Bilingual is Better
Photo by //amy//

Photo by //amy//

The following is a guest post written by Suzanne G. Mateus, a doctoral student in Bilingual and Bicultural Education and a bilingual teacher. She is a supporter of dual language immersion schools. You can find out more about her through her blog, Interpretations of a Bilingual Life.

Saludos! I’m excited to share with all of you, the readers of SpanglishBaby, my volunteering experience with Magellan International School (MIS), a dual language immersion school in Austin, Texas, that is scheduled to open fall of 2009! ¡Por fin!

Let me preface my posting by stating that I am a first year doctoral student in the bilingual and bicultural education program at the University of Texas (UT) at Austin and a bilingual reading and writing teacher, also in Austin. When I heard of the request to help observe children to more or less determine their language proficiencies as well as social, academic and emotional levels, I jumped at the opportunity. MIS has already done a lot of the groundwork required prior to implementing a successful dual language school, like gathering support from the community and parental commitment. I’m not a parent, yet, but I have been letting everyone know about this wonderful school. I firmly believe that everyone should have the chance to learn a second language from the time they enter kindergarten.

There has been a dual language movement stirring in the Austin community for a few years now. When I came back to Texas in 2007, after teaching in a two-way immersion school in Kansas City, Missouri, I was utterly amazed that my town, a progressive, multicultural university community nestled in the heart of Central Texas did not have a single dual language program!

It isn’t difficult to infer through my various experiences in Austin as a doctoral student, teacher and community member that there is still a lot of advocacy work to do to inform the community as to what dual language education means. That being said we are definitely making gains and MIS is the perfect example to prove it! Similar to other dual language immersion programs, the idea of MIS originated from parents wanting their children to learn another language in school and at a very young age. The founder of MIS, Erin Defosse, started advocating for raising bilingual children, like many of us who have a desire to build awareness about being bilingual with a blog called Austin Bilingüe.

During my two-hour volunteering session, I was excited about the parents eagerness to have their children enrolled in MIS. At one point, I spoke to Defosse about my experiences as a two-way immersion teacher and about my husband´s experience in an International Baccalaureate school in Bogota, Colombia, where the founding head of MIS, María Isabel León, is conincidentaly coming from. He shared with me that he intends to continue to advocate for dual language immersion education in the Austin community by expanding the support at MIS to include university professors and students from the teacher education programs at UT.

I cannot end this post without mentioning the children I spoke with in both English and Spanish this past weekend. There was a range of children in terms of bilingual proficiencies. They all seemed very interested in speaking another language and smiled when I said something in Spanish. The children we were observing ranged in age from three to seven years old. Most of the time they would either give me a short verbal response in Spanish or would respond in English, confirming they understood my questions or comments in Spanish. I walked away with a glimpse of what the school could achieve in terms of the way I see my town in the near future: a progressive, multicultural and multilingual university community nestled in the heart of Central Texas.

List of English-Spanish dual immersion programs

Although the following is only a partial list, we wanted to share with you some schools with English-Spanish dual immersion programs around the country:

Escuela Bilingüe Internacional-Oakland, CA

International School of Portland-Portland, OR

Jardín de Niños Interlingua-Austin, TX

The Awty International School-Houston, TX

Worldspeak-Los Angeles, CA

Denver International School-Denver, CO

For a searchable directory of dual-language immersion programs in the US, visit the Center for Applied Linguistics’ website by clicking here.

Want to know more about dual language immersion programs? We’ve put together a three-part series with useful information about this type of education. What are these programs all about? Do they really work? What do parents whose kids are enrolled in them have to say about them? What can you do if this option doesn’t exist in your area?


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