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Frequently Asked Questions

What Does Research Say About Dual Language?

Multiple benefits exist for acquiring a second language starting in the primary years. Some of these benefits include:

  • Considerable research over several decades demonstrates that additive bilingual [learning a new language while maintaining the first language] programs are associated with content area achievement and proficiency in the second language and the home language (e.g., Genesee et al., 2006; Lindholm-Leary & Howard, 2001; Lindholm-Leary & Genesee, 2010; US Department of Education, 2012)
  • Students who acquire advanced levels of proficiency in second languages often experience certain cognitive and linguistic advantages when compared to monolingual students. (Cummins, 1981; Lambert, Genesee, Holobow & Chartrand, 1993)
  • The average time required to reach native-like proficiency and grade-level achievement is six years (Carroll & Baily, 2015; Genesee et al., 2006; Hill, Weston & Hayes 2014; Lindholm-Leary & Genesee, 2010; Parrish et al., 2006; Thompson. 2015; Umansky & Reardon, 2014).
  • Early foreign language study gives children unique insight into other cultures and builds their cultural competency skills in a way that no other discipline is able to do. (Curtain & Dahlberg 2004)
  • The resulting benefits to self-image, self-esteem, and satisfaction with school experience are enormous. Evidence from several studies show language students have a significantly higher self-concept than do non-language students. (Masciantonio 1977, Saunders 1998, Andrade, et al.1989)

Why should I consider enrolling my child in a Dual Language program?

Dual language programs are the most effective type of foreign language programs currently available in U. S. schools. Most students participating in a dual language program will reach higher levels of second language proficiency than students in other school-based language programs (Met, 1998). Becoming bilingual provides cognitive benefits as well as the opportunity to compete for jobs that require a second language. Numerous studies consistently show that immersion students achieve as well as or better than non-immersion peers on standardized measures of verbal and mathematics skills administered in English (Cloud, Genesee, & Hamayan, 2000; Genesee, 1987). In addition, students have the opportunity to develop positive cross- cultural attitudes and behavior.

How will learning everything in a second language affect my child’s English language and literacy development?

Research consistently finds that participation in a dual language program actually enhances English language development (Cloud, Genesee, & Hamayan, 2000). In a dual language program, students’ English development may lag temporarily in reading, word knowledge, and spelling while instruction is occurring in two languages. However, after a year or two of instruction in English language arts, this discrepancy disappears (Genesee, 1987). It is important for parents to understand that this lag is temporary and to be expected.

Will my child become proficient in the second language? How long will that take?

Generally it takes students 4-10 years to achieve cognitive academic language proficiency in a second language. Students at this stage will be near-native in their ability to perform in content area learning. The time it takes to learn a language is influenced by many factors including students’ personality and motivation, teacher expectations, parental support, program leadership, and support at both the school and district level. Student success requires the active involvement of all of these stakeholders. Achieving high levels of oral and written proficiency in a second language is a long-term process. A long-term commitment is essential, and parents need to understand that native-like proficiency in every skill area is unlikely. Still, dual language students will have a strong second language base upon which to continue moving toward full proficiency and to develop proficiency in additional languages.

What can I do to support my child’s immersion experience if I do not speak the second language?

Parents should be knowledgeable about dual language education, make a commitment to keep their child in the program, and support their children’s use of the target language outside school. One way to support the use of the target language outside of school is by providing reading materials, games, and language enrichment activities at home in the target language. Parents need to provide opportunities to enhance their child’s native language and literacy development. Reading to their child at night in the native language is one example. Research shows that the stronger the development of the native language, the greater the proficiency in the target (Spanish) language. Therefore, children who enter a dual language program with a strong base in their native language will succeed more easily than those whose native language skills are not as strong.

Will siblings be given priority placement?

Yes, siblings receive the first opportunity to enroll in the program. The enrollment of each year’s kindergarten dual language classes will begin with siblings. Enrollment for up to fifty percent of the class’ language group will be accepted. If the number of siblings exceeds the number of available spots, a lottery will be held to determine priority placement.


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Issaquah Elementary Education Department-Elementary Special Programs
Heather Ross