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LA Times: Dual-language immersion growing

May 9, 2011
An experiment in language Kylie Hwang reads in Korean to her second-grade class at Keppel Elementary School in Glendale. The Glendale Unified School District has become one of the nation’s leading laboratories for dual-language immersion, offering programs in Italian, German, Spanish, Armenian, Japanese and Korean. (Don Bartletti, Los Angeles Times)

Dual-language immersion programs growing in popularity

Dual-language immersion programs are the new face of bilingual education — without the stigma. They offer the chance to learn a second language not just to immigrant children, but to native-born American students as well.

By Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times

May 8, 2011, 7:40 p.m.

In a Glendale public school classroom, the immigrant’s daughter uses no English as she conjugates verbs and writes sentences about cats.

More than a decade after California voters eliminated most bilingual programs, first-grader Sofia Checchi is taught in Italian nearly all day — as she and her 20 classmates at Franklin Elementary School have been since kindergarten.

Yet in just a year, Sofia has jumped a grade level in reading English. In the view of her mother — an Italian immigrant — Sofia’s achievement validates a growing body of research indicating that learning to read in students’ primary languages helps them become more fluent in English.

The Glendale Unified School District has become one of the nation’s leading laboratories for such dual-language immersion experiments, offering programs in Italian, German, Spanish, Armenian, Japanese and Korean. At Franklin, instruction is 90% in Italian and 10% in English in kindergarten and first grade, a proportion that will shift to 50-50 by fifth grade. Although Sofia is classified as an English-language learner, most of her classmates are native English speakers whose parents want them to learn Italian.

Growing in popularity, dual-language immersion programs are the new face of bilingual education —without the stigma. Though bilingual education was often perceived — and resented by some —as public handouts only for immigrant families, dual programs offer the chance to learn a second language to native-born American children as well.

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