Education Spotlight: Learn more about Hilmar Unified's dual-language program

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- In ABC30's segment, Education Spotlight, Action News Anchor Landon Burke will talk with Merced County Office of Education (MCOE) officials about some of the biggest topics in education.

Learning a second language can open many doors for students. Landon Burke learned about Hilmar Unified's dual-language immersion programs.

Landon: Isabel, can we start with you? Could you tell me a little bit about the immersion program that you have in your district?

Isabel Cabral-Johnson: So we have two dual immersion programs. We have one program in Spanish, Spanish/English, and then we have one program in Portuguese, Portuguese/English. So the Spanish/English dual immersion program began in our district about 20 years ago. We were the first actually in Merced County to begin the dual language program. So that's been with us for a while. We have several students who have graduated from the program and really have demonstrated the benefits of the program. The Portuguese immersion program began five years ago. I will say that when we first started, when we researched doing the dual immersion programs, we were looking at which languages we would take on and at that point, we considered both Spanish and Portuguese. But at that time, there were not enough Portuguese materials to really support the program all the way through to academic proficiency. So 20 years ago, we began just with the Spanish program. Most recently, there have been more materials available in Portuguese, so we felt we were ready now to move on to another language to add another language, and so we started with Portuguese, like I said about five years ago. Now we have both the Portuguese immersion program and a Spanish Immersion program. The Portuguese immersion is the oldest one in California so far.

Landon: That's awesome and so cool to see how that program has grown over the years. Now, Stacie, what can you tell me about this Seal by Literacy?

Stacie Arancibia: So the Seal by Literacy has been in Merced County since about 2012. We work with the school districts like Hilmar and the many others in Merced County to recognize students for their multilingual proficiency in English and at least one other language. So we have a lot of students in Portuguese and Spanish, Hmong Punjabi. We also have a few this year from Farsi and Japan.

Isabel: I think the benefits most importantly are cultural awareness and acceptance. So I think when you learn about another language, you learn about another culture. You learn about people that maybe have customs that are different from yours, and I think that brings up a real acceptance into looking at other people, other cultures in a positive perspective. I think that is actually the number one reason. The number two, obviously, is that you've added a language, and a language can be added to any occupation. It's a positive regardless of what you decide you want to do with your life. Language is always an attitude. So I think that is huge for students, and there's an economic benefit. The fact that if you go into a job and you can say, if you speak more than one language, you all of a sudden have a little edge on others and that's once again that does not matter what career or what occupation you go into.
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