Research offers support of young dual-language learners

Cropped Photo: U.S. Department of Education / CC BY 2.0
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By: Ivanhoe Newswire
December 4, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Spanish remains the most commonly spoken language in the United States after English. Research finds that children benefit from growing up bilingual, but how can schools and parents help kids dominate both languages?

The friends at the Puerto Rican Action Board’s Raritan Gardens Preschool greet each other in English and Spanish; two of the many languages spoken by children at the preschool in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Milagros Nores, PhD, is the co-director of the National Institute for Early Education Research. She said this preschool program supports dual-language learners effectively.

In a Rutgers study, three and four year olds were randomly assigned to either an English-Spanish program or an English-only program. Researchers found the two-way immersion program strengthened learning and development in both languages. Most importantly, English-only children did not regress.

In fact, other research has shown bilingual children have better memories and are able to recall things more quickly. It’s a lesson even Nores takes to heart with her four children.

“If they’re in school five or six hours, I need to make sure I balance that with five to six hours with Spanish,” Nores told Ivanhoe.

Nores recommends parents ask schools what they’re doing to support the home language and what families can do to help.

Rita Koromi, Senior Director of Early Childhood and Youth Services at PRAB, said, “Bringing books in. Helping us with signs. Things the children are already familiar with.”

This can help kids reach their potential in any language.

The National Institute for Early Education Research said high-quality preschools can reduce early disadvantages.

However, only 12 percent of state funded programs have policies regarding training for teachers of dual-language learners and only about 35 percent assess children in the language they speak at home.

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