My middle child is in the final weeks of his kindergarten year. He is part of our school's inaugural Dual Language cohort, and I could not be more excited about this path for him.
In this program the class is composed of students who primarily speak English at home and students who primarily speak Spanish at home. The same group of children will move through elementary school together creating a consistent learning community. Students learn in both languages; at the kindergarten level this is accomplished through a "language of the day" and through the amazing work of our children's teacher. I have been in the classroom and witnessed firsthand how learning and conversation consists of a blend of directions/questions/comments delivered in two languages.
What's even more awesome is that it is working.
At mid-year my son had some pretty solid pre-literacy skills. He could "read" a book to you if it was one he was already familiar with, he could sight read a handful of words. Then, seemingly overnight, he launched full-force into reading with fluency. I love to have him read to me--he tackles challenging books and is able to see them through without getting frustrated.
Recently his teacher has been sending home books in Spanish in his homework folder. And not only can my son read in English, he can also read in Spanish. He sounds out the words--in proper Spanish pronunciation. He can switch from one language to another, from one accent to another.
It's maybe the coolest thing ever.
Critics of the dual language program question how our children can gain the requisite depth of knowledge in subject matter to pass standardized testing. They worry that the English speaking kids will miss out on content, and that the Spanish speaking kids will miss out on developing true fluency in English.
Watching my son and his classmates at work and play, I can tell you that I have no such concerns. Yes, I am concerned with curriculum and training for the teachers. I am concerned about the school district's commitment to the dual language model. I am motivated to improve my Spanish skills so that I can keep up with my son.
The ability to think and feel in multiple languages is an incredible achievement--what a gift to our children.