I spoke yesterday in favor of more multilingual education and dual language programs in public schools at a hearing of the NYC Council’s Education Committee. Here is my testimonial.

The Need for Multilingual Education in New York City Schools, by Fabrice Jaumont, PhD

“I moved to New York City right before 9/11 to become an Education Attaché for the Embassy of France and a Program Officer for the French-American Cultural Exchange Foundation, a position which I still hold today. My work includes collaboration with numerous school leaders, teachers, parent groups, and community organizations. Together, we formed an initiative that led to the creation of New York City’s first dual language programs in French, Japanese, Italian, Russian, and German. Our story caught the attention of numerous media outlets including the New York Times, who published an article on the rise of dual language programs in New York in 2014—highlighting the positive impacts these programs could have on public schools and their communities. After publication, an interesting debate ensued regarding the relevance of learning languages today in the United States and the validity of early language acquisition. This debate, and the questions that it raised among parents within several linguistic communities, pushed me to speak today. As the father of two bilingual and bicultural girls who attend a French dual language program in a public school in Brooklyn, I am also deeply attached to the concept of dual language education as a way to both sustain a cultural heritage or acquire a second language.

Through my research, as well as my professional and personal experiences, I have found that children who have had a bilingual upbringing enjoy numerous benefits beyond the acquisition of another language, including a better appreciation for other cultures, other individuals, and even oneself. Additionally, I have come to believe that the cognitive, emotional, and social advantages of being multilingual and multicultural should simply not be limited to private schools and those who can afford to attend them. In my opinion, multilingual education is a great public good that ought to be developed everywhere, as it can positively transform a child, a school, a community, and even a country. It is with this belief and with the conviction that early language acquisition can make a difference that I speak today in favor of Resolution 890.”

Resolution 890

Last year Council Member Levine released a white paper calling on the City to increase the number of elementary students in language immersion programs from the current level of 3% to 20%. Levine’s white paper also calls for the number of languages available for immersion to grow from the current total of 10 to 20, with emphasis on the languages in highest demand by employers, including non-Western European languages such as Mandarin, Arabic, Russian, and Japanese. Currently, there are 182 existing dual language programs in New York City–including 40 new programs opened last fall by Chancellor Carmen Fariña. While roughly half of New York City households speak a language at home other than English, these programs are reaching only approximately 3% of elementary school students.

Leave a Reply