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Dual Language Immersion Program

August 30, 2010

Why we chose the Dual Language Immersion Program and what we hope it will mean for our son.

by: Edna Ramos

Our children’s formal school education is missing two key ingredients: bilingualism and biliteracy.  Growing up in Puerto Rico, a US territory, we (my husband and I) studied two languages formally in school.  English and Spanish are both taught for one hour a day from elementary grades to high school, and both are required subjects in college.  For years we took for granted one of the most important parts in our education.  That is, until it started opening doors for us, from the simple joy of having more to choose from when picking up a book to read at a bookstore, to being offered more pay at a job just for being bilingual.  Then, it was time for us to provide a good education for our children.  They were both born in Texas.  We were surprised to find out that, in general, there are no foreign languages taught in elementary grades in the United States.  As in music, languages are better learned at an early age.   Although we speak Spanish at home as much as we can, our children spend eight hours a day speaking, reading and writing only in English.  With that much practice, they feel more comfortable using English and there is no way we can match that at home in the approximate four to five hours we spend with them before bedtime, which we have to share with activities like religious education, piano classes or practice, soccer and other extracurricular activities.

When we first learned that CISD was offering DLI, the deadline for applying was approaching and the orientation meeting had passed.  Even when we had many questions, we decided that we were going to apply first and ask questions later.  There were many reasons not to participate in the program, starting with the inconvenience of having our children in two separate schools, since the program is not offered in all schools.  We were offered to moved our fifth grader, so the two brothers could be in the same school, but we didn’t want to take our older son away from his friends and the school he has learned to love since we moved to Coppell.  They were in a great school.  So, why would we want to remove our son from it and send it to another school which we don’t know?  Do we know anyone attending that school?  How do we get in contact with other parents in the program?  And so on, we kept asking ourselves.  Schools were not allowed to give away phone numbers or email addresses, so, we were on our own to find out.  As we shared our intentions with other parents, we noticed that most people didn’t even know this program existed.  And even when they all agreed with the fact that it is a great idea to grow bilingual kids, most of them shared with us that it would give them anxiety not being able to help their kids with homework at home.  Thanks to our network of friends through extracurricular activities, we got in contact with other parents of kids in the program.  Finding them was encouraging and so were the answers they provided.  They were all loving it.  Even those parents who did not speak both languages said they felt comfortable with their decision.  Eventually, our son was accepted to the program as an English speaker.  After thinking about it for a while, we thought that it was now or never.  If our youngest didn’t join the program as a first grader, he may not be allowed or may not have the opportunity to join in later grades.

In one of the articles we read when researching the subject online, Megan Unger, a Kindergarten teacher, wrote for The Carla Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition, that a Dual Language Immersion Program provides not only “the opportunity to become bilingual and biliterate while learning the same content their peers in other non immersion classrooms are learning”, but also that “it fosters an environment of cross-cultural exchange and understanding.”  That is a vital ingredient needed greatly in our society, and in today’s global economy.

Our hope is that participation in this program will provide our child with a more challenging approach to learning, which is a very welcome component being a gifted student.  We also feel It would make him a more well-rounded citizen, and we anticipate it will prepare him to be a better professional in the future by allowing him to communicate effectively with more people and visit many more places comfortably, two mayor requirements for being a top candidate in today’s workforce, and more so in the future.

Today was our son’s first day at his new school as a participant in the Dual Language Immersion.  When I picked him up in the afternoon and were driving to pick his big brother up, he said: “My first day was amazing!”.

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