Qué? You Don’t Know The 3 Pillars of Dual Language?

As a former dual language school principal in the Austin, Texas area, the most common question asked of me was – why dual language?

I would venture to say that this is true for any parent with children enrolled in dual language schools, teachers serving emergent bilingual students, district leadership advocating for implementation of dual language programs, and of course, school administrators collaboratively guiding biliteracy instruction at the campus level.

Blessed beyond belief, I am now able to serve and provide support for dual language programs around the United States and abroad. As an English learner myself, and with parents who only had the opportunity of an elementary education in México, I pinch myself every day as I assist school and district leaders in better serving students via dual language programming.

But, I have to admit that often, even after having implemented dual language programs for years, some dual language teachers and administrators can’t answer the “why” of dual language.

When we are asked THE question and we begin to stumble over our words because we cannot succinctly explain that dual language is the ONLY additive language program model, it is the precise moment that dual language programs are weakened.

Therefore, it has become my mission in life to ensure that every dual language student, educator, parent, and advocate is able to speak about the 3 Pillars of Dual Language!

Continue on to the next page to find out what the 3 Pillars are…

Here is the information that you need to know. If you are multilingual, begin practicing your 3 pillars of dual language elevator speech in more than one language!

  • Pillar One: Bilingualism and biliteracy are the first goal in dual language. Because students are learning content via two languages, they must be able to speak, write, read, listen, and use each of the two program languages as a support for the other. This goes beyond what a student might achieve in a traditional foreign language course. Students in dual language programs have a loftier goal – bilingualism AND biliteracy!
  • Pillar Two: The second goal of dual language programs is to ensure high academic achievement for each student, in both program languages. This is extremely important because students in dual language programs must excel in mathematics, science, social studies, language arts, physical education, music, and art, in both languages of instruction. Often, dual language educators are mistaken in thinking that only content areas must be offered in both program languages. However, only when we also offer specials classes (music, art, PE), interventions, and special education support in both languages are we truly following best practice.
  • Pillar Three: Sociocultural competence is often the forgotten pillar of dual language. But, it is the one goal that the other two pillars rest on. Students in dual language programs should be able to see the similarities and differences in each other, but rather than identifying the differences as obstacles to overcome, they should be viewed as opportunities to connect. This pillar goes beyond having one diversity night each school year when all parents bring a dish representing their native country. Sociocultural competence is about equity and social justice!

If you are reading this and did not know the three pillars of dual language, do not be angry with yourself. As dual language educators, most of us are working diligently to create educational access for the students and families we serve. We are awesome! Sometimes, all it takes is for someone to share the information and/or a resource with us.

The Guiding Principles for Dual Language Education is a resource that I used as a dual language school principal. It was available, free of charge, from the Center for Applied Linguistics. I downloaded and used it, as our school stakeholders worked to strengthen our dual language program. Never did I imagine that one day, I would be a contributing author for the revised edition!

The third edition of this resource will be available as a PDF, free of charge, on November 1, 2017. Most dual language schools around the globe use it as a means to implement and continuously improve dual language programming. You can find information about the upcoming release at www.cal.org/gp3.

¡Adelante con las tres columnas de la educación dual!

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