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Dual Immerstion / Bilingual Education. Pros / cons?

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

I'm aware that there are many types of bilingual or immersion programs and was curious as to why you chose to take or avoid this route for your child and if you've been in a program I'd love your thoughts.  Our public school district has a dual immersion program starting in K which is 50% native english speakers and 50% native spanish speakers.  The spanish is a mexican dialect, as most of our hispanic population is from Mexico.  The children are taught alternating one week in spanish and one week in english.  It seems to be a very popular and there is a lottery to get into the program.  DH and I are on the fence about enrolling DD.  She has been in public preschool this year and will be starting K in the fall.  She will be with the same class through 5th grade and upon entering middle school will transition into the IB middle-years program.

 

Thanks :)

post #2 of 10

Our youngest was in full Spanish Immersion with Mandarin as a 3rd language. However, all students had to be fluent in English prior to enrolling and got nothing but Spanish until 3rd grade. Personally, we loved it. We are grateful that DS had the opportunity. He's a fluent Spanish speaker now in 6th grade and conversational in Mandarin. It was fantastic. I don't have any personal knowledge of dual enrollment programs. They aren't as popular as full immersion programs in our area.

post #3 of 10

We have a dual language (Spanish) program at the elementary school our kids go to. The kids in the program don't do alternating weeks, though. They do part day in Spanish and part day in English. Like your schools our school has a large native Spanish speaking community (mostly Mexican, some Central American). I think it's roughly 50% native English speakers and 50% native Spanish speakers. 

 

My kids are not in the program because my oldest had a lot of anxiety issues as a youngster and we thought a whole new language would just be more than she could handle. School in and of itself was going to be hard enough for her to deal with. We actually opted not to put her in the highly regarded local public schools and found a much smaller, nurturing private school because of the anxiety issues. Dd2 then followed suit for K and 1st and the private school before we moved over to the public school this year for 5th grade for dd1 and 2nd for dd2. Since you can only enter the dual language program in K or 1st we just went the traditional route. 

 

I know several families who are in the program, though, and they really like it. I think my dd2 could have done well with it, but she had some sep anxiety in K, too, (not as crippling as dd1's) so it might have been a rough start for her. I do think it's a great program and it continues through middle school in our school system. They're planning on expanding the program with a new magnet school, too. I think when you start in K with all the other kids the kids just accept it as the norm. If your child has a friend who will be in the program that might be nice, but as long as she doesn't have the anxiety special needs that my child does I think it's a great program. 

post #4 of 10

OP, I wanted to come back and add one more thing. In our school the dual language program self-segregates a little bit. We have dual language and traditional instruction in the same school and almost all the Hispanic kids do the dual language program and most of the other minority kids (African American, Asian) do traditional. I was just looking at my kids' yearbook and in the dual language classes I could see maybe one or two black faces while in the traditional classrooms it was closer to half black/half white. There are a lot of white kids in the dual language program, too, but not many blacks or asians. In traditional classes there are more blacks and our school has a sizable Burmese refugee population and most of them do traditional. I'd say the dual language classes are about half hispanic and half white with a couple of other minority kids thrown in and the traditional program is about half white with the rest black and other minorities. There are a few kids who are learning a third language by being in the dual language program (asian kids who speak another language at home, or other minorities), but not so many. My kids (in traditional, see my previous message) have several friends who speak German also (have German parents) and I can see why if they were already fluent in one other language throwing a third language in there might seem like a bit much. You want to make sure they're getting the other non-language learning in there too like math. 

post #5 of 10
My two oldest (4th and 5th grade) have gone to a German immersion school since Kindergarten. It's not really dual immersion since there aren't many kids really learning English (though there have been some), but there are many kids that have German families and speak German at home. They also do alternating weeks, and until last year they have had different teachers for English and German. It has been really great, we absolutely love it. They are pretty fluent in German and it constantly amazes me. I also like the two teachers since if you have one that you aren't as crazy about at least your kid only has them half the time. This hasn't been a big problem for us since the school has very good teachers, but still there are personality issues sometimes. My kids have done very well with both languages and do very well on their standardized tests every year, though that is not a big focus at their school. I don't feel their English has suffered almost at all, with the exception of spelling being a bit more difficult with two languages to think about. There were a number of years that they were spelling house as haus and so on... overall not a big deal, at least to me.

That being said, there are actually a lot of other things about the school that we love and have turned out to be more important to us than the language aspect: it's an IB program from K-8 (and working on opening a high school), and we like the IB curriculum a lot- the international focus on learning has been very cool, and the teachers get great training. They also focus a lot on campus community, both building the community within by having time to share feelings every day and talk about good and bad things going on with the kids, and outside the school by doing a lot of community service projects. We also have beautiful ornamental and edible gardens that the kids maintain, and two wood fired pizza ovens so the kids can make their own pizzas for special occasions. There are just so many things we love about our school aside from the German, so I would recommend making that just one aspect to think about.
post #6 of 10

My experience with dual-language immersion is very close to all of what Beanma described above, including the diversity issues, but our school also has an African-centered program in addition to Spanish/English and traditional, so it's a bit more complicated.

 

The only thing I would say is that the kids do not just get language instruction - in our district, all programs regardless of their focus (arts, language, tech, whatever) have to follow the same curriculum, they just put a different spin on it. For example, everyone in our school uses Everyday Math, but the immersion program does it in Spanish (with some extra English lessons before the standardized testing so that they understand the vocabulary). My kids also had social studies and science in Spanish, but reading mostly in English, adding Spanish reading/writing as their skills got stronger (and the reverse for the Spanish speakers). Later in the program they did do the one week English/one week Spanish approach with reading.

 

DD1 went through 6 years of the immersion program and is in advanced Spanish now in middle school (they call it "Spanish heritage"), while DD2 is in her 4th year. I have to say I love the fact that they were together with the same kids through the program. The kids form a really cohesive group, like cousins rather than just classmates. Of course, she's not best friends with everyone, but it's been great for my DD to have some of those kids there in middle school to eat lunch with, etc. and then they've pulled in new friends as well.

 

We've really had a positive experience. I can't think of any negatives.

 

PS My kids were already bilingual at home & Spanish is their 3rd language. I think that's do-able.

post #7 of 10

We tried to get ds into a Spanish Immersion program (it is a lottery  he is 199th on the waitlist).  I would do it in a heartbeat!  I figure if it didn't work out for him we could always pull him out later, but if we didn't try we'd never know.  He has an August birthday so we are going to try the lottery for K again next year.  I wish there were more options for language immersion for us and we would consider paying for it if there was that option.

 

Every school is different so I can only speak to the one near us and the experience from the folks I know whose kids have done it.  They have loved it and it has really be a good experience.  The negatives I have heard (and again this is just one school) the immersion and the traditional track (they get one Spanish class a day, which is still way more than most kids) do not get to mix that much.  The immersion classes have to stay together from year to year and so do the other classes, so they are never in class together.  It does create two schools within one school, which can be weird.  The other thing I have heard from parents is that if a student is identified as having special needs they are often asked to go to the traditional track instead of the immersion track. That might not always be the case at the school and may not be the case at the school you are looking at.  It seems that they have more Special Ed teachers who are not fluent in Spanish and therefore can't really work with a child with a reading disability if the language the child is reading in is a language the teacher doesn't know etc.

post #8 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by tbone_kneegrabber View Post
Every school is different so I can only speak to the one near us and the experience from the folks I know whose kids have done it.  They have loved it and it has really be a good experience.  The negatives I have heard (and again this is just one school) the immersion and the traditional track (they get one Spanish class a day, which is still way more than most kids) do not get to mix that much.  The immersion classes have to stay together from year to year and so do the other classes, so they are never in class together.  It does create two schools within one school, which can be weird.  The other thing I have heard from parents is that if a student is identified as having special needs they are often asked to go to the traditional track instead of the immersion track. That might not always be the case at the school and may not be the case at the school you are looking at.  It seems that they have more Special Ed teachers who are not fluent in Spanish and therefore can't really work with a child with a reading disability if the language the child is reading in is a language the teacher doesn't know etc.

Yes, you are right that it depends on the school. In our school, SN kids would still be able to be in the Spanish track. Sometimes I go into my daughter's classroom and there are three teachers in there (classroom teacher plus two others) doing different reading groups, etc. Our school solved the "school within a school" issue by sending the kids to specials - art, music, etc. - in "teams" composed of kids from the three strands rather than just their class.

post #9 of 10
We are enrolling our daughter in a full immersion mandarin immersion kindergarten here. 90% mandarin/10% english, full day, mon-fri. They have the same curriculum as the reg kindgarten but its just taught in mandarin. The teachers do not speak english at all. The only english they get is if they go to the library or art. We are elated she got to because we are out of district and she had to make the cut in 3 lotteries. For us, since our dd is advanced (reads chapter books and can add/subtract) we really wanted to sign her up to keep her challenged. She's very extroverted so we didnt think she will have anxieties about it. She's also 1/4 Chinese so we think it'll be great for her to know some Chinese and learn the culture. Plus, since many parents go out of there way to take their kids there, I think the parents and students there are engaged and motivated so there will be so many opportunities for a great learning environment. We are willing to put the effort into homework and also make sure she keeps up with English. It's a public school so it's free to boot! So I think they are great! I've only heard positive things.
post #10 of 10

My kids have been in French Immersion for many years. It is 85% French instruction until grade 7 and from there until the end of high school it is 50/50. It has been a very positive experience for them. The only thing they have found difficult was in grade 7 when math instruction shifted from French to English and they had to learn the terms and some other details in English for the first time. It didn't take them long to learn but was the only struggle they have had. They are all fluent in French and English, have excellent literacy skills in both languages and will have the option of attending secondary school at any college or university in Canada when they are ready. 

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