Utah is taking massive action with their language immersion programs and effectively jumping on the band wagon by joining the hottest trend in bilingual education. It’s OK Utah, we are happy to have you! Why is it important and how does it affect us?
Dual-language immersion programs are now growing fast in many states as the outcry against bilingual education fades. Educators are looking for ways to prepare American students for a multilingual job market that operates globally. To accomplish this, they are wisely turning to language immersion programs.
Language immersion programs are a form of bilingual education that promotes the development of bilingual children through teaching only in the minority language while at school. Think of One Parent One Language… but with only one parent; the teacher(s).
Utah, the state which routinely ranks last in the nation on education spending, according to United States Census figures, has embraced the idea with an unlikely zeal even after having passed the English Only law in 2000. See more here: Utah passed an ”English Only” law in 2000. They have apparently changed their minds, as the quote below underlines the important aspects of the English Only law:
The English-only law, which was passed in Utah in 2000, allows exemptions only for issues of public health and safety, court proceedings, education and tourism.
Utah is seeing the language immersion programs as a catalyst to become a bigger player in the world economy. The Republicans in Salt Lake City have promised millions of dollars to the program. This is, in part, due to the popularity of these programs.
Language Immersion Programs in Utah began about four years ago, however have really gained popularity recently. 14,000 students are currently enrolled with options in French, Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin. German and Arabic are next on the docket. These programs start in first grade and go through middle school. Successful students then can study college courses in language throughout high school.
So what are the enrolled numbers for next year? 20,000 students! That is an increase of 43% in one year. Now that is growth! Language Immersion Programs have sprouted up all over the place and are growing equally fast in metropolitan areas around the world. Even in the upper-Midwest, where I am from, the programs are catching on. I have family members who have enrolled their children in these programs in cities like Minneapolis, MN of all places; apparently a hotbed for these forward-thinking programs.
Whether we like it or not, globalization is taking over. China is becoming a powerhouse in the world and the Middle-East is affecting our daily lives more and more in everything from oil to cultural issues and wars. If we want the children of today to compete in this global economy, we need to be encouraging global citizenship and raising bilingual children.
I’m excited to see where all of this goes. Hopefully language immersion programs aren’t just the new fad, and are here to stay. Outside of the many benefits of being bilingual, knowing another language is very personally rewarding. I’ll leave you with a quote from Mr. Nelson Mandela:
We want our future leaders to be able to connect with the rest of the world, so let’s start today!
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