Bilingual Education In The US: How The Benefits Of Teaching Two Languages Extend Beyond Schools

By Samantha Finch, Parent Herald May 30, 05:00 am

Bilingual education is becoming a trend in U.S. schools. Beginning in Florida in the 1960s, dual-language immersion programs for Spanish students now exist in states like Minnesota, New York and Utah.

Teresa Chávez, the lead teacher in Minneapolis, Minnesota's Little Canada Elementary's Dual Language Immersion program, said teaching English and Spanish side-by-side is important because it signifies the world's undeniable connection. Multiple races and immigrants from different countries live in the United States, which means that English is not the only language being used in the country, the Atlantic wrote.

It's About Equality

In Minneapolis, educators aim to practice equality among young Americans and students with diverse backgrounds. The program is created to ensure that children will still have the opportunity to speak and write their native language, and feel proud about their home country's culture.

Bilingual education programs can be tough for both teachers and students at first. Teachers need to provide visuals and language books, and pupils can feel confusion and culture shock when they're just starting to learn Spanish or English. The programs also depend on the educator's style of teaching.

Bilingual Schools

New York City has around 180 dual-language education programs for students, the New York Times reported. Aside from Spanish, schools teach Arabic, Chinese, French, Haitian-Creole, Hebrew, Korean, Polish and Russian.

About 9 percent of Utah's public elementary students are studying under bilingual programs, while Portland, Oregon has 10 percent of its pupils enrolled in dual-language education. Delaware and North Carolina are making progress in similar programs as well. Delaware Gov. Jack Markell said bilingual education -- which leads to a bilingual workforce -- also attracts businesses from all over the world.

Educators, however, warn that some dual-language programs may not be expressing equality. An inefficient bilingual program may be prioritizing native English speakers, making teaching materials in English more difficult and other languages become too easy.

Shortage Of Teachers

As bilingual programs continue to rise, school districts in the U.S. tend to have a hard time hiring teachers suited for the role. School districts sometimes have to hire candidates from abroad to cater to the dual-language programs. District officials are also being sent to Mexico or Puerto Rico to scout for qualified bilingual Spanish teachers, according to Fusion.

Some states and school districts have already loosened their teaching requirements to hire bilingual teachers. A handful of districts in Texas is offering pay bonuses for bilingual teachers, while Connecticut is lessening the strict requirements for dual-language educators. Los Angeles, meanwhile, is doing bilingual Spanish education expansions in more schools.

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