Dual language programs use two languages
for literacy and content instruction for all
students. In the United States, programs
use English and a partner language, often Spanish.
The programs provide the same academic content
and address the same standards as other educational programs. They provide instruction in the
two languages over an extended period of time,
from kindergarten through at least fifth grade. Instruction is in the partner language at least 50% of the time.
Two-way immersion, a kind of dual language education that combines students from two language
groups for instruction in both of their languages,
has been in existence for nearly 40 years, and its
popularity has grown. During the first 20 years,
the number of new programs remained relatively
low. Only 30 programs were known to exist in the
mid-1980s (Lindholm, 1987). Over the past 15
years, however, the number of programs has risen
rapidly. Recently, 315 programs were documented
(Center for Applied Linguistics, 2005). The majority of them are Spanish/English programs in public
High quality two-way immersion programs share
The programs include fairly equal numbers
of two groups of students: native English
speakers and English language learners
(native speakers of another language, such
as Spanish, Korean, or Chinese).
immersion is a unique kind of language education
because it involves two languages in two ways:
Two languages are used for instruction, and two
groups of students are involved—students who
are native English speakers and students from another language background, most often Spanish.
The programs are integrated.
The native English speakers and English language learners are
grouped together for core academic instruction
(i.e., math, social studies, and science), not just
physical education and music, for all or most of the
The programs provide both groups of students with core academic instruction in
There are two main program
models in two-way immersion education that are
generally referred to as “90/10” and “50/50.” In a
90/10 model, 90% of instruction in the first year or
two is in the partner language and 10% in English.
Over the course of the primary grades, the percentage of instruction in the minority language decreases, while the percentage of instruction in English gradually increases. By about fourth or fifth
grade, instructional time in each language reaches a
50/50 ratio. In the 50/50 model, instruction in English and the partner language is divided evenly at all
Students will develop high levels of proficiency in their first language.
This goal means
that native English speakers will develop high levels
of listening, speaking, reading, and writing ability in
English, and English language learners will develop
these same abilities in their native language (e.g.,
Spanish). Neither group of students will have to
forego development in the native language as second language proficiency improves
All students will develop high levels of proficiency in a second language.
speakers will have the opportunity to develop high
levels of oral and written proficiency in a second
language. English language learners will have the
opportunity to develop high levels of oral and
written proficiency in English. The English language
development of English language learners will not
be diminished because they are also receiving instruction in their native language. Two-way immersion programs are called additive bilingual programs
for both groups of students: they give all students
the opportunity to maintain and develop oral and
written skills in their first language while they simultaneously acquire oral and written skills in a
Academic performance for both groups of
students will be at or above grade level.
language programs maintain the same academic
standards and curricula that are in place for other
students in a school district. Academic requirements are not diluted for dual language students,
and the same levels of academic performance are
expected for them as for other students in the
district. Evidence that this goal is attainable has
been documented in empirical studies (Cazabon,
Nicoladis, & Lambert, 1998; Lindholm-Leary, 2001;
Thomas & Collier, 2002).
All students will demonstrate positive crosscultural attitudes and behaviors.
classrooms bring together students from different
language, racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds, they allow students to learn first hand
about cultures that are different from their own.
Research has shown evidence of positive crosscultural attitudes being developed through TWI
programs (Cazabon, Lambert, & Hall, 1993; Freeman, 1998). Other studies point to the dominance
of the English language and the native English
speakers in the TWI classroom (Amrein & Peña,
2000; Carrigo, 2000; McCollum, 1999), suggesting
that particular attention may need to be paid to
Well-implemented two-way immersion programs
are among the most impressive forms of education
available in the United States. Students who participate in these programs gain grade level academic
ability, well-developed language and literacy skills in
two languages, and cross-cultural competence.
For more details about the basics of two-way immersion, read Two-Way Immerison101: Designing
and Implementing a TWI Education Program at the
Elementary School Level, an Educational Practice Report published by the Center for Research on Education, Diversity & Excellence (CREDE). For the
full text of Two-Way Immersion 101, visit http://
This document is part of the Two-Way Immersion
Toolkit, edited by Elizabeth R. Howard, Julie
Sugarman, Marleny Perdomo, and Carolyn T.
Adger (2005, The Northeast and Islands Regional
Educational Laboratory at Brown University —
Amrein, A., & Peña, R. A. (2000). Asymmetry in
dual language practice: Assessing imbalance in
a program promoting equality. Education Policy
Analysis Archives, 8.
Carrigo, D. L. (2000). Just how much English are they
using? Teacher and student language distribution
patterns, between Spanish and English, in uppergrade, dual language immersion Spanish classes.
Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, Harvard
Cazabon, M., Lambert, W. E., & Hall, G. (1993).
Dual language bilingual education: A progress
report on the Amigos program. Santa Cruz, CA,
and Washington, DC: National Center for
Research on Cultural Diversity and Second
Cazabon, M. T., Nicoladis, E., & Lambert, W. E.
(1998). Becoming bilingual in the Amigos dual
language immersion program (Research Report
No. 3). Santa Cruz, CA, and Washington, DC:
Center for Research on Education, Diversity
Center for Applied Linguistics. (2005). Directory of
two-way bilingual immersion programs in the
United States. Retrieved from http://
Freeman, R. D. (1998). Bilingual education and social
change. Philadelphia: Multilingual Matters.
Lindholm, K.J. (1987). Directory of Bilingual Immersion Programs (Educational Report No. 8). Los
Angeles: Center for Language Education and
Lindholm-Leary, K. (2001). Dual language education.
Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters.
McCollum, P. (1999). Learning to value English:
Cultural capital in a dual language bilingual
program. Bilingual Research Journal, 23, 133-34
Thomas, W. P., & Collier, V. (2002). A national
study of school effectiveness for language minority
students’ long-term academic achievement: Final
report, executive summary. Santa Cruz, CA, and
Washington, DC: Center for Research on
Education, Diversity & Excellence.