As the mother of two children enrolled in a dual-language program and as an expert in bilingualism and bilingual education, I can assure you that English as a second language, or ESL, programs, in their goals, structure and implementation, are a far cry from immersion/dual-language programs (Dual immersion sounds a lot like ESL,” Jan. 27).
First, the expectations of each program are different. In ESL programs, no support or value is given to the child’s primary language, and the goal is that the child learns English as quickly as possible (often at the expense of the primary language). In dual language programs, the goal is that all children — both English speakers and learners — become bilingual and bi-literate.
There is plenty of research out there (yes, large-scale studies conducted with many different children and in many different schools) that shows that stripping English-language learners of the opportunity to develop and become literate in their primary language has negative consequences and jeopardizes their ability to fully develop English (especially academic language competence).