Last week, I held a virtual webinar on dual-language programs. I know that there are a lot of presentations out there on the topic, but I wanted to provide a more practical aspect (peppered with research, of course). I wanted to make sure the audience walked away with a better understanding of how to implement a successful one. For example, in my experience, prior to COVID, I was in school districts that opted to stop teaching in Spanish just because of the state standardized testing in English. If this takes place, then we are not being faithful to the model. Teaching for biliteracy is quite different from teaching for monolingual literacy. Another aspect that was discussed was the cultural component: Both administrators and teachers must be familiar with the cultural, linguistic, and educational backgrounds of the students in their building. Since the goal is to help students become bilingual, bi-literate, and bicultural, cross-cultural awareness for both languages is a must.
According to Beeman and Urow (2013), assigning a content area to one language is cleaner and simpler than sharing content across languages. Besides talking about the benefits of a dual-language program such as educational, cognitive, socio-cultural and economic, (where there are enhanced employment opportunities). I mentioned a close case that I know of where somebody who works for the United Nations and who masters a language other than English) in this case: Spanish, received an automatic jump of $10,000 per year in salary. I also mentioned to the group the health benefits…. needless to say, there was quite a “pregnant’ pause since this is something the group rarely thought about: Research has proven that bilingual or multilingual people do NOT suffer from Alzheimer’s dementia compared to monolingual groups! This is quite some benefit.
I also discussed the cultural norms of language use:
The Spanish writing samples have
- Fewer sentences
- Longer sentences
- More run-on sentences
- More repetition and rephrasing of ideas or examples
- Little use of enumeration (first, then, and next)
- More conscious deviations from the main theme or point of the text
There was time for a little reflection (which is crucial):
- What are you doing now that you feel is working?
- What are you doing now that you feel might need to be changed?
- What would you like to see done?
- What are you doing to contribute to this change?
- What would you like to see more of?
- What would you like to see less of?
The above led to the following:
Phonemic awareness – the foundation for spelling and word recognition skills in Spanish:
- Alphabet system
- Sound recognition production
- Modeling productions of sounds (phonetics and phonology tend to be neglected areas)
- Teaching phonics in content- letters, beginning and ending, consonant combinations, rhyming words, compound words, word families, and COGNATES (both the true and valid ones from the false ones, such as exit for éxito or embarrassed for emabarazada
- Rules for accents (another neglected area). We need to make sure the students are exposed to graves, agudas, esdrújulas, and sobresdrújulas.
- Keeping in mind the models used in Central and South America, the inclusion of “el dictado” (dictation) should be included as well.