Dual language programs prepare students for a global society
By Tara Garcia Mathewson
Most kids get excited about pizza and cupcakes when their parents let them host birthday parties. Chase Dorn always preferred sushi and seaweed.
The 15-year-old Conant High School sophomore wants to go into law and work for a Japanese company. And while she has no Japanese heritage, she speaks the language fluently, impressing natives with how accurate her accent is.
“People are always so surprised when I tell them I speak Japanese,” Chase says. “It’s always going to be a good asset. It’s become a big part of my life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Chase’s connection to Japanese language and culture was cemented over eight years in one of the nation’s only Japanese-English dual language programs, which started at Dooley Elementary School in Schaumburg in 2001.
Modern dual language programs have taken off in the past five to eight years, said Edward Tabet-Cubero, deputy director of Dual Language Education of New Mexico, a nonprofit technical assistance center that works with school districts across the country to implement dual language programs. He has been helping Elgin Area School District U-46 with its nearly unprecedented rollout of Spanish/English instruction, the planning for which started about three years ago.
Districts in Carpentersville, Crystal Lake, Mundelein, Elk Grove, Naperville, Vernon Hills and Woodstock also have dual language programs at various stages of development. Most offer Spanish and English as the program languages, but Schaumburg Township Elementary District 54 and Barrington Area Unit District 220 also have programs in Chinese and English.
Educators and parents are increasingly seeing bilingualism as an asset, forcing program expansion across the region and creating waiting lists for the first time.
“It’s about changing the mindset of this as a remedial program for immigrant students to an enrichment program for all students to be competitive in a global marketplace,” Tabet-Cubero said.
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