Preparing Global Citizens: Studies show the benefits of two-way dual language program


Expanding Dallas Independent School District’s two-way dual-language offerings has been a top priority of the district. And while Dallas ISD facilitates one of the largest dual-language programs in the country, the Bilingual/ESL department is working to add 28 additional two-way dual language programs by the start of the 2016-2017 school year.

Why the emphasis on two-way dual language in Dallas ISD?

Cloris Rangel, the district’s director of Bilingual Programs, said the two-way dual-language program brings many benefits.

“Being bilingual and bi-literate gives students a huge leg up not just in school, but in their lives well beyond graduation,” Rangel said. “For these students and their families, it breaks down the barriers of communication that can separate different cultures and any cultural taboos, helping them grow into globally sensitive adults.”

In a 2015 Hub article on the program at Alex Sanger Elementary, Elsy Serpas, a sixth-grade math teacher who teaches under the two-way dual-language curriculum model, says students who graduate fully bilingual are able to more successfully compete in college or the workforce.

“In this country and in the world, it’s almost becoming necessary to be bilingual,” Serpas said. “If we don’t start teaching our children now, it will be much harder to compete with the world.”

The district’s Bilingual/ESL department touts that being bilingual can enable children to perform better academically, enrich their career earning potential, help them engage in exchanges with other cultures, and empower children to better solve problems and make decisions.

Study after study reiterates the power of learning a second language as it relates to developing a stronger brain marked by more efficient executive functioning, which includes the brain’s ability to multi-task, problem solve, or filter out unnecessary information.

In the 1960s, researchers saw the opportunity to acquire another language as one that interfered with a student’s learning and development by taking time away from learning actual content and concepts due to time spent differentiating and translating language.

However, more recent studies paint a different picture. In addition to improved cognitive functioning, the ability to learn another language can improve brain health and delay the onset of diseases such as Dementia and Alzheimer’s by as much as five years. Other studies site a greater social and emotional intelligence due to experience with another language and culture.

Katherine Kinzler, associate professor of psychology and human development at Cornell University, wrote in a recent New York Times submission that mere exposure to another language also helps develop children’s social abilities. In a study conducted at the University of Chicago, bilingual or multilingual children were better able to communicate considering the perspective of those with which they interacted.

“Multilingual exposure, it seems, facilitates the basic skills of interpersonal understanding,” Kinzler writes. “Of course, becoming fully bilingual or multilingual is not always easy or possible for everyone. But the social advantage we have identified appears to emerge from merely being raised in an environment in which multiple languages are experienced, not from being bilingual per se.”

In a TED Ed Talk on the subject, Mia Nacamulli, states, “Learning a language in childhood may give a more holistic grasp of its social and emotional contexts. Conversely, research shows people who learn a second language in adulthood exhibit less emotional bias and a more rational approach when confronting problems in the second language than in their native one.”

For more information on Dallas ISD’s two-way dual-language opportunities, make plans to attend the district’s two-way informational fair from 9 a.m.–noon on April 9 at Townview located at 1201 E 8th St.

Visit the two-way homepage for more information or to see a list of schools offering two-way dual language programs.


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