Frequently Asked Questions

What are Dual Language Schools?

Dual language Schools are a form of education in which students are taught literacy and content in two languages. The majority of dual language programs in the United States teach in English and Spanish, although increasing numbers of programs use a partner language other than Spanish, such as Arabic, Chinese, French, Hawaiian, Japanese, or Korean. Dual language programs use the partner language for at least half of the instructional day in the elementary years.

When do dual language programs begin?

Dual language programs generally start in kindergarten or first grade and extend for at least five years, although many continue into middle school and high school.

What’s the difference between two-way immersion and dual language?

The term “dual language” is often used interchangeably with two-way immersion. Other variations on dual language include “dual language immersion,” “dual immersion,” and “dual enrollment”.

What types of programs are there?

There are four main types of dual language programs, which mainly differ in the population:

  • Developmental, or maintenance, bilingual programs. These enroll primarily students who are native speakers of the partner.
  • Two-way (bilingual) immersion programs. These enroll a balance of native English speakers and native speakers of the partner language.
  • Foreign language immersion, language immersion or one-way immersion. These enroll primarily native English speakers.
  • Heritage language programs. These mainly enroll students who are dominant in English but whose parents, grandparents, or other ancestors spoke the partner language.

How much time is spent on the partner language?

Full immersion, or 90/10, programs teach in the partner language 90% of the time in the primary grades (usually kindergarten and first grade) and 10% in English, and gradually adjust the ratio each year until the partner language is used 50% and English is used 50% by third or fourth grade (sometimes later if the program extends through eighth grade or beyond). 50/50, programs teach 50% of the day in English and 50% of the day in the partner language at all grade levels.

Partial Immersion teaches less than 50% of the time and usually focuses on one content area, either language arts, math or science.

How are the languages divided?

Language division by schedule: Within any dual language program, students speak and study in one language at a time, and the times for each language are explicitly defined. There is great variation, however, in the specifics. In some programs, language alternates by day, by week, or by several week periods. In other schools, students speak one language in the morning and the other language after lunch. After a designated amount of time, one, two, or more weeks, the morning and afternoon languages switch. Further variation includes programs where particular subjects are always taught in one language, due to resource availability.Within a given school or program, there may be different schedules for different grades, such as at the Amistad Dual Language School in New York City, where students alternate languages less frequently as they progress through the grades and establish stronger skills in both languages.

Language division by instructor: A dual language program may use a Self-Contained or Side-by-Side model. Self-Contained programs have one teacher for one group of students in one classroom. The teacher transitions from one language to the other along with her or his students. Alternatively, Side-by-Side programs have two or more classrooms for each grade, where one teacher teaches in the partner, or target, language and the other teacher teaches in the dominant language (English in the United States). The grade is divided into two groups of students and the groups trade classrooms and teachers according to an explicit schedule, whether daily or weekly. Finally, at some schools, two or more teachers may team teach in the same classroom, with each teacher using one language and a combination of whole group, small group, and independent activities facilitated by the teachers.