Dual-Language Immersion

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On Saturday April 13, 2013 in the Learning Corridor citizens of Hartford, concerned parents, reformers, educators, lawyers, and even students came together to discuss the creation of a multi-district dual-language magnet school for the Hartford region. These schools bring together students who speak different languages and educate them together in both languages in order for every child to become bilingual and biliterate. Andrea Dyrness and Enrique Sepulveda welcomed all guests and introduced three panelists, Liz Howard, Marina Perez Taverner, and Robert Cotto, who spoke about various aspects of creating this type of school in Hartford.

I had no prior knowledge of dual-language schools and this meeting was very informative. The model, in my opinion, is brilliant. To take children who speak different native tongues and educate them together, in both languages, is a wonderful way not only to create bilingualism, but also to encourage “intercultural competence.” To inspire sentiments of tolerance and acceptance of other cultures in children at such a young age can only benefit society. In addition, bilingualism is an invaluable skill that, I feel, is often overlooked in the United States.

When I learned from Liz Howard that Hartford used to be a “stronghold” of dual language education in the state of Connecticut, I was very surprised. I was interested in the reasons why the system might have been dissolved in the area. The video testimonials of parents and students involved with the Puentes dual-language program compiled by Nyesha McCauley was my favorite part of the discussion. I was pleasantly surprised by how wise the children interviewed were. Students Hirishi, Santiago Cortes, and Finella Smith shared some very wise words about how mastering two languages will be very helpful as they grow older and how being bilingual allows them to make friends with new people. The fact that children so young could recognize these values only reinforced my support for dual-language schools.

I believe that dual-language immersion programs in Hartford would be a great success. Robert Gotto explained that to create this magnet school in Hartford is, in fact, feasible and I hope that it becomes a reality for the region. I have mentored in a local elementary school for the past two years and many of the students I have interacted with are not native English speakers; I do believe that many of these youth, if not all, would benefit a great deal from a dual-language program. I think the creation of a multi-district dual-language magnet school in Hartford would be a wonderful asset to the community.