e expert

Bridging The Gap

More than 60,000 K-12 students in Utah spend up to half their school day learning a second language as part of the state’s Dual Language Immersion program. Started in 2008 at 15 elementary schools, DLI expanded quickly. By 2016, more than 220 programs were running, and the first cohort would soon be in high school—but there was a small catch: the advanced language classes hadn’t been created yet

That’s when Jill Landes-Lee MEd’06 EDD’19 and the U came into the picture. Landes-Lee was appointed director for Utah’s Bridge Program, housed in the U’s Second Language Teaching and Research Center. Her team develops the upper division college courses taught in DLI high schools (in six languages) for students who pass the AP exam in 9th grade. “By the time they finish high school, they almost have a minor,” she says. “They’re not only demonstrating language ability at a high level but also trying out college culture and behaviors."

Landes-Lee says Utah’s DLI is the only statewide program in the country that offers a K-16 language pathway—thanks to the extraordinary partnership between the state legislature, K-12, and higher education in Utah. “It’s such an empowering opportunity for these students.”

Landes-Lee’s Language Tips

You’re never too old to learn. The human brain is wired for languages. At any point when we start to learn a new language, our brains automatically make the connections.
Everybody learns differently. Try a combo of methods, like an app for grammar and a personal conversation teacher for speaking.
Be a little fearless. You don’t need perfection to communicate and connect. People are typically delighted when you make an effort to speak their language.


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  1. This article of encouragement came at a perfect time for me. I have decided to learn how to speak Spanish. I would like to take a course from the University of Utah and wanted to ask if information could be emailed to me on the available options? Thanks!

  2. Love the DLI program in Utah school’s. However, it would be nice to make this wonderful opportunity accessible for all elementary school students, not just those deemed as exceptional academics for their age as it was at my daughter’s school. Thank you!

    1. Thank you for your comment, Arwen. The DLI Program is a general education program model, meaning it is built based on research findings that ALL students are able to be successful in dual-language education, including English second language learners and students with IEPs and special needs. It is in fact the most effective model for English Second Language (ESL) students to become biliterate in both English and the Target Language. It is not intended to be an exceptional education program in any way. When it is taken as such, it is out of context of the state model.

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