Walk across the Bayou City and you might find yourself wondering if you’ve maybe wandered into Europe or Asia or South America, possibly even Africa. According to some estimates, more than 100 languages are spoken here – a stunning testament to the city’s diversity and as a magnet for drawing a global workforce.
In schools throughout the region, language immersion, dual language programs and foreign language magnet programs exist to help students learn the finer points of speaking multiple languages. For the upcoming citizens of Houston, being a polyglot may be commonplace.
One much-loved program is at HISD’s Kolter Elementary School. The school is a foreign language magnet school, offering opportunities for K-5th graders to learn Spanish, Chinese and French.“I love the way my daughter and her friends at Kolter, a Global Passport School, mirror the diversity of the Houston community,” says mother of a fifth-grader Mary Lowery. “Learning multiple languages in school deepens their understanding of how the United States fits into the world. It’s definitely a ‘big picture’ experience.”
In other HISD classrooms, at both the primary and secondary level, dual language classes provide a 50/50 split in instruction – half in English and half in Spanish. The district believes the model allows students to not only build proficiency in both languages, but also exposes them to multicultural issues. Fifty-six HISD campus are listed as “dual language” schools; the district also has immersion campuses, providing instruction in Arabic and Mandarin. The Pearland Independent School District expanded its dual language program at the start of this academic year, adding two elementary schools to the list of campuses where English/Spanish instruction is offered, designed to help non-native English speakers improve their aptitude and expose English speakers to develop their Spanish skills. Over in LaPorte, a similar program is offered at one school. Qualified by the French Ministry of Education, the Awty International School provides bilingual education in English and French, helping to prepare students for the rigorous French baccalaureate.
Programs like these help ensure that Houston’s students have the gift of fluency in a second language – a big plus in our multicultural city.
By Holly Beretto