- Over the last 20 years, a rash of studies on bilingualism have revealed the many ways speaking two languages can change the brain, improving attention, empathy, reading skills and more.
- NPR reports people who are bilingual can focus on one task for longer and switch tasks more easily, they get more practice responding to social cues, they are better at reading, and those who actively use two languages seem to be protected from age-related dementia.
- Dual language programs, specifically, have been identified as a best practice for teaching English learners and researchers point out two-way dual language programs, where students of different language backgrounds learn together, reduces segregation.
Relatively few schools approach dual language education as a priority because of its demonstrated success for English learners. Many see it as an enrichment opportunity for native English speakers and a way to prepare students for a global society. In Massachusetts, dual language programs are too close to the banned bilingual education model to be allowed without waivers for entire classes of English learners.
One important challenge of dual language programs is finding teachers who are qualified to lead them. Even teachers who are bilingual may not have the language skills or content vocabulary to teach specific subjects in a language other than English. Some districts have looked abroad to Puerto Rico, Mexico and Spain to fill local gaps. If dual language education continues to gain in popularity, however, policymakers will have to consider providing more supports and incentives for training and professional development.