Dual-language programs will yield economic benefits

August 2nd, 2016

KPC Media 

If northeast Indiana wants to attract and retain talent and companies, then supporting dual-language programs is a great way to start.

We were pleased to see several northeast Indiana primary schools recently receive state grants for such programs and we would like to see additional area schools have the ability to offer similar classes.

Doing business at home means interacting with individuals from across the world. The study of language at an early age not only prepares children to compete and communicate in a global marketplace but also provides them a great understanding of another culture — a soft skill that can prove beneficial in many professional situations.

The local programs receiving state grants for dual-language programs are elementaries in the Goshen Community Schools, Warsaw Community Schools and West Noble School Corp.

The grants are part of a dual language immersion pilot program created by the 2015 General Assembly. The pilot program is allocating $1 million over two years for schools to create or expand a program that allows students to receive 50 percent of their lessons in English and 50 percent in another language. Such a program typically begins with kindergarten or first grade and then continues through an elementary career.

Appropriately, Spanish will be the second language taught at the Goshen and West Noble primary school dual-language programs. Each school’s population is about 50 percent Latino. In addition to assisting children to become bilingual, school officials hope the programs will bring the community together.

“I think it is just the awareness of differences,” said Brian Shepherd, West Noble Primary principal. “It’s important to shine on both, to show that just because we’re different doesn’t mean we can’t learn from each other.”

According to the most recent American Community Survey data, one in five U.S. residents speaks a foreign language at home.

Some studies show that students who enter American schools not speaking English, but then master the language, often have better academic careers than their English-only peers.

A number of scientific studies over the years support the need to provide multiple languages in elementary schools. A bilingual brain has advantages over monolingual peers, in part, because being fluent in two or more languages enhances a person’s ability to concentrate. Some studies suggest that bilingual children show greater problem-solving skills and greater creativity.

For all of these reasons, promoting a multilingual learning environment for the region’s children can only benefit them and the local companies who would like to hire them some day.