Dual language programs provide a great instrument for children to become fluent in multiple cultures and languages where there may otherwise be no other tool for doing so. What exactly are dual language programs, or DLPs, and why are they important? Here are the basics on this great tool of educational integration today.
A dual language program is a comprehensive educational program used to teach students multiple languages and cultures at once. This type of program is setup specifically for students with need – those freshly moved to the US and subsequently experiencing a language and culture that are new to them. The primary goal of this kind of program is to teach the new language and culture to the child while also maintaining the child’s fluency in their original language and culture.
These types of programs can be seen at work in all types of schools across the US and are made available despite the school’s status as being a public school, private school, charter, or any other kind. As to the types of languages and cultures taught within DLPs, there is virtually no limit. Students enrolled in these programs will receive up to five years of education in any two, simultaneous language and culture points. Some of the more common DLP focuses today are on Spanish, English, French, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, and Hawaiian.
The importance of such a program is multi-pronged. Students are able to maintain knowledge of their original language and culture but also learn the ins and outs of a new one. This makes further education possible in the new residency location as well as opens up cultural understanding and better integration for the student and even their respective family and friend associations. In fact, the importance of DLPs today is backed by law via their becoming a legally required component to the American educational system in 1968 with the passing of the Bilingual Education Act.
Differing Methods in DLPs
Not all dual language programs work exactly the same. This diversity of method is actually important so as to curtail programs to the needs of their students in attendance. The following elements are some of those which may be seen being applied differently in varying DLPs.
- teacher-to-student ratio
- language and culture of focus
- ability grouping
- use of literature and media
- use of sheltered instruction strategy
- use of content based on student personal interest
The National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition, or NCELA is essentially the federal government’s head agency for overseeing proper DLP operations nationwide. All oversight and facilitation of DLPs by NCELA are strictly per the outlines of the Bilingual Education Act of 1968.
ATDLE is a leading organization devoted to advocacy for two-way bilingual language education. The organization hosts national conferences and training programs, and provides numerous, other resources for anyone interested in the subject.
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DLPs provide important, transitional help to those youths new to the US, its language, and customs. Without these programs, transition for this group of the population would be much more difficult thus leading to many more issues down the road. These are the basics of the all-important dual language programs in use across the US today.