Challenges and Benefits of Early Bilingualism in the U.S. Context


  • Linda M Espinosa University of Missouri-Columbia


Dual language learners, early bilingualism, early childhood second language acquisition, U.S. ECE and bilingualism, DLL policies ΓÇâ


The population of young dual language learners (DLL) in the United States has tripled in the last several decades and now accounts for 25% of all children in the U.S. (Migration Policy Institute, June 2014). Many of these children are exposed to multiple languages in the home and ECE setting and the vast majority are U.S. citizens. Despite the robust research documenting the extensive capacity of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers to learn multiple languages and the cognitive, social, and linguistic benefits of early bilingualism, most young DLLs in the U.S. do not receive enriched ECE that supports their emergent bilingualism. This article reviews the latest research, describes the developmental characteristics of young dual language learners, the similarities and differences between DLLs and young monolinguals, the current ECE policies and practices toward DLLs in the U.S., and concludes with policy recommendations at the federal, state, and local levels.

Author Biography

Linda M Espinosa, University of Missouri-Columbia

Professor, Early Childhood Education