Language Immersion Programs: Utah Out Front?

It’s OK Utah. We are happy to have you taking massive action with their language immersion programs. Effectively jumping on the hottest trend in bilingual education. It’s important and effects us all.
Language Immersion Programs going full-speed ahead in Utah.

Educators are now looking to rapidly expand dual-language programs and language immersion programs due to the decline in outcry against bilingual education.

Language immersion programs are an education technique that promotes the development of bilingual children through teaching only in the minority language while at school. Think of One Parent One Language… but with only one parent; the teacher(s).

Utah has embraced the idea with an unlikely zeal, despite being the state which routinely ranks last in the nation on education spending, according to United States Census figures. To make it even more interesting, Utah passed an “English Only” law in 2000. They have since changed their minds.

The English-only law, which was passed in Utah in 2000, allows exemptions only for issues of public health and safety, court proceedings, education and tourism.
The Republicans in Salt Lake City, seeing the language immersion programs as a catalyst for Utah to become a bigger player in the world economy, have promised millions of dollars to the program. The popularity of these programs continues to drive the demand.

About four years ago language immersion programs began in Utah, however have really gained popularity recently. 14,000 students are currently enrolled with options in French, Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin; German and Arabic are next on the docket. These programs start in first grade and go through middle school. Successful students then can study college courses in language throughout high school.

20,000 students are already enrolled for next year; nothing short of amazing. That constitutes a 43% increase in overall numbers year over year. In business, that is something to get pretty excited about.This really speaks to the general public starting to realize the benefits of being bilingual.

Language Immersion Programs continue showing up all over the country and are growing equally fast in metropolitan areas around the world. Even in the upper-Midwest, where I am from, the programs are catching on. I have family members who have enrolled their children in these programs in cities like Minneapolis.

Whether we like it or not (we do!), globalization is taking over. China is becoming a powerhouse in the world and the Middle-East is affecting our daily lives more and more; everything from oil to cultural issues and wars. If we want the children of today to compete in this global economy, we need to be encouraging global citizenship and raising bilingual children.

I’m excited to see where all of this goes. Hopefully language immersion programs aren’t just the new fad, and are here to stay. Outside of the many benefits of being bilingual, and this is NOT a comprehensive list, knowing another language is very personally rewarding. I’ll leave you with a quote from Mr. Nelson Mandela:

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