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An interview with Fabrice Jaumont

Below is an interview with our friend Fabrice Jaumont author of “Bilingual Revolution: The Future of Education is in Two Languages”. He is one of the international authorities on bilingual education and community engagement relating to it. We owe him a debt of gratitude for having been one of the staunchest supporters of our work from the very early days of our organization. You can meet him and ask your own questions during our District-wide series of family-friendly events on October 20th-22nd “Bilingual Revolution in DC”.

The idea for this book came about through my efforts to support the development of dual-language education in American public schools since the late 1990s. My work includes collaboration with numerous school leaders, teachers, parent groups, and community organizations. Together, we developed an initiative that led to the creation of New York City’s first dual-language programs in French, Japanese, German, Italian, and Russian. In 2014, our story caught the attention of numerous media outlets including the New York Times, which published an article on the rise of dual-language programs in New York that highlighted their potential positive impact on public school communities. An interesting debate ensued regarding the relevance of teaching foreign 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 write this book.

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 of other cultures, other individuals, and even oneself. Additionally, I have come to believe that the cognitive, emotional, and social advantages of being bilingual, biliterate, and multicultural should simply not be limited to private schools and those who can afford to attend them. In my opinion, dual-language education is a universal good that ought to be developed everywhere, as it can positively transform a child, a family, a school, a community, and even a country. It is with this belief and with the conviction that parents can make a difference that I wrote this book in the hope that more bilingual programs will sprout in schools around the world.

As the father of two bilingual and bicultural girls who attend a dual-language program in a public school in Brooklyn, I am deeply attached to the concept of dual-language education as a way to both sustain a cultural heritage and acquire a second language. I wanted the book to be directed towards parents and educators, with the goal of providing accessible knowledge, guidance, and encouragement as they consider implementing a dual-language program in their community or school. In that spirit, the book provides a roadmap for parents willing to embark on such an initiative, along with suggested steps to follow, examples, and testimonies from parents and educators who have chosen a similar path.

My first encounter with language immersion schools was in Massachusetts, in the towns of Milton and Holliston, in the late 1990s. As a native of France, these programs immediately caught my attention because they offered immersive curricula in French, from Kindergarten to high school, to children in the United States who did not necessarily have a particular connection to the French language or a French-speaking country. More importantly, these programs were in public schools, free of charge, and therefore accessible to every student and family. This made a strong impression on me as I witnessed children mastering my own native language, eventually becoming bilingual and biliterate themselves. The book reflects how these schools, along with the educators and the parents that stand behind them, continue to inspire me to this day and have had an enormous influence on my own life and career.

I hope readers will see that dual-language programs have the potential to provide life-long skills to their children, and can open doors to a myriad of rewarding opportunities. Like myself, I hope they become convinced of the incredible benefits of bilingualism and determined to give their children the gift of language. And I certainly hope many readers will consider starting their own dual-language program. It will revolutionize their community and school.

I am currently crowdfunding eight translation projects via Indiegogo so that “The Bilingual Revolution” can be available to numerous linguistic communities. “La Révolution bilingue” is already available in French, and I plan to add eight languages by December 2017: Arabic, Chinese, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Russian, and Spanish. Readers are welcome to visit the Bilingual Revolution website to support a translation. In offering these translations, I want to reflect the various dual language programs and linguistic communities that are featured in the book, and help other communities in the United States and elsewhere to follow in their lead. Also, I do hope my book will help raise awareness about the advantages of dual language education, and inspire a few people to create programs in their own countries.

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