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Students schooled in second languages earlier than ever

Posted November 5, 2009

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— Most students begin learning a foreign language in middle or high school, but some North Carolina children are picking up a second language beginning in kindergarten.

Howard Hall Elementary School in Fayetteville is one of several schools across the state to use language immersion classes, which teaches children to read, write and do their work in a second language.

In 2005, the state had seven language immersion programs. As of November, there are 47 programs. Some schools have multiple programs in different languages, including Spanish, Japanese, French and German.

Students schooled in second languages Students schooled in second languages

Splash! Language Immersion, a Chapel Hill-based company, has helped establish and manage nine of the programs.

“The great thing about these programs is children get a good academic experience, and they also become fluent in another language,” said Splash! CEO Alan Young.

Parents can volunteer to enroll their kids in language immersion. All students must start the program at the kindergarten level to ensure fluency and success, school leaders said.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, Chatham County, Cumberland County and Johnston County schools are just some of the places where language immersion is taught.

Howard Hall Elementary has two kindergarten classes that focus on teaching children in Spanish.

“From the very beginning, it’s only Spanish so that they get used to the language, so they get used to everything we’re saying,” said Howard Hall teacher Yadira Munoz.

Munoz, who is from Honduras, has taught in several countries and is licensed to teach in North Carolina. Immersion teachers all follow the N.C. Standard Course of Study.

Parent Misty Hevey said she is amazed at how her daughter, Finn, is thriving.

“Her mind just automatically works in Spanish and English already,” she said.

In 10 weeks, students can read some books in Spanish and they can write sentences in the foreign language.

Splash! Leaders said they hope to start a Chinese immersion program next fall.


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  • lauraleigh Nov 6, 2009

    kpurvis, my point is that this immersion program is a red herring to disguise the fact that American education is going to the dogs. If your son can do basic math without the use of a calculator, he's doing better than the overwhelming majority of his agemates, who cannot. If he knows the difference between a noun and a very, he's doing better. Depending on his age, however, that is not enough, not by a long shot. And there is NO provision in the NC Curriculum, any more, for children to gain the competencies that actually allow them to learn to develop rational thought, not just fact-finding skills.

  • kpurvis Nov 5, 2009

    Good for you laureleigh you were obviously ahead of your time. Yes, as a matter of fact my son can do math without a claulator (add,multiply,subtratct and division as well as fractions. He can tell you what a noun and verb is and point them out in a sentence. Why does it bother people so much when our children do well in school?!? Isn't that what they are there for to make better citizens for the future? To learn about our world and the different cultures, whether it be Spanish, French, German etc. This is not a story about illegal immigration it is a story about children learning another language many years younger than we did and it helping them with furhtering their education, by possibly adding more than one language. Why belittle me and my son for that.

  • lauraleigh Nov 5, 2009

    kpurvis, can your son identify the subject and (main) verb of a sentence? explain the relationships of the various nouns? tell you what tense the verb is? Can your son identify a schwa in the dictionary pronunciation guide and explain how it sounds and to what letters it applies? Can he work basic math problems - addition, subtraction, multiplication, division up to four digits, whole numbers as well as fractions, convert fractions to decimals and vice versa WITHOUT A CALCULATOR? Can he sound out new words or does he take a guess at what they are when he encounters them?

    True story: a famous educator had a mom bring her daughter for an admissions interview for 9th grade placement. This girl, her mother stated, had already written a book as part of her middle school curriculum. The educator asked her to identify the verbs on a page in a book. The child couldn't do it.

    We did nearly every thing I have listed, above, by 3d grade, certainly by 5th - 1968.

  • fairyswearboots2 Nov 5, 2009

    That is a load of Crud! at this moment weare being forced to learn SPANISH because of all the Illegal Immigrant children here in our local schools, MY grandson is leanring spanish in headstart becasue helf the kids there are Spanish and there to learn English because the parents are most likley Illegal and it's being allowed. My daughter and I are against her son coming home at 3 speaking spanish because he should be there learning more than another Language like Spanish like his ABC's and cloros and shapes - I feel this is being forced on our kids.

  • BigUNCFan Nov 5, 2009


    I have a masters in computer science so I am quite educated thank you very much. Funny how the libs are throw things like you are uneducated in your face when you have a view point that is different from your own.

    That is just intellectually lazy thank you very much.

    I also thought that the libs were all about tolerance. Kind of hard to swallow that "inconvenient truth" that they are not isn't it? They are only tolerant of their own views.

  • kpurvis Nov 5, 2009

    Go to your educators in Johnston county becauseican and express your interest in starting a dual language program. It does not have to be English/Spanish. Our program was established because some parents and educators at our school were interested in providing more for the children. They established the program in six months and offered it to any parents who wanted their children to try learning a second language. I can not begin to tell you how quick these children have learned a second language. It is amazing!

  • Timetogo Nov 5, 2009

    I just wish more schools in Johnston would offer something other an Spanish! (and encourage more 'correct English'.

  • kpurvis Nov 5, 2009

    BRAVO redstarlean! Well said. My son who is in a dual language program is very proficient in his native English- speaking language, reading and writing as well as Spanish. He has also received his math teaching all in Sapnish the last two years and guess what he got 4 out of 4 on his EOG last year!The problem comes when anrrow minded people such as BIGUNCFAN have not seen the programs in person and are not speaking from knowledge about dual language programs. Maybe that kid was in a bad program with a bad teacher, but I asure you that is not the case in Chatham County. The teachers are very knowledgable about the subjects that they are teaching. The program that they currently have will be thru 5th grade and there is a program being developed for these kids for 6th thru 8th grade. And it will not stop there, it will eventually go through high school where educators are talking about teaching these kids a third language!

  • redstarlean Nov 5, 2009

    Education is important to thinking rational people . UNC is a great school you should take some classes and get some education instead of yelling libs and other ignorant rightwing talking points. No wonder why educated Americans are running from the republican party

  • kwilliams76 Nov 5, 2009

    The world is getting smaller and less insulated. Hopefully my children will get to go to a particular Magnet School that emphasizes a second language from Kindergarten onwards, continue along that road, and graduate with a HS Diploma with an IB emphasis - therefore opening the world to them.
    High unemployment rates are becoming normal - therefore, why not enable your children with more ammunition to make them more competitive with the rest of the world.
    How many other countries throughout the world only emphasize one language? Coming from Europe, it is more normal that people speak, read and write more than one language.
    Communication is a key to understanding life and people, and therefore, why limit children especially at a time when it seems that their abilities are limitless.