Prince George County in Maryland is working hard to immerse young students in foreign language. Three schools in the county started formally offering Spanish immersion as part of an expansion option for children this school year.
Mariluz Mendez, kindergarten teacher at Cesar Chavez Elementary School, says that some of her students who have never spoken a foreign language before her class are now reading books in Spanish.
Executive director of the American Council on Teaching of Foreign Languages, Marty Abbott explained that the number of school districts that use a foreign-language immersion model rises each year. Spanish is the most commonly taught foreign language in U.S. schools, while Chinese is seeing a significant increase.
Gina Bowler and Delores Millhouse, two parents who did not have children in the public schools last year, lobbied for Schools Chief Kevin M. Maxwell to add Spanish immersion to the district’s list of offerings.
Bowler wants to give her daughters all of the advantages available to other children. She believes fluency in multiple languages will give students “many advantages in their academic lives, their professional lives, and their personal lives.”
Right now, kindergarten classes in each of the three participating elementary schools enjoy the new offering. Subsequent grades will be added each year.
The district also offers Chinese immersion at a few schools.
I fully support Maryland in its decision to offer Spanish immersion in its kindergarten classes. Research points to benefits such as greater understanding, tolerance, and appreciation for other languages and cultures. I anticipate and hope that we will see an increase of language immersion programs throughout the U.S. in upcoming years.
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