what is dual-language learning?

A dual-language immersion program is a form of education in which students are taught literacy and content in two languages.  Dual-language immersion programs include native English-speaking students and native speakers of a foreign language. A multilingual environment is when a child has exposure to a third language in the course of a school day in addition to their dual-language target languages.

The goals of dual-language immersion programs are for students to develop high levels of language proficiency and literacy in both program languages and to demonstrate high levels of academic achievement and cross-cultural competencies.  

International Friends School offers a dual-language Mandarin/English immersion program with the goal of bi-literacy by the end of the middle school program.  The school also offers opportunities for students to develop listening and speaking skills in Spanish. The biliteracy program begins in preschool and continues through 8th grade. 

The focus will be on full proficiency in English and Mandarin (simplified characters), achievement of core academic competencies across both languages and a heightened geographical, cultural and civic understanding of the world through a global lens. We envision young adults who can move comfortably and confidently between languages and cultures effectively communicating across diverse audiences. 

Benefits of Dual-Language Learning: 

The benefits of dual-language learning are widespread and lifelong. It improves executive functioning by increasing attention and spatial-awareness, as well as better ability to discern meaning and better memory. Recent studies show that students enrolled in six year dual-language programs have been more academically successful in English literacy, math and science than their monolingual peers. It also improves cognitive reserve that lasts a lifetime. Bilingual people have lower risks of Alzheimer's disease and dementia in their later years.

Teaching Students Preschool to Pre-Kindergarten in 2018-2019

IFS offers full Mandarin immersion program for children who are 3 and 4 years old that is rooted in the Reggio Emilia philosophy of early childhood education.  At IFS, this means that our early childhood students will spend up to 55% of their day in Mandarin. The other 45% of their school day involves significant exposure to Spanish and English.  

Our students learn Mandarin through play-based, exploratory lessons, and constant and continual conversation. The Mandarin language arts learning objectives are embedded in everything the students do, allowing for explicit language learning through developmentally appropriate and enriching experiences. 

Dual-language research is ample and descriptive. Here are some starting websites: 



University of Washington I-LABS

Cognitive Benefits of Being Bilingual

Student Outcomes in Dual Language Learning

Asia Society Article on Benefits of Dual-Language Learning

NPR - Brain Benefits

Mandarin Immersion Parent's Council

American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages

Super Social Skills of Bilingual Learners

Learning Languages in Early Childhood