Monterey County

Salinas students learn two languages at once through dual immersion program

Salinas City Elementary pioneers successful language learning program in county

Dual language program for children

A new bill in the California Assembly would repeal a law that prohibits bilingual education in California schools. But in one Salinas district, some students as young as 5 in Salinas are still learning English and Spanish at the same time in school.

The lesson today is "Who is your hero?"

At Lincoln School in Salinas, second grader Mia Banda read her essay about how her parents are her heroes.

"Mis padres son mis heroes por muchas rasones," read Banda from her essay in Spanish.

This class isn't just another Spanish elective. It's a program where these kids, every day, are completely submerged in Spanish.

"They are learning it through context, their Spanish is actually very academic, so they will learn that through a 90/10 model, 90 percent of their day is spent in Spanish," said Maria Giannini, with Dual Immersion Advocates.

The rest of their day is in English. But Gianni said that changes to a 50/50 balance when the kids enter fouth grade. The program is for both English-learners and English native speakers.

"Children that actually become literate in their native home language they are becoming reclassified as English-proficient at a much higher rate than kids that are English learners that are forced into an English immersion," said Giannini.

English immersion is the goal of a proposition that a senator is now trying to repeal. Proposition 227 banned bilingual education. But through a waiver signed by parents, this dual immersion program in the Salinas City Elementary School District is able to continue.

The program is also available at Boronda Meados Elementary School and Los Padres Elementary School.

"We like put native Spanish speakers or native target language speakers with native English speakers. You put them into a classroom setting with a fluent native like teacher who teaches through context so they are learning everything that a kid would learn here in California, in a regular English class, they just happen to be learning it through their target language which in our case is Spanish," said Giannini.

Sen. Ricardo Lara's legislation will be put for a vote in the 2016 election. Incidentally, Giannini said dual immersion programs in the past year have increased by 300 percent nationwide.

For more information about the program click here.

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