Rebeca Maria Barrera, M.A.
What do we mean when we talk about bilingual education? Simply, the term means using two languages to learn. Children learn basic skills and concepts appropriate for their level of development in their home language while they learn English, and, eventually, they transition to an all-English program. Culture is reinforced as a valuable asset. The process can take one to six years, depending on the child, home environment, and curriculum. This is generally called a transition approach. In dual-language programs, both languages are equally valued and equally maintained throughout the education. Children who speak only English are also given the opportunity to learn a second language. There are now more than 270 dual- language programs in the U.S., and the interest in these programs keeps growing as, fast as the waiting lists.
It is not that difficult to learn a second language if there is a strong foundation in a home language. The process is much the same as with a first language: listening, speaking, then reading, and, finally, writing the language. Once you understand the meaning of a word or concept in your home language, learning a new word for the same thing is easy. The third language is even easier.