Massachusetts Association for Bilingual Education

A nonprofit organization for  educators, families, and policy makers

Definition of Dual Language Education

Dual language programs foster bilingualism, biliteracy, enhanced awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity, and high levels of academic achievement through instruction in two languages.  Dual language is a form of bilingual education in which students are taught literacy and content (academic subjects like math, science, English/language arts, reading, and social sciences) in two languages.

There are four main types of dual language programs, which mainly differ in the population:

  1. Developmental, or maintenance, bilingual programs. These enroll primarily students who are native speakers of the partner language.
  2. Two-way (bilingual) immersion programs. These enroll a balance of native English speakers and native speakers of the partner language.
  3. Foreign language immersion, language immersion or one-way immersion. These enroll primarily native English speakers.
  4. Heritage language programs. These mainly enroll students who are dominant in English but whose parents, grandparents, or other ancestors spoke the partner language.

There are two basic models:    

  1. Full Immersion (90/10): In two-way and developmental bilingual programs, the partner language is used most or all of the day in the primary grades (80-90%). Foreign language (one-way) immersion programs that implement the full immersion program use the partner language for 100% of subject matter instruction, and in some cases, also offer specialist classes in the partner language. In all cases, the partner language and English are used equally in the later grades. 
  2. Partial Immersion (50/50): The partner language and English are used equally throughout the program.

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