The language immersion programs in Washington, D.C. are seeing new growth, however, the growth is quite lopsided since it is happening only in the western side of the river.
A couple in Washington, D.C., Jimell Sanders and Antawan Holmes, were looking for a school for their 15-month old daughter. They wanted a school that offers foreign languages to young children. The couple see the benefit of being bilingual, and believe that biliteracy and bilingualism will open up their daughter’s outlook and give her the chance to engage the world differently. Sanders had firsthand experience in this as he came from a military family and grew up overseas.
13 schools offering language programs
They found 13 elementary schools in the city that offer language programs. The problem is all the schools they found were too far from their place of residence in Deanwood, which is near Prince George’s County. They are lamenting the fact that there are no schools that offer language immersion programs in the eastern of the river.
These 13 elementary schools are located in 14 campuses in the city. The foreign language instruction forms a part of their school day. Twelve schools offer Spanish and 10 of these schools are located in the northwest. Overall, the schools are all located on Anacostia River’s western side.
Language advocacy group
With the dearth of dual language schools in their neighborhood, the couple joined the DC Language Immersion Project, a recently launched advocacy group that aims to expand language programs across Washington, D.C. The couple said they realized that they have to do something to make the dual language program available in schools in their side of town. They want to help the program grow and are hoping that they could bring the program to Houston Elementary, their neighborhood school so that their daughter will not have to travel far when she starts attending school.
High demand for foreign language immersion programs
The foreign language immersion programs are receiving a heightened demand. There are numerous applicants and the waiting list at the city’s six charter schools offering language immersion programs and seven traditional schools is getting longer.
In the country, foreign language instructions usually begin in middle school or in high school. But according to experts, this practice misses the school children’s early years when learning another language is easier for them. Schools in Washington, D.C. offer more options for foreign language classes in elementary schools compared to schools in surrounding districts, and the chancellor has added funding for classes in foreign language in more schools, offering them as introductory classes.
Parents are saying that there should be more intensive instruction in foreign language especially in Wards 7 and 8 to be fair, because these types of programs have shown an improvement in college and career prospects of students. Globalization is a major factor why the need for more people speaking foreign languages is peaking.
On December 4, the DC Language Immersion Project hosted an inaugural event at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. The event is co-hosted by the DC State Board of Education and the DC Public Library.