Dual language skills widen the paths to success
By Sen. Carlos Uresti
The old saying about cooperation and problem solving – two heads are better than one – continues to withstand the test of time. That same idea is quickly becoming the foundation of another common wisdom: two languages are better than one.
Because of Texas' economic and cultural ties to Mexico and our rapidly changing demographics, the linguistic diversity that has always existed in the Lone Star State is becoming more common and more important – both socially and economically.
This new reality is evident everywhere in Texas, particularly in San Antonio and the counties of Senate District 19. We see it every day in our schools, churches, and workplaces. It must be embraced and encouraged, and a great way to do that is through dual language education.
Currently there are more than 20 dual language schools in the district, and these programs have already shown great success among minority children. The ability to communicate in two languages gives students the opportunity to explore both their native and adoptive cultures and the skills they need to be successful.
The benefits of dual language programs are forcing school districts across the state to take a second look at traditional bilingual education, where children are instructed in their native language while transitioning into English. In these programs, students tend to lose their native language. And when that happens, more is lost than just the words.
Dual language programs teach academic content in both their native language and English. In many programs, children who only speak English learn Spanish and children who speak Spanish learn English. Both the native speaker and the English speaker are placed in the same classroom.
The dual language emersion approach is clearly more beneficial to students in Texas, which is already a so-called "minority-majority" state and will post a Hispanic majority in the near future. Dual language programs validate native tongues, provide more confidence to native speakers and make both Hispanics and Anglos more competitive in the job market.
More and more, educators are viewing dual language education as a way to close the achievement gap between non-English speakers and their counterparts in public schools. It provides native Spanish speakers with the English language skills they need and enriches the lives of native English speakers who want to learn a second language.
So for students who hail from both cultures, dual language programs foster knowledge, understanding and mutual respect, and widen everyone's path to succeed. In the Texas that is fast approaching, two languages will be much better than one.