by Lindsey Ma
In the ideal dual-language education scenario, children are immersed in two languages at school, and develop academic and social skills in both languages that will last them a lifetime. In this piece, we provide some fun facts about how dual-language education plays out across the globe. Who knows, maybe the next dual-language program will be in your neighborhood?
The US has many schools providing immersion programs starting at kindergarten. One great example of this is San Francisco’s Alvarado Elementary School. In these programs, English, which is the dominant language in society, is incorporated only gradually into the learning environment, as students move on to higher grades. The content (including math, science, social studies, etc.) is the same as in other monolingual schools, and adheres to state standards, but dual-language students have the added benefit of learning it in two languages!
A large number of international schools in China provide dual-immersion opportunities, mainly for learning Chinese and English simultaneously. An example is the Nanwai King’s College School, where an English and Chinese bilingual learning environment is created from kindergarten by assigning each class two teachers: One who speaks Chinese, and one who speaks English.
In Benin, West Africa, a total of 55 different languages are spoken, so the possibilities for dual-language education are endless. Following colonization, French is the official language (1), but indigenous languages such as Fon and Yoruba are also common. Beninese children must learn French in school, but the government has recently started to promote local languages in primary school education. Currently, local language instruction is only offered in after-school reading and writing clubs, but with government support, many hope that native language instruction will become more common during the regular school day.
French-English immersion programs are not hard to find in parts of this country, which is one of the more advanced overall in terms of its dual-language offerings. Programs may be available as early as pre-kindergarten (2), as in Montreal’s Saint Monica Elementary School, which provides a play-based immersion program to pre-kindergarten children. Immersion programs typically cover half of the curriculum in English, and the other half in French.