Did you know that almost every School District in the state of Texas offers a Dual Language program?
A Dual Language Program main goal is to integrate English Language Learners and English-speaking students for instruction in two languages, generally English and Spanish.
Different from transitional bilingual programs, where the aim is to transition students out of their native language, dual language helps students to maintain their primary language while a second language is added.
The Dual Language Program is also known as “two-way immersion”, “two-way bilingual”, “bilingual immersion”, and “dual-language immersion”. This program is part of the school districtâs bilingual curriculum. Unfortunately, dual language is only available to a few select students. Some schools take applications of those who are interested in the dual language program and at times are selected through a lottery.
There is big advantage to speaking more than one language. Schools in Sweden begin at elementary school with English and by the time they reach 8th grade, they can speak English, French, Spanish, and German. They are now also adding Chinese to their curriculum in addition to their native Swedish.
What does the brain research tell us about bilingualism or being multilingual?
Brain has the amazing capability of different language representations. Several studies suggest that learning second or third languages is easier for young children, and the earlier you start the better. Different neurophysiologic and neuroimaging studies have shown evidence of overlapping brain areas when two languages are acquired before the age of 7. The Bilingual brain cerebral representations of languages seem to change after 7, especially after puberty.
People have several misconceptions on bilingualism. Bilingual parents have serious concerns if they should expose their child to two languages from birth. They also have great concerns that their child will fall behind monolingual children, however research shows that babies of bilingual parents can tell the difference from birth.
I see it in my classroom with 4 and 5 year olds. Children of bilingual parents can switch between English and Spanish without a problem. They are totally aware of what sounds or signs are in the language and what sounds are not. Whenever a bilingual student is tested for English proficiency and may not know the English word for red, he will automatically use the characteristics of the English pronunciation on to the Spanish word rojo (ryoh-Hoh).
Ellen Bialystok, a cognitive neuroscientist, who has spent almost 40 years learning how bilingualism works, explained the following. âThereâs a system in your brain, the executive control system. Itâs a general manager. Its job is to keep you focused on what is relevant, while ignoring distractions. Itâs what makes it possible for you to hold two different things in your mind at one time and switch between them.â
This is also her response to the all so common question, if a child should be exposed to two languages or not. âThere are two major reasons people should pass their heritage language onto children. First, it connects children to their ancestors. The second is my research: Bilingualism is good for you. It makes brains stronger. It is brain exercise.â
In explaining how the brain works and the difference between acquiring a language at an early age versus in High School, I will use Paradis research model on Bilingualism who wrote that there is a distinction between implicit and explicit knowledge of language.
Paradis uses the expression -implicit computational procedure- to refer to subconscious and internalized set of rules that allows a speaker to give a grammatical structure to strings of words in a way compatible with how other native speakers do so. Â He theorizes that this is subserved by the procedural memory in an automatic and effortless way.
Paradis theorizes that âexplicit knowledge- is subserved by declarative memory. Adult second language learners rely on their declarative memory. This is because âParadis argues that it is the ability to incorporate knowledge into procedural memory that atrophies in adults.â He says adults do this to compensate from the loss of procedural memory. He explains that this is the reason why the result of a second language in adulthood tends to be less fluent manner of speaking and more hesitant. This explains why it is so hard for adult immigrants to learn a new language and why their children have the ability to learn both languages faster and easier if they stay exposed to both languages throughout their lifetime.
I personally find this part of his article extremely poignant on the importance of teaching a second language in our Public Schools at a younger age whether it is Spanish or any other language for that matter. By the time they get to High School students linguistic knowledge is no longer automatic and effortless as he puts it. By now the students will be using their declarative memory. His research helps support that of others in the importance of starting a second language in the early years.
I would love to hear your opinion on this. Would you like to see other languages taught to your child?
Do you believe that Public School should integrate other languages into their curriculum?