CARLA’s International Conferences on Immersion and Dual Language Education: A Brief History

Tara Williams Fortune, Director, Immersion Research and Professional Development
Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition – University of Minnesota

The Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA), one of the U.S. Department of Education’s Title VI National Language Resource Centers, began in 1993 with a mission to improve the nation’s capacity to teach and learn languages. Since its inception one of the priorities at CARLA has been to support immersion and dual language education through research and professional development initiatives. Towards that end, CARLA has organized and hosted a series of international conferences dedicated to the exchange of professional practices, research findings, and resources among immersion and dual language professionals.

The inaugural International Conference on Immersion and Dual Language Education took place in 1995 at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, MN with approximately 250 participants. Subsequent conferences hosted by CARLA in 2004, 2008, and 2012 experienced growing numbers of participants and an expanded program that included school visits and pre-conference workshops. Increased interest in the field and CARLA’s desire to make the conference a biennial event led to the development of partnerships to host the conference at alternate venues. While CARLA continues to host the conference once every four years, collaboration with state partners (Utah, 2014; North Carolina, 2019) serves to make the conference available once every two years, extend outreach to educators on the east and west coasts, and meet the growing interest in immersion and dual language education around the world. At our most recent conference (Minnesota, 2016), we hosted an international gathering with nearly 1,000 participants from 39 states and Washington D.C., and 20 countries.

The goal of this unique conference has remained the same: to bridge the divides – between researchers and practitioners, between national and international colleagues, and among PreK- 20 immersion and dual language program professionals who serve a variety of learner audiences, including language majority, language minority and indigenous learners. Towards this end, the International Conference on Immersion and Dual Language Education convenes a rich mix of educators who share a common purpose: to provide a high-quality content-based language program that promotes academic achievement and learner success through bilingualism and biliteracy. By bringing together diverse strands of this common thread the conference seeks to foster broad-based professional dialogue and information exchange for more effective educational practice and improved outcomes for all learners.

CARLA is pleased to partner for the 7th International Conference on Immersion and Dual Language Education with the state of North Carolina, confident that our east coast partners will build on this strong conference tradition and offer an exceptional conference-going experience in February 2019. Hope to see you in Charlotte!