Spanish is the most common language spoken in homes across the U.S., aside from English.
It’s also the fastest-growing.
More and more Duval County parents are realizing the importance of being bilingual and enrolling their children the district’s Dual Language Program.
It’s currently offered at Beauclerc Elementary, San Jose Elementary, West Riverside Elementary, DuPont Middle and Englewood High School but the program is becoming so popular the district is hoping to expand to more schools.
Englewood High School 10th grader Nicole Ramirez Santiago is about to receive a “reaching biliteracy award."
It means she not only speaks English and Spanish, but she’s also demonstrated proficiency in reading and writing both.
“Being able to learn two languages or more is such a gift,” said Nicole.
A gift she holds close to her heart because Spanish is the language her parents speak and one she didn’t master until she enrolled in the dual language program.
“When I was younger, around 4 to 5, I would have to translate for my parents, so I didn’t know how to be able to say certain words,” said Nicole.
But now she possesses a skill that many of her peers don’t.
“I would just read the word in English or in Spanish and it would just translate in my head automatically,” said Nicole.
Right now, there are more than 900 students enrolled in the dual language program in Duval County.
Specialist Claudia Norez said the program is immersive, meaning students take even their core classes in both languages.
“There are so many fields out there that require people to be bilingual and especially in Spanish,” said Norez.
According to a 2015 study by the Cervantes Institute, which is a nonprofit created in Spain, the U.S. has the second-largest concentration of Spanish speakers in the world, after Mexico.
In Jacksonville, kids as young as kindergarten are learning in two languages.
"Our kindergarteners are learning science in Spanish along with their language arts, then in first grade they do math in Spanish,” said Norez.
Nicole said her language skills will help her help others when she graduates. She wants to be a doctor to help those in underserved communities who may struggle to communicate in English.
“Not just help them with their language but help them with their health,” said Nicole.
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