A new dual-language program for East Hampton students is an example of how schools can, and should, grow with the times. At John M. Marshall Elementary, a majority of kindergartners are thriving by having half their instruction in Spanish and half in English. The benefits are already obvious.
It is well known that language learning comes easily to youngsters, thanks to an “elastic” brain structure. For English speakers, early exposure to a foreign language makes later proficiency more likely if it continues. Even for the youngest kids, learning a second language has been shown to improve problem-solving skills and creative expression. It can also increase their curiosity and interest in new things.
The benefits extend far beyond the school years, too. Bilingual adults are said to have an advantage in terms of attention spans and new concepts. This later-life effect is particularly pronounced if second-language competence includes being able to read both.
The benefits flow two important ways here on the South Fork. For children in Spanish-speaking households, dual-language learning can help speed their path to English fluency. For English-speaking children, exposure to Spanish helps them engage with their peers with less of a language barrier, which might contribute to breaking down cultural walls. The early stage of the John Marshall program is impressive. We hope it expands.