San Marcos,
14:43 PM

Taking the Lead in Dual Language Instruction

By David Ogul

CSUSM is teaching teachers how to open doors to the world.

The university is launching a new, specialized program to train educators for dual language classrooms, where students learn everything from math to the humanities in both English and either Spanish, French, Mandarin or another second language. Demand for such instruction is exploding as parents and educators come to realize that American students must be fluent in more than one language to compete effectively in the global economy.

To help schools meet the growing demand, CSUSM this fall will offer a new Dual Language Certificate through its Master of Arts in Education program.

“You want teachers who are grounded in the research and methodology,” said Nenette Adelson-Rodriguez, director, Bilingual Services, for the San Diego County Department of Education. “Very few colleges or universities offer a program like this.”

According to some estimates, up to 3,000 schools nationwide are now home to dual language or language immersion programs, and the number of programs in San Diego County has spread from 10 in 2000 to 72 last year. The Los Angeles Unified School District this fall is adding Spanish language programs to three of its elementary schools, bringing the number of dual language programs in the state’s largest public school system to 57. Forty-three of those programs are in Spanish, 10 are in Korean, and four are in Mandarin.

“Cal State San Marcos is taking an important step forward in bringing us into what we need for the next few generations,” said Dr. Ana Hernandez, an assistant professor of Multicultural & Multilingual Education in the School of Education who helped develop the new four-course, online program. She said the certificate program fills “a gigantic need,” and added, “I’ve already received inquiries from as far away as Utah and Chicago.”

The CSUSM program comprises:

  • Principles of Dual Language & Multilingual Education. This introductory course provides the nuts and bolts, tenets, research, and theoretical framework surrounding dual-language programs.
  • Cross-Cultural Competence for Educational Leadership in Diverse Societies. This course focuses on instilling leadership qualities in dual language instructors and administrators.
  • Practices and Strategies for Bilingualism/Multilingualism and Biliteracy/Multiliteracy Development. This course deals primarily with the pedagogy involved in a dual-language program.
  • Curriculum Development, Program Assessment and Inclusion for Dual Language and Multilingual Education. This course focuses on how to adapt effectively dual language programs to state education standards, and how to adapt dual language programs for special needs children.

“To be a dual language teacher, you need to develop specific strategies and unique skills,” Hernandez said.

“The certificate program at Cal State San Marcos will help teachers become more effective in a dual immersion classroom setting while better preparing them for the unique challenges they face in a dual setting as well,” said Erin Flesher, who earned her teaching certificate at Cal State San Marcos and who now teaches a dual immersion, English/Spanish course at Valley Center Middle School.

Dual language programs vary from school to school, but many begin with students learning in a foreign language up to 90 percent of the day while in kindergarten, with the percentage falling by 10 percent annually until half the day is spent learning in English and the other half is spent learning in a foreign language.

Programs have become so popular that graduating high school seniors can now secure a State Seal of Biliteracy recognizing those who have attained a high level of proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing one or more languages in addition to English. A recent statement from Gregg Roberts, a world languages and dual immersion specialist with the Utah State Office of Education, “Monolingualism is the illiteracy of the 21st century,” has become a rallying cry for dual language education proponents.

The importance is not lost on students learning in dual language programs. “I know that I’ll be a step above others that know only one language, so that’s always a plus,” said Valley Center Middle School eighth grader Jessica Loya. “And also, since I want to enter the medical field, I’ll be able to talk to patients who only know one language.”

Alina Gonzalez, a Valley Center High School senior, agreed. “It’s opened a lot more doors for me. It’s given me opportunities I wouldn’t have had.”

For example, her fluency in Spanish and English helped land an internship at U-T San Diego, where she worked for its Spanish-language publication, Enlace. “We got to go to T.J. one day, and that helped a lot knowing Spanish,” Gonzalez said. 

Learn more about CSUSM's Dual Language Certificate program at