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Demand high for dual immersion programs in Utah
Education » Utah a leader nationwide in number of Chinese language programs offered at elementaries.

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The teachers live with American host families while they do tasks such as finding an apartment, car and setting up a bank account.

At a glance

How dual immersion programs get their start

Dual immersion language programs are driven by parent requests, first made to school community councils. They are considered by school and then district administrators.

Officials must weigh factors that include where students will attend middle and high school programs.

The state will consider new programs as ideas are presented by school districts, said Gregg Roberts, dual language immersion specialist at the Utah State Office of Education.

Last spring, low interest scuttled a plan to offer a German program in Provo, Roberts said.

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More programs ahead? » Only 125 first-graders were enrolled in dual immersion programs in the Jordan School District in 2008, the first year they were offered.

This year, 600 district first-graders are enrolled in 10 programs — five Spanish, four Chinese, and one French. Welby Elementary in South Jordan and Herriman Elementary are offering programs for the first time this year.

Gough predicts the number of programs will grow.

"A person who knows a second language is always going to be able to get a job or interact with another culture," said Gough. "We have a lot of culturally sensitive people in Utah. Whether they spoke a second language themselves, were a native speaker of another language or came to learn a language through church service ... they recognize the value of a second language."

To help add Portuguese programs, the state received grants from the Department of Defense, which has identified it as a language needed to communicate in Brazil and many African countries.

Utah is home to about 30,000 people fluent in Portuguese, Roberts said, including 15,000 people from Brazil and another 15,000 people who learned the language while serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

With Brazil one of the top LDS missionary destinations, the community is interested in children learning Portuguese, Roberts said.

A second language will benefit children in the future, said Barbara Yost, principal at Foothills Elementary.

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"By January, they’ll be talking and writing," she said, pointing to Chang’s first-graders, who were on day five of learning Chinese Wednesday. "It’s a huge advantage for our community."

mrogers@sltrib.comTwitter: @mrogers_trib

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