dual language program at an early age, they will become fluent in that foreign language by the time they attend middle school. One problem facing dual language education in the United States is that this form of learning is very limited and it has not spread throughout all of the schools yet.

According to Virginia P. Collier of George Mason University, “During the past two decades, rapidly increasing language minority demographics have had a major impact on the U.S. schools.” Due to population increases and budget cuts throughout the schools, there is not that much funding for dual language classes. This is such a disappointment because learning another language other than your own native tongue is extremely helpful to survive in the world we live in today. Soon enough the English language in the United States will end up becoming the minority language. To learn another language more efficiently it is very important to start learning at a very young age. It is a lot easier for a young child to learn another language other than their own rather than an adult, who has been speaking ONE language all of his or her life, and then decides to learn something new.

For a child to be educated in their language and a minority language is very important and every school district should offer some type of support for those children who do want to learn English and Spanish or English and Chinese, etc. As mentioned earlier, the minority demographics have been increasing rapidly by the day and more and more children are entering this country. If this country and every state within allowed more programs such as the dual language program into our school systems, this will greatly benefit all of our children’s lives and can also reflect on their adult lives in the long run as well.

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33 responses to “Bilingual Education: Can a Child Really Benefit From a Dual Language Class? By: Tara Agnesini and Rong Zhang

  1. I think that bilingual education is very important and that teaching in two languages at an early age is very effective. The younger the better, the same way that we teach any language, exposure at a young age. Most children that do not speak English at home should be encourage to learn English AND continue to speak their native language so that they will always be able to communicate with their families and carry on their culture. I think that keeping a native language is very important because cultures and their different traditions and languages should be honored and not suppressed. Therefore, I agree that school districts should offer some sort of support and encouragement for English Language Learners.

  2. The world we live in is rapidly changing, it is necessary to maintain the needs of society. In order to meet the needs of society we need to encourage bilingual education at an early age. The knowledge of more than one language is quite marketable these days, an added bonus. As teachers we need to encourage children and school districts to teach languages at an early age. Teaching Spanish at a young at to children will allow them to learn another language by the time of high school and then graduate with knowledge of their primary language plus two others, that is remarkable. I think we need to continue emphasizing students who do not speak English to learn English but maintain their own language. For example the non-English speakers can teach the English speakers their language this way it is a learning experience for all. The English speakers can then teach the non-English speakers English. We need to start somewhere, and establishing the importance is the first step.

  3. In the school I work in there a large Hispanic population, many students having just moved to this country within the past year or so. These students are immersed within the classes with English speaking students and it is fascinating to see how fast they pick up on the English language. One girl has been here for only five months and she can speak, read, and write English fluently just from being around the other students and learning from them. I think Bilingual education is very important and essential to the way our country is transitioning. We are becoming more diverse by the day.

  4. The dual language program sounds great. After reading this article I could not help but think to myself “I wish I was in a program like that”. I definitly agree that children at a younger age will do better than an older student when learning a new language. Younger children are like sponges, they absorb so much and they don’t even know it. That is why it is important as educators to try and incorporate both languages in our classrooms. The school I work in is multi-cultural so I try to incorporate the different cultures and languages into my lessons. The students appreciate and respect when teachers do this. This also does not have to be an expensive thing to do or buget concern. Use tools such as the public library or the internet to help yo learn a different language or culture and bring it into your classroom, even if it is only for a few lessons. You never know what could happen. Maybe you will learn some new things from your students. I try it sometimes and I have to say it is fun to try something new and exciting.

  5. I think a dual language program is great and kids can benefit from. When I was in elementary school I was enrolled in a Greek school as well where we met twice a week. I did this all the way up until 8th grade and I got to learn how to speak, read, and write Greek. I would love to see a bilingual program being incorporated in schools because I think it is very important to know more than one language and I also think there should be more options than learning just Spanish. Other languages such as Italian, French, German, or Greek should be included too. Children will feel a sense of accomplishment knowing they comprehend more than one language.

  6. I agree, bilingual education should be enforced becuase I see so many students who do not speak English struggle later on in their educational careers. While each non-English speaking student may be outgoing and bright it is all hidden becuase of their insecurities to speak. I think giving them the help with the English language at an early age will engage them more in school, they’ll feel like their part of the majority instead of the minority providing an increased willingness to participate in school and an eagerness to learn. By giving them a voice. Those who feel insecure can either stay insecure and fade away into the background or they can choose a different path in life that may get them into trouble, they’ll mask their weaknesses and fall into a place where they feel they fit in. Learning a language is so much more than getting by in school it will be an extension of their expression, and I think every student should receive the chance to show themselves.

  7. The cultural diversity in the United States is greatly increasing along with many language barriers. As an American citizen, it is very beneficial to be fluent in an additional language other than English. I agree that it won’t be long before English becomes a minority language in the United States. I am nowhere near fluent, but I have studied both Spanish and Italian. My little knowledge in both languages has gotten me a long way on several different occasions. I wish that I was given a bilingual education when I was a child. I believe that children, especially at the elementary level, should definitely be given a bilingual education. Children learn foreign languages quicker than adults. My coaches and their 8 year old daughter moved here from Russia not speaking a word of English. The daughter was immediately thrown into an English only speaking classroom. It is amazing how well she picked up on the language. Within a year of living in America she was almost completely fluent in English. Her parents, on the other hand, are still struggling almost 6 years later. I believe that a big reason as to why their daughter learned English so quickly is because of her being so young.

  8. A bilingual program sounds like a wonderful idea. There are so many people in this world who speak other languages other than english. I see students in my school whose first language is not english and they have such a difficult time adjusting to the work that is being taught. If they were a part of a bilingual program they would have a much easier time adjusting to not only the english language but to the work as well. It will also allow them to not loose their native language.

  9. A bilingual program would be a great way for every students to learn in school! Learning to speak another language is extremely useful, no matter where you go growing up. I think every school can absolutely benefit from this kind of program.

  10. I think the dual bilingual education program sounds awesome. I think it would be extremely beneficial for young children to learn both English and a second language. I think it is always very important to learn about different cultures and backgrounds amongst young students. They need to learn at an early age that everyone is different and even though people are different we are still valued and accepted in the world. By learning more than one language it will open the eyes of young students. It will help them throughout their future and to value the world around them.

  11. I have to agree that a bilingual program must be put into effect in many schools. More and more we hear about children coming to schools, and not being able to communicate and understand the content due to a language barrier. It is hard enough for them to come into a new country, and as children, they are most likely scared and confused. It is important to acknowledge that there are a lot of children who speak different languages. I think this program would benifit a lot of people.

  12. I think that having a bilingual education is a great idea. When you start the program at an earlier age I think it’s easier for the kids to learn. This will help the students become more aware of different cultures and help them become more educated about their peers. This will also help them in the future when they enter the workforce.

  13. I am in agreement. I feel that dual language classes are beneficial to all students because it allows them to adapt to what the United States is all about. The United States is made up of millions of different people and dozens of different languages. My conducting a class in this manner it will help prepare our nations youth to adapt to the way American Society is. Overall, this was a very entertaining article.

  14. Being bilingual is awesome. I am bilingual and I thnak my parents for keeping the native langauge at home. I have been bilingual since I was ten years old. I have been exposed to two languages English and Spanish and I love it. As an educator I believe that everyone needs to be bilingual especially with the new immigrant population that’s coming into the United States from the latin American countries. As a parent I want my children to be bi-lingual. My daughter is a dual language program and she is doing great in school. She has friends that speak two languages and this program has made her aware of different cultures. It is teaching her cceptance and tolerance towards other cultures.
    Great article girls!!

  15. Although english is my native tongue, I grew up in a bilingual household speaking both english and creole. My parents spoke to my brother and I in both languages and we both became fluent in creole. I believe that having been exposed to another language as a child made it easier for me to excel well in french when I took it in high school. It is very imperative that children are exposed to other languages because I does help a child not only learn about other cultures but also helps a child in becoming more intellectual. I hope to teach my children my second language along with others. By speaking other languages, a person can travel and have the ability to understand and speak the language.

  16. I do really believe that bilingual education can make child benefit from the dual language class. Just as the article said that a dual language classroom usually consists of one half of the classroom being English speaking students, and the other half of the classroom containing native speakers of a foreign language. These classrooms not only help English speaking students learn another language, they also help those students of a minority language to learn and perfect their English speaking skills as well. When they children are young, it is easy for them to learn other languages except their native language. We all know that in a dual language class, English speaking students can know another language and know something more about different cultures and histories. While other countries students can perfect their English and strengthen their native languages. Due to the world is becoming diversity, we do not have reasons to reject the bilingual education. To sum up, child can really benefit from a dual language class.

  17. I like this dual language model. I think it offers benefits to all students at an early age when learning languages are easily facilitated. It is challenging for the brain and encourages a more organic way of thinking and speaking, in other words, speech and thoughts can translate from language to language fluently. The only dilemma I see, is which two languages to speak? To accommodate a variety of languages, do we have to segregate the school populations, one school teaches Mandarin/English; another Spanish/English and so on, and do we have to alter the schools’ populations to according to language, thus ghettoizing the school system according to culture. It’s very complex. We know that a large population of Americans now use Spanish as their first language, but it is not universal. How complex can we make this system without resorting to separate educations for differing peoples?

  18. I feel as though bilingual education is a great idea but only up to a certain age. The more languages that children can be exposed to at an early age the better, however after age twelve most studies show that it isn’t effective.

  19. This topic is very interesting and I wrote it because there are so many children in this country who do not speak english and there are so many english speaking children who want to learn another language. This is the best way, in my opinion, to do so. I feel however, that there are not enough schools that support this way of learning yet. I just think many people are not open enough to learn ways of people who are different than them. I wonder… are many Americans not wanting their children’s schools to have this program because many of them want to keep this country English only?

  20. It is so important for children to learn another language at a young age. The younger you are when you acquire another language the easier it will be. Being of Hispanic heritage, I know how important it is for a person to know at least two languages, especially Spanish. More and more people are immigrating to the United States from Hispanic countries. How are we to communicate with them if we cannot speak their language and they cannot speak ours? There have been so many times where my mother was discriminated against because of her heavy accent. Americans need to be educated, not only on the language of others, but on the culture too. I teach Spanish to Junior High students and I stress everyday how important it is for them to acquire the language. English may become obsolete one day, or at least may become the minority language. Schools need to implement this bilingual program to help children in this ever changing cultural country.

  21. I think that learning a second language at an early age is so important. In my class of pre-schoolers, 6 out of 10 students are learning English as a second language. Their primary language at home is Spanish. It is truely amazing how fast they are picking up the language since September. They even know that they can speak Spanish to the other Spanish speaking children when they play, but never make the mistake with the English speakers. It would be so beneficial to teach all children a second language in school early on. Most of us can say that we took at least 5 to 6 years of a foreign language (since 7th or 8th grade) and still can’t speak a coherent sentence in that language. Starting later on in school may just be a little too late for us to gain fluency. Schools need to realize the importance of having a bi-lingual program starting in the early years in order to give all students equal opportunities and advantages in our country.

  22. Are there students who don’t benefit from bilingual education when taught the foreign language in school, but not at home?

  23. iaminnewyorkcity

    A dual language class and/or a bilingual class are really beneficial for all students to explore the different languages and cultures. I believe that a dual language class and/or bilingual class can provide an environment for students to learn different languages comfortably and effectively, in particular for English Language Learners (ELLs), because native English speakers can be a prototype to ELLs to imitate and monitor their utterances. Also, all students can learn and respect varied cultures in the same classroom. Moreover, I agree that learning different languages at an early age is much easier, because students can quickly pick up a word to use without translating. Unlike, the older people need more time to think and translate from their native language to English, just like myself. My native language is Mandarin; I am currently learning English as my second language in the United States. Sometimes, I have trouble making perfect English in writing and speaking. Lastly, it has become a global trend to learn another language in the 21st century. Furthermore, learning different languages is the way to increase personal values-added.

  24. In this day and age, I think it is extremely important and useful to be able to communicate in another language. For one, this added ability make s a person that much more marketable in the work-force. As teachers, we want nothing more than to see our students flourish. Having another language under one’s belts will always be a positive attribute and will only aid in one’s journey. Furthermore, it will make children more aware of the world around them and force them to look at the world through another person’s eyes.
    Also, I agree that a native language speaker living in the U.S. definitely has to master the English language in order to be successful in this country, but I think they should do so without losing mastery of their native tongue. When a person has knowledge of more than one mode of communication, it strengthens their linguistic ability on both sides, because they can infer different ways of using and playing with the language. These people will be able to offer insight and assistance the next person cannot.

  25. I think bilingual classroom is a great idea and definitely benefit for children. Nowadays, learning a second language is really important for children. During my observation, I found that every student should take at least one foreign language class at school. It is also a good policy that helps students to learn another culture through language. Not only for students, I think bilingual teachers will be necessary and become a trend in the feature

  26. Bilingual Education is a very controversial topic. Personally, I am very suportive of bilingual education. Many students come to the United States only speaking their foreign language and are thrown into an American style classroom. That must be extremely difficult. I believe in order for a student to learn what is being taught, they should have special ELL teachers who lecture to them in their foreign language. If this is done effectively it will eliminate some of the language barrier. If they are taught in their native language originally, then transform the information into English, I believe students will understand the information much more effectively. On the downside, bilingual education allows many ELL students to become very relaible on their foreign language. They tend to focus less on the American language, and therefore, do not do well in adapting the ENglish language to their lives. I believe it is important to stress the importance of only using the English language in school unless their are in a special ELL classroom.

  27. I think that bilingual education is great to teach to students at a young age. Most kids now speak not only English, but other languages as well. By teaching another language at a young age will be very effective to these students as they grow older. I also think it is good to learn another language because you also learn about the culture of that language too. Which will only extend the education of the children.

  28. I think that the dual speaking classes are really interesting. Sounds like an excellent way for students to learn. I wish that I would’ve been in one of these programs growing up. The United States is such a diverse country and nowadays the Spanish language is heard just as much as English. I feel that it is a plus for students to be exposed to different cultures at such an early age. Learning another language could propel them further in life.

  29. I totally agree that bilingual education is great. I have always admired adults who can speak several languages. I think it makes you a better all around person to be able to speak to someone without belittling yourself to have to say “what” or “huh” all the time. Also with the way that the United States is going I think children will need to know at-least two languages to get good jobs. More and more businesses are looking for people who can accommodate two positions, therefore saving them money in the long run.

    I know for a fact that in many other countries children learn two or three languages and I can’t quite understand why we haven’t caught on to the cultural importance of language and breaking their barriers.

  30. alejandrojotojoto

    I believe that learning as many languages as you can will be great. What I think it is more important is to teach the second or third language as early as possible. A little child will learn faster than an adult. Kids are less likely to be ashamed when they mispronounce a word. They don’t care about talking incorrectly. For that reason it will be easier for them to learn the other language. I don’t understand why the school districts wait until the kids are in middle or high school to teach them another language.
    I agreed with dual speaking classes because two different kinds of students will benefit from it. But I am not agreed with the immersion because some of the kids struggle and feel insecure. I read that kids that are in these classes are more successful than those that are not, but I am not sure about that.

  31. I really like this article. I worked in a district they offered Dual Language. I was amazed at how well the students did. It was the districs early childhood center therefore the students were Pre-k students. I think it extremely important to learn a second language. The best way to learn a second language is at an early age. Students who are involved in Dual Language programs and who become fluent in a second language will benifit very much from it in the future. I am a strong supporter of Dual Language.

  32. This article has certainly shed some light, about the need to incorporate some form of foreign language into the classroom curriculum. However what worries me the most is the fact that Educators are still struggling with the How, When, Where and Who should have access to foreign languages. In addition we need to get away, from just seeing Spanish as the other foreign language that should be thought in the classroom. America Classrooms are very multicultural; if we are going to make accommodations to one culture them I would suggest we do the same for all. I do like the Dual language bilingual education or also known as “two-way” system.

  33. I work in a school for children who have autism in a bilingual classroom.. I have students who are just diagnosed with autism and their families only speak Spanish to them at home. They come in to my classroom knowing only Spanish and we are teaching them communication skills, socialization skills, verbal imitation skills and so much more only in English. This is one of the many examples but I had one student who knew NO English when he started and by the end of the year we didn’t even need a translator during the parent trainings… He was talking to us in English and then talking to his mom in Spanish! Did I mention he was 3??

    It is all about exposure!

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