Dual Language Immersion: A Very Successful Form Of Bilingual Education

A sincere desire for those who truly want to be constructive about the LEP children and about the Bilingual Education issue is to know what will make it better.

Well, as is well known by many researches and a few parents, the most successful form of Bilingual Education is what is called "Dual Language Immersion." It is the best known form of bilingual education for LEP students and it gives benefits to non-LEP students as well. (An increasing plus in today's global economy.)

This provides the learning of two languages for all students, throughout all grades. One of those languages of course (in the U.S.) is English. I encourage everyone (parents, teachers, citizens, legislators, etc.) to learn about and promote dual language immersion in all publicly funded schools.

- Mike Peralta


A Parent's View of Dual Language Immersion
by Julie Neff-Encinas
Tucson, AZ
Feb. 23, 1999

"Likewise, in her [daughter's] senior year she will be in AP [Advanced Placement] English and AP Spanish simultaneously. Bilingual education has been very good to her."

(Letter to an acquaintance)

Dear Mary,

You know me, you know my children. My son and your daughter shared the same classrooms at Davis. We come from different places and backgrounds and yet we selected the same magnet school experience for our children. Let me share why I continue to select Davis after 12 years of being a parent there.

Being bilingual is not something I grew up with. I grew up in a very homogeneous language environment. Everyone was monolingual English except for some knowledge of French or Spanish from high school or college courses. I came to Tucson in search of bilingual education, having read "The Invisible Minority" during research in college. When I met and married a man from Mexico my desire to be bilingual became a necessity. Soon, it also became a necessity that my children be bilingual in order to communicate with the grandparent, aunts, uncles and dozens of cousins in Mexico.

My neighborhood school did not offer bilingual education back in the mid 1980s, in fact it just began a program last year. I had no choice but to enroll my children as Anglos in order to meet the enrollment guidelines for magnet selection. They are Anglo and Mexican, so it didn't matter to me which I put down, as long as they got into a good school. Davis had just recently been selected as an A+ school so I was happy to have my first child attend.

Her reading was developed in her dominant language, English. But the dual language environment allowed her to easily transfer her literacy skills to Spanish by the second semester of first grade. Reading to learn in two languages has led her to strong skills in both languages. She has been an Honor Roll student almost every quarter while enrolled at Roskruge Bilingual Magnet Middle School and Pueblo High School. English continues to be her dominant language, definitely. But now that she is in her junior year of high school she is in a Spanish for Native Speakers class in which she competes to be in the top 5 of the class alongside recent immigrants from Mexico. Likewise, in her senior year she will be in AP [Advanced Placement] English and AP Spanish simultaneously. Bilingual education has been very good to her.

My second child, the one who attended Davis with your little girl, struggled with literacy a little longer. I often wondered if literacy in Spanish wouldn't have been a better choice for him in Kinder and First grade, but he eventually got the reading concept. By fifth grade reading and writing in both languages solidified for him as patterns. It seemed that his involvement in musical training as a Mariachi trumpeter had something to do with literacy clicking for him. Since then he has become an Honor Roll student in middle school, excelling in Math. He has continued on in the bilingual education program at Roskruge Bilingual Magnet Middle School and I wouldn't change it for the world.

My youngest child has participated in the renovated program at Davis, a Spanish immersion program. I fully understand why the faculty chose to change to an immersion program. Most English dominant students who entered Davis without a Spanish speaking parent in the home failed to become academically fluent in Spanish. The new program is amazing. During Kinder and First Grade my son's classes were conducted in about 90% Spanish. All literacy development was done in Spanish. This child was my least Spanish proficient upon entering school since he had two older siblings speaking only English to him despite whatever Mom and Dad spoke to him.

The Spanish immersion environment has not slowed his cognitive growth at all and it has allowed him to develop literacy in two languages simultaneously. No, he isn't "taught to read in English" and some people are concerned when they see that his spelling isn't perfect in English. But once they realize how much he can do in Spanish and how it transfers easily back and forth between the languages they are amazed also. He reads almost anything he is given in English and comprehends it completely and the same is true in Spanish. Despite the fact that English continues to be his dominant language, I know that time and bilingual education will allow him to become completely bilingual and biliterate.

I grew up believing that it was an extremely "educated" thing to do to be able to read, write and speak more than one language. I didn't think I was truly "educated" until I graduated from college with honors in Spanish. My children don't have to wait that long to feel the pride of being fluent in two languages. They already have it by the time they leave 5th grade. Thanks to bilingual education! I wish all kids could benefit as my children have.

Thanks for accepting such a long piece.

Julie Neff-Encinas