WILMINGTON – Exposing students to a second language at a young age is a growing trend in classrooms across the state. In 2005, there were only seven schools statewide with dual language immersion programs. Now, close to 50 schools across North Carolina offer the opportunity to become bilingual and biliterate in two languages.
This year, Forest Hill Elementary in Wilmington started New Hanover County's first Spanish-English immersion program for kindergartners.
For the students, singing a song, saying hello and learning to count in Spanish is just as common as speaking in English. Students get lessons in Spanish every morning and learn English in the afternoon in order to become proficient in both languages.
Spanish teacher Martine Allison said this is the perfect age to get started.
"They're just developing their language skills and their reading skills. So it's a perfect time in their development, because they're sponges," explained Allison, who helped start the program this year. "They just soak it all up."
At the beginning of the school year, many students didn't know a word of Spanish. Now they're talking, reading, writing and even teaching their parents a thing or two.
"I've taught them half of the alphabet and the song we sing in the morning," said student Christianna Averitt.
Students will continue the dual immersion program through at least fifth grade and possibly middle school giving them a real leg up in their future.
"By the end of fifth grade, they will have double the vocab[ulary], double the skills. They'll be able to apply two languages to every concept," said Allison.
Across North Carolina, schools offer dual immersion programs in seven different languages including German, Chinese and Japanese.
For more information about the program, click here.