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Frequently Asked Questions

California Department of Education
Two-Way Language Immersion Program FAQ

Two-Way Bilingual Immersion Programs in California frequently asked questions on two-way instructional approaches and other issues.

What is the difference between a 90:10 and a 50:50 model?

The first number refers to the amount of instructional time initially spent for instruction in the target or non-English language in kindergarten. The second number refers to English. In a 90:10 model the amount of the target language decreases yearly as English increases until there is a 50:50 balance of the languages generally in grades four through six. A 50:50 model uses English and the target language for 50 percent of the time throughout the duration of the program.

Why is it okay to immerse English speakers in a language, but not Spanish speakers?

The English speaker is not at risk of losing the English language. English is spoken at home, in the community, and in the media. Two-way bilingual immersion programs are not replacing English with another language, but provide the students the opportunity to acquire a second language. Two-way bilingual immersion programs are additive programs in that a second language is acquired while maintaining the first language of the students.

Which model is more effective - 50:50 or 90:10?

Regardless of the model implemented, both models have been found to effectively achieve the goals of bilingualism and bi-literacy; however, the 90:10 model has been shown to create higher levels of bilingualism. For specific research studies, consult the Center for Applied Linguistics FAQs.

Should students enter a two-way bilingual immersion program after first grade?

Usually two-way programs do not accept English-only speakers after first grade and English learners after second grade. Bilingual and bi literate students can enter the program at any time.

Can you include English learners of a language other than Spanish in a Spanish/English two-way bilingual immersion program?

English learners in a Spanish/English two-way bilingual immersion program should be Spanish speakers. However, speakers of other languages who are proficient in either Spanish or English could be eligible for enrollment in the program.

Must you have parallel materials in both languages in the content areas?

No, materials are acquired according to the language of instruction of the content area. For example, if the decision is made to teach math in Chinese and social studies in English, then the mathematics materials should be in Chinese and the social studies materials should be in English. The difference is in the language of delivery, not the content.

How is a two-way bilingual immersion program integrated with other programs at a school site?

The two-way program should not be viewed as a separate program. The school should develop a common vision of equity for all students that values the students language and culture. The same standards-based curriculum is taught in the two-way bilingual immersion program that is taught in other school programs. Staff development should be provided for all staff so that the philosophy and program goals are shared. Sufficient time must also be allocated to the specific needs of the two-way program staff.

How can "quality control?" be maintained in a two-way bilingual immersion program?

Ongoing monitoring of the program is very important. Time should be allocated for teachers to meet in grade-level groups and across grades to discuss program design issues and to interpret student data. These sessions can be facilitated by an administrator, resource teacher, or designated lead teacher who is knowledgeable in two-way bilingual immersion program design and instruction.

Do you need two teachers per classroom to implement a two-way bilingual immersion program?

No, one teacher who is proficient in the target language and English can successfully implement a two-way bilingual immersion program in the classroom. It is recommended, however, that teachers team teach for the language blocks of instruction, especially in the primary (kindergarten through second) grades so that students identify with a target language speaking model and an English-speaking model. 

It is advantageous that during the first couple of years of the program, particularly during English instruction, teachers who understand the target language are used so that they can communicate with the target language speakers.

Do English learners get enough English instruction in a 90:10 model?

English time must be carefully defined and implemented. High quality curriculum and instruction are essential. Research shows that when programs are fully implemented according to the program design, English learners in 90:10 models score as well as or better than their peers in other programs in English tests. (Lindholm-Leary, (2001) Dual Language Education, Multilingual Matters LTD)

How can students who speak only English learn when they are instructed for up to 90 percent of the day in a language they don't understand?

Understanding or reviewing the research on which these programs are based best answers this question. Two-way immersion programs are based on years of research from the foreign language immersion models in Canada designed for English speakers learning French. This model, in which English-speaking students have been instructed in French for up to 100 percent of their day, shows students perform as well as or better on tests of English than their English-speaking peers who have been instructed only in English. For more information on immersion programs, visit the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition. Fifteen years of results on two-way immersion programs show similar results.

Where can I get more information on two-way programs?

Two of the most extensive Web sites on two-way programs are the Center for Applied Linguistics and the National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition and Language Instruction Education.

Questions: Language Policy and Leadership Office | 916-319-0845