The advantage of a two-way dual-language program is that it combines native speakers with new-language learners. Each student has the opportunity to be both a first-language model and a second-language learner.

The Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA) states some of the benefits for both groups of language students in a two-way program. “Language-minority students build their native language proficiency, which in the long run strengthens their acquisition of the majority language (English). English speakers develop proficiency in a new language, and their English skills are strengthened by this additional cognitive process. They maintain use of English in the majority culture, so their English skills do not diminish during the time they are immersed in the new language, and their English school achievement eventually outperforms that of native English speakers who have been schooled in English-only instruction.”

The University of Minnesota’s Center for Advanced Research of Language Acquisition (CARLA), which works to improve the nation’s capacity to teach and learn foreign languages, also shares benefits of two-way dual immersion. “An academically challenging learning environment is provided to bring children from two different language groups together to learn from and with each other in an integrated setting. Instruction through the minority language is viewed as an enrichment experience for all, not as remedial or compensatory education for the language minority students in the program.”

CARLA also states that in order to qualify as a two-way dual-immersion program, a minimum of one-third of each language group (i.e., a 2:1 ratio) is required. Eastern Carver County Schools’ two-way dual-immersion program, La Academia, meets the requirements of at least one-third native English speakers and at least one-third native Spanish speakers. Kindergarten instruction begins with 90% of the core academic instruction in Spanish and 10% in English. As children progress through the grades, the percentages shift until both languages are taught 50% of the day.

To learn more about IDRA, go to http://www.idra.org. For more information on CARLA, visit http://www.carla.umn.edu/index.html