What is a dual language immersion program?

A dual language immersion program has goals of full bilingualism and biliteracy in English and a target (non-English) language. The program enrolls native English speakers and native speakers of the target language. For the program to be considered a dual (or two-way) immersion program, a minimum of 33% of each linguistic group would have to be represented in each classroom. If there is less than 33% of one of the linguistic groups, the program would be considered to be a one-way immersion program. In both dual and one-way immersion programs, the two groups of students are integrated for all or most of the instruction. The instruction is given in one language; the teacher does not switch between languages during lessons.

Dual language immersion programs provide instruction in language arts, math, and other academic content areas (such as science, social studies, arts, etc.) over the course of the program. The target language is used for at least 50% and up to 90% of the instructional time and English is used a minimum of 10% and up to 50% of the instructional time in kindergarten through fifth grade (K-5). In programs that are 50% in English and 50% in the target language in grades K-5, the subjects taught in each language are typically consistent throughout the grade levels. In programs that start out with greater than 50% of the time in the target language (such as 90% in the target language and 10% in English) and decrease the amount of target language instruction in each subsequent grade level until instruction is 50% in the target language and in English, subjects that are initially taught in the target language may shift to being taught in English as the percentage of time in English instruction increases. Secondary (grades 6-12) programs offer up to three classes per semester in the target language.

Example of a 90/10 Dual Language Program
Example of a 50/50 Dual Language Program

School districts throughout California and the United States offer dual language immersion programs in many languages, including Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Armenian, German, French, and Vietnamese. Dual language immersion programs strive to promote bilingualism, biliteracy, grade-level academic achievement, and positive cross-cultural attitudes and behaviors for all students.

Sandra Mercuri
Author: Sandra Mercuri

Dr. Mercuri is a nationally and internationally recognized educational consultant in the area of second language acquisition, dual language education, and curriculum integration for biliteracy development. She has over 28 years of experience in teaching in K-12 schools and at the university level in Argentina and the United States. After retiring as a professor from the University of Texas System, she continued to work on research on the development of academic language across the content areas, the use of translanguaging practices for language transfer, and the effect of long-term professional development on dual language, bilingual and ESL teachers’ instructional practices. Dr. Mercuri provides professional development for teachers and administrators as well as for parents. She presents at national and international conferences on issues of second language acquisition and bilingualism, dual language education, translanguaging pedagogy, and ESL strategies. Dr. Mercuri has published articles in the TESOL Quarterly, Talking Points, EJLTS, JMER, TESOL Connections, MEXTESOL, and the NABE journal as well as the Spanish professional journals The Colombian Journal of Bilingual Education: GIST and the Revista Educación y Pedagogía and more than twelve book chapters. Dr. Mercuri is the author of the book titled Supporting Literacy Through Science: The Challenge of Teaching...

One thought on “What is a dual language immersion program?

  1. Good morning,
    I am an author of bilingual children’s books. My grandson, Miles Last, my co-writer, is 12. We have published our 2nd book together (2023 release.) Miles & Lee and the Ghosts from the Lighthouse/Miles & Lee y los fantasmas del faro is a comic and the 4th book in the Miles & Lee series. We are looking for a way to share our series as well as our other titles with bilingual programs/schools and their libraries.

    Our Winter release is now available. When visiting our website, please view our page for Tender Memories of my Childhood/Recuerdos tiernos de mi infancia. This Cuban holiday season story is tasty and colorful; it reflects not only Cuban traditions but those of other Hispanic countries as well.

    My website is:

    My Amazon page is a link to my best 16 bilingual books.

    Maria Retana

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