The Top Seven Questions to Ask Any Dual Language School

Sponsored by: LEEP Dual Language Academy

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At a dual language school, students study a language other than English for a portion of their school day. Some academic subjects are taught only in that other language.

This approach is rising in popularity, but the term “dual language” can describe a wide range of programs. If you’re interested in giving your child all the benefits of learning in two languages, make sure to ask a prospective dual language school these key questions.

1. Is it really immersion?
Dual language schools are designed to immerse students in the “target language” for a portion of the day. Whatever the schedule, it takes discipline for teachers to keep classes from slipping back into English during those times.

Ask how much time the school actually spends in the target language.

2. Where did the teachers learn the target language?
It’s helpful to have teachers who grew up speaking the language, and it’s even better if they come from different regions or countries. When students hear a range of accents and vocabulary from their teachers, they can develop a deeper appreciation of language nuances and cultural differences.

Ask where the teachers learned the language, and whether your child will be exposed to different accents, vocabulary, and traditions.

3. What’s the balance of students?
Most dual language schools are designed for diversity, with students who already speak the target language learning alongside students who are brand new to it. Still, some dual language schools struggle to attract a balanced enrollment based on local demographics or community perceptions.

Ask if your child will be learning with, and from, a linguistically diverse group of peers.

4. How was the curriculum selected?
Language acquisition is exciting, but a great dual language school has to first be a great school, with reliable systems to help all students learn all subjects.

Ask a technical question—for example, how the school selects its curriculum, or which subjects are taught in which language—and listen to whether the answers, like the school, have a careful, intentional design.

5. How does the school measure language gains?
It’s surprising how many dual language schools give formal assessments only in English. Dual language schools should also have some way of measuring students’ progress in the target language to ensure students graduate with real fluency.

Ask how the school measures achievement in the target language.

6. Are the school leaders focused on dual language?
Teaching in two languages matters to almost every aspect of a dual language school, from hiring to scheduling to procurement. When dual language is a “program” or “strand” within a larger campus, there’s a risk it will become an afterthought.

Ask currently enrolled families whether they feel the dual language program is a priority at the school.

7. Does the school communicate effectively with families?
Parents often wonder if they will need to speak the target language in order to help their child. The answer is no—as long as the school and its teachers are intentional about communicating with families.

Ask parents at the school whether language ever gets in the way of their ability to support their child’s progress. It shouldn’t!

LEEP Dual Language Academy is a Spanish-language immersion charter school in Sunset Park, Brooklyn (CSD 15), with school bus service available from Park Slope and other Brownstone Brooklyn neighborhoods. Give your child the challenge and benefits of learning another language – apply for K-2 by April 1. LEEP Academy will expand to K-5 with possible extension to K-8. Authorized by NYS Board of Regents.