Dual-Language Education

Different models

Dual-language education is considered to be an effective way of learning a new language and in many countries of the world, it represents an increasingly popular pedagogic approach. In the United States and Canada, several models coexist.

50/50 MODEL

There are multiple ways to implement a dual language program. In some schools, two teachers share two classes or two groups of students. One of them teaches only in French and the other only in English, alternating every two days. Other models have chosen the « independent » way, where the teacher gives lessons in both languages. It could be in French for the morning classes and then in English for the afternoon classes, or they could alternate between days taught completely in French and others completely in English.

90/10 MODEL

For 90% of the time, students are taught in the partner language. The remaining 10% are taught in English, although this time is increased throughout the years until both are used for 50% of the time (usually as soon as the third year).


This involves education in a child’s native language, typically for no more than three years, to ensure that students do not fall behind in content areas like mathematics, science, and social studies while they are learning English. Research has shown that many of the skills learned in the native language can be transferred easily to the second language later. The goal is to help students transition to mainstream, English-only classrooms as quickly as possible, and the linguistic goal of such programs is English acquisition only. In a transitional bilingual program, the student’s primary language is used as a vehicle to develop literacy skills and acquire academic knowledge. It is used to develop literacy and academic skills in the primary language.

Read more: An Overview of Models of Bilingual Education by Anna Hurajová

Dual-Language Education

Achieving full bilingualism and biliteracy

in a national/regional language and a partner language.

What is a Dual-Language Program?

In a dual-language program, students study language arts and other academic content (math, sciences, social studies, art) in both languages during the course of the program. The partner language is used for at least 50% of instruction at all grades, and the program lasts at least 5 years (preferably from Kindergarten to 12th grade). A dual language program serves both native speakers of the national/regional and native speakers of the partner language, with neither group making up more than two-thirds of the student population. There have been a number of different dual language programs created over the years in the U.S., in languages such as Spanish, Chinese, French, Russian, Haitian Creole, Italian, Bengali, Polish, Arabic, Hebrew, or Yiddish.

Read more: Dual Language Education Programs: Current State Policies and Practices

Utah Dual Language Immersion (DLI) program

Having identified a need for language skills in business, government, and education, Utah Senate passed the International Initiatives (Senate Bill 41) in 2008, creating funding for DLI programs in Chinese, French, and Spanish. The DLI program now serves 32,000 students across 162 schools, of which 20 are French DLI programs.

The program uses a 50/50 immersion model, where students receive 50% of their instruction in the target language and the other 50% in English. Most of the state’s programs begin in first grade, with a few starting in kindergarten. All state-sponsored schools with DLI programs are required to implement the 50:50 model and use two teachers: one who instructs exclusively in the target language for half of the day and a second who teaches in English the remainder of the day. Watch this video from Granite School District.


Implementing a Dual Language Program can have many benefits for a public school.

– It can give the school access to additional funding from the government.

– It leads to the activation of an engaged and dynamic parent pool. Parents who enroll their children in dual language programs are often very motivated, and thus very involved in the development of the program and of the school as a whole.

– It can bring new opportunities for student enrichment throughout the school.

– Students from dual language programs perform better and obtain higher average results on standardized tests.

– All of these factors participate in differentiating the school, making it more appealing for incoming students, and boosting their visibility and reputation.

Read more: The Astounding Effectiveness of Dual Language Education for All by Virginia Collier & Wayne Thomas


A critical number of English as a Second Language Learners (ELLs) need dual language instruction in order to speak English. Where transitional bilingual programs have had a bad reputation on gentrification, dual-language is another story entirely and can have many benefits for the community.

– They have shown to actually increase diversity in the classroom. DLPs provide integrated, inclusive and unifying educational experiences for their students, in contrast to the segregated, exclusive and divisive educational characteristics of many traditional English-only and transitional bilingual programs.

– Establishing dual language programs in public schools provides access to quality programs to children of diverse socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds.

– Dual language programs have the unique capability of cultivating relationships among diverse groups of people within a community, thereby bridging traditional identity “barriers.”  As children from different linguistic backgrounds, cultures, and perhaps socio-economic statuses, interact with each other daily in the classroom, families may eventually form friendships and relationships that cross these seemingly impenetrable boundaries.

– The high desirability of immersion programs can act as a draw for families to give their neighborhood school a try. They can increase education choice and quality in public schools.

– Creating a DLP brings very motivated parents willing to take action and adding fund-raising capabilities thus revitalizing the school and the neighborhood.

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