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Dual language programs take root in Smyrna

The world is quickly changing – there is no doubt about that. It is now vital to stay ahead of the curve with both business and cultural practices.  With that process, however, comes a need to adapt, which can include adjusting the way classes are taught in local schools. Georgia’s Dual Language Immersion (DLI) Program Initiative has plans to do just that.

With ten schools, Cobb County has the largest number of schools participating in this program. The program started last year at Smyrna Elementary and in 2016-2017, Smyrna schools Nickajack Elementary, Norton Park Elementary and Russell Elementary will also be participating. Private schools are also offering more intense language programs. For example, Atlanta Trilingual Academy in Smyrna offers a full language immersion program and St. Benedict’s Episcopal School teaches all students Spanish daily.

Students involved in a dual-language class typically spend half of their school day taking classes in the chosen immersion language while the remaining half of classes are taught in English. Target language classes include math, science, literacy, and social studies, while English language arts, reading, and specials are taught in English.

What is Dual Immersion?

Quite simply, it’s when students learn content through both their native language and the target language. The target language is decided by the community, who also votes to bring the specific programs to the schools. Whether it be French, Spanish, Portuguese, or Chinese, children are taught by qualified, often native speaking, teachers, and are still required to meet the same standards and expectations of other kids in their grade.

Diane Kordel is a teacher and elementary school parent who was instrumental in bringing dual language immersion programs to Nickajack Elementary. She will be the lead Spanish teacher in the school’s dual language immersion class. When asked what led her to be part of the program, Ms. Kordel was excited to share her reasons, backed by extensive research.

“As the only Spanish speaking teacher at Nickajack Elementary, I was very fortunate to have this opportunity presented to me by our previous principal, Beverly Lloyd,” Ms. Kordel said. “After attending a couple of trainings with Mrs. Lloyd and my co-teacher Jensen Morris, as well as observing the Kindergarten Dual Language Immersion teachers at Smyrna Elementary and speaking to Dr. Barfield, the World Languages and Dual Language Immersion Program Specialist, I knew that this would be a fantastic opportunity for me professionally. I also knew it would be a great advantage for our students at Nickajack.”

What are the Benefits of Dual Language Immersion?

Dual immersion is a trend that is quickly sweeping the nation, and the benefits are endless. According to gadoe.org, students in the dual language programs usually have higher proficiency in the second language than with traditional foreign language instruction. Other benefits include a longer attention span and better memory and problem solving skills. They typically score higher on standardized tests, and have higher attendance rates and lower drop-out rates.  Above all, these students are better prepared for 21st century job markets and global citizenship than others.

“As a parent, I think this is a wonderful opportunity for children, especially at a young age to be exposed to multiple languages and have the ability to read, write and speak in another language,” Kordel said. “As a teacher, I believe this is a huge advantage for our students! This is not only going to allow students to be bilingual but help them in their future when competing for jobs globally and providing our students the ability to use the Spanish language in real-world situations.”

Learning is always a good thing – and with our ever-changing world, an ever-changing way of education is both necessary and beneficial.