Delaware kindergartners set to begin bilingual journey

Some Delaware students will be learning a second language earlier than usual when the “World Languange Immersion” program kicks off this fall.

Children in other parts of the world, like Asia or Europe, begin studying languages as early as 5 years old, and now local students in the state will have the same experience. More than 340 Delaware kindergartners will begin their studies of either Mandarin Chinese or Spanish. The immersion program, which is at the elementary level for beginners, will also be available for students who decide to continue advanced studies in middle school. This is all possible because of the governor’s World Language Expansion Initiative that includes an annual investment of $1.9 million.

“World language capacity is crucial for Delaware to maintain and strengthen our state’s economy,” said Gov. Jack Markell, D-Del.

Several schools are participating in the first year too.  McIlvaine Early Childhood Center (Caesar Rodney School District) in Kent County will offer Chinese. However, John M. Clayton Elementary School (Indian River School District) in Sussex County and Lewis Elementary School (Red Clay Consolidated School District) in New Castle County will both offer Spanish.

Approximately 285 students have already expressed interest in the Caesar Rodney School District, however, there are only 100 available spaces.

“Our students and parents have embraced this opportunity because they know how important it is for our children to learn a world language and to start doing so as early as possible,” Caesar Rodney Superintendent Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald said.

Those who take the classes will have two teachers, especially since Delaware’s program will include 50 percent instruction in the world language and 50 percent in English.

“Delaware graduates who enter the job market able to speak a language other than English will be at a significant advantage in today’s global marketplace. We want students in Delaware to have the challenge and the opportunity to learn another language before they reach high school,” Markell said.

Students may also be able to take advantage of additional world languages, such as Arabic, in the future, as well as enter college with a number of world language credits that would count toward a minor or major in the language.

The “World Languange Immersion” program is expected to reach nearly 8,000 students in grades K through 8 by 2020.

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