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is the U.S. playing catch up with the world on language education? 5 minutes with Dr. Tara Fortune

Did you know that our founding fathers believed adopting an English-only stance was “incompatible with the spirit of freedom” (Hakuta, 1986, p.165) and even considered writing the Constitution in multiple languages? It’s true, but since those early days of the republic, our appreciation and openness to multilingualism in the U.S. has ebbed and flowed dramatically.
With this in mind, add.a.lingua co-founder, Stacey Vanden Bosch, helped participants at the MDE’s fall OPPS conference understand that while dual language immersion education programs are proliferating, they are seemingly unable to produce graduates with high degrees of oral and written proficiency in languages other than English.

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from add.a.lingua’s presentation at the MDE’s fall OPPS conference

Like Dr. Fortune and other researchers in the field, add.a.lingua is concerned that, for a host of reasons, our current academic ecosystem too often puts limits on students’ growth in languages other than English. In fact, embedded within the plethora of claims about the “bilingual advantage,” is concrete research about the potential negative impact on immersion students who only reach “partial bilingualism” (see Paradis, J.; Genesee, F. & Crago, M., 2011).

Having observed language education around the globe, there are few people better equipped to address our concern than Dr. Tara Fortune, director of the Immersion Research and Professional Development Program at CARLA. We caught up with Dr. Fortune during a recent visit to add.a.lingua and our founding partner school to ask for her perspective on how the U.S. stacks up with the rest of the world on language education. Her response provides the kind of nuance often lacking in this discussion, and we think you’ll enjoy it.

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