ERIC Identifier: ED321589
Publication Date: 1990-09-00 
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics Washington DC. 

Two-Way Language Development Programs. ERIC Digests. 

This Digest is based on an information packet prepared by the National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education (NCBE), entitled "Two-Way Language Development Programs" (January, 1990). For more information on two-way programs, contact NCBE (see Resources). 


Two-way language development programs, also referred to as bilingual immersion, dual language, and developmental bilingual education, are full-time programs that use two languages, one of which is English, for the purpose of instruction. Ideally, these programs are composed of elementary or secondary students, half of whom are native speakers of English, the other half of whom are native speakers of the other language of instruction. Subject matter is learned through the native language as well as through the second language, enabling students to become proficient in a second language, and to continue developing skills and proficiency in their native language. 

Two-way language development programs seek to promote the following: (1) bilingual education as an enrichment program for all students rather than as a compensatory education mode for limited-English-proficient (LEP) students; (2) better understanding between two linguistic communities in a given district as they work towards a common goal; (3) access to equal education by all students; and (4) educational excellence. 


Specific objectives of two-way language development programs include the following: 

--Language minority students will become literate in their native language as well as in English. 

--Language majority students will develop high levels of proficiency in a second language while making normal progress in first language development. --Both language groups will perform academically at their grade level, develop positive attitudes toward the two languages being learned and toward the communities they represent, and develop a positive self-image. 


Transitional bilingual classes involve homogeneous native language classes in which minority language students begin their studies in their native language until they have learned enough English to be transferred to a mainstream classroom. In transitional classes, LEP students study English as a second language (ESL), but do not benefit from language reinforcement through interaction with native-English-speaking peers in the classroom. In contrast, a two-way program targets both language minority and language majority students. This provides LEP students with the opportunity to learn English without lagging behind academically, and native-English-speaking students with the chance to learn a second language and to develop an understanding of another culture. 

Immersion programs share with two-way programs the basic assumption that a second language is best learned not as the object of instruction, but rather as the medium of instruction, through a content-based curriculum. Immersion programs have traditionally been designed as language enrichment programs for language majority students. Two-way programs, on the other hand, are designed to serve the needs of both language majority and LEP populations. In a two-way program, native English speakers are not separated from LEP students during instruction; the two groups are in the same class. Arlington County and Fairfax County in Virginia have two-way Spanish immersion programs that include Spanish speakers learning English. Fairfax County also has elementary French and Japanese immersion programs that are not two-way because they have no native French or Japanese speakers learning English. 


"Classroom Composition." The optimal ratio of language minority to language majority students is 50/50. Although this ratio may vary, the division between language groups should not exceed a 67/33 or 33/67 ratio (Lindholm, 1987). The proportion of English and non-English speaking students should allow the representation of a sufficient number of models for each language group, facilitating adequate cross-language interaction among students. 

"Length of Program." To reach the goal of proficiency in a second language, two-way language development programs should last a minimum of four to six years (Lindholm, 1987). This figure is based on research findings that show that second language or bilingual proficiency, although not necessarily native-like proficiency, can be attained in this amount of time. 

"Staffing" must allow for the provision of instruction in two languages. It is influenced by the availability of qualified teachers, the separation of languages for instruction, and other program goals. Staffing patterns include both self-contained classrooms or team teaching arrangements. In self-contained classrooms, a bilingual teacher, with or without the assistance of a bilingual aide, plans and delivers instruction in two languages for one classroom of students. In team teaching, two teachers, at least one of whom is bilingual, work together to provide individual and small group instruction, according to language and subject matter. One teacher may be a bilingual resource teacher. 

"Language of Instruction." The proportion of instructional time spent in each language may vary from program to program. Some programs begin with instruction equally divided between English and the second language. In other programs, a 90/10 ratio may exist where English is used in about 10% of the instruction in the early grades. The amount of English instruction is gradually increased to 50 % in later grades (typically by the fourth grade). 

"Separation of Languages of Instruction." Research suggests that sustained periods of monolingual instruction may be more effective in promoting dual language development (Lindholm, 1987). Common methods for separating languages include the following: (1) division by time, where instruction in either language can occur during half-day, alternate day, or alternate week intervals; (2) content specific, where language for instruction varies by subject matter, and where the content may be taught in one language one year and in the other language the following year and (3) team teaching, where each teacher consistently provides instruction in one of the two languages. 

"Instructional Setting." Two-way language development programs may be implemented in a variety of instructional settings. In whole school settings, all students in a particular school are enrolled in the two-way program. Program implementation usually occurs in stages. In the first year, the program may include only kindergarten. Every year, an additional grade is added. In strand settings, the developmental program takes place in one classroom for each grade level. In magnet school settings, one school draws students from throughout the district to participate in the program. Admission may be selective or open. 

"Materials Selection." Three categories of materials are needed for two-way language development programs: (1) language arts for native speakers (English and second language); (2) ESL and second language for nonnative speakers; and (3) content areas selected for instruction in English and the second language (Willetts, & Christian, 1990). 


In recent years, there has been increased interest in the challenge of educating language minority youth. Of special interest is the provision of funds by the U.S. government to establish additional developmental bilingual education programs (two-way language development programs). An estimated 17 grants were awarded in fiscal year 1990 to establish, operate, and improve two-way language development programs throughout the United States. These programs are administered by the Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Languages Affairs (OBEMLA), U.S. Department of Education. 


Lindholm, K. (1987). "Directory of bilingual immersion programs: two-way bilingual education for language minority and majority students." Los Angeles, CA: Center for Language Education and Research. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 291 241) 

National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education. (1990). Two-way language development programs. Washington, DC. 

Willetts, K., & Christian, D. (1990). Materials needed for bilingual immersion programs. In A.M. Padilla, H.H. Fairchild, & C.M. Valadez, (1990). "Bilingual Education: Issues and Strategies." Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications. ----- 


Cummins, J., & Swain, M. (1986). "Bilingualism in education: aspects of theory, research, and practice." White Plains, NY: Longman. 

Lindholm, K.J. (1988). "Edison elementary school bilingual immersion program: Student progress after one year of implementation." Los Angeles, CA: Center for Language Education and Research. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 298 765) 

Padilla, A.M., Fairchild, H.H., & Valadez, C.M. (1990). "Bilingual education: Issues and strategies." Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications. 

Short, D.J., Crandall, J., & Christian, D. (1989). "How to integrate language and content instruction: A training manual." Los Angeles, CA: Center for Language Education and Research. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 292 304) 


National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education 

1118 22nd Street, NW 

Washington, DC 20037 

(800) 321-NCBE or (202) 467-0867 


National Dissemination Center-Fall River Public Schools 

417 Rock Street 

Fall River, MA 02720 

(508) 678-5696 

(For bilingual/ESL/ and content materials in Chinese, French, Greek, Haitian-Creole, Italian, Portuguese, Hmong, Cambodian, Laotian, Spanish, and Vietnamese. Write or call for a free catalogue.) 

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