The Power of Two-Way Dual Language Immersion for Minority Families

April 14, 2015

Every once in a while we hear a story that grips us, stops us in our tracks, and reminds our team of the real lives being changed because of dual language immersion (DLI) education. Aída Araceli Alvarado recently came across this kind of story.

While meeting with Spanish-speaking families at an event introducing one of addalingua’s two-way DLI education programs, Aída saw firsthand the commitment these parents have for their children’s education. It was amazing:

One of the mothers, in particular, stood out. She and her family are all native Spanish-speakers, and while her husband speaks English, she does not. This mother is the primary caregiver and the one who spends the most time with her son and naturally speaks and teaches him in Spanish.

Her son struggles with some speech issues and receives help from his school’s speech pathologist. The speech pathologist and her son’s teachers recently informed this mother that her son is struggling academically because she solely speaks Spanish to him at home. She was understandably frustrated. She doesn’t speak English, and doesn’t have another way to communicate with her child. She was at her wits’ end when she heard of add.a.lingua’s two-way immersion program, and she jumped at the opportunity to enroll her son. She was grateful for the chance to have an educational model that works with her family and will validate the way her son learns.

This is where your heartstrings get pulled:

She also shared that she neither owns a car nor knows how to drive. But even though transportation would be a challenge because she lives outside of the school district, she was determined to figure out a way, somehow, to get her son to school. She reiterated that she’d do whatever it takes and make the necessary sacrifices to get her son to this two-way immersion program because she’s committed to getting him the education he needs. That’s determination. It was a really powerful moment for all of us.

We applaud this mother’s commitment, and have every confidence her son is going to thrive in this new environment.

The research on dual language immersion education shows us that when children in minority language families build a strong foundation in their native language, they can achieve academic success in both languages and can become fully bilingual. These programs also elevate the status of their heritage culture and language which can totally transform the confidence of these children. For example, these students are more likely to complete secondary school, take Advanced Placement® courses, and have more positive attitudes toward school than their peers in mainstream programs.¹ This kind of positive educational experience can alter the course of a child, and family’s, life.

¹ Hopewell, Susan & Kathy Escamilla. (2014). “Biliteracy development in immersion contexts.” p.181.

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