Garden Grove celebrates the launch of OC’s second Vietnamese dual-language program

The Garden Grove Unified School District marked the beginning of its first Vietnamese dual-language program last week with a “Going Global Launch Party” that included district administrators, elected officials and community partners.

The Sept. 21 ceremony, featuring remarks by local leaders and a video showing dual immersion lessons in action, was held at Murdy Elementary School, where 34 transitional kindergarten students are now enrolled in two classes that split instruction in English and Vietnamese.

Teacher Van Anh Vu with students in the classroom
Murdy Elementary School teacher Van Anh Vu shows students how to count in Vietnamese. (Photo courtesy of GGUSD)

District officials said the new program is just the fourth of its kind in the U.S. — and only the second in Orange County. In 2015, the Westminster School District began offering two-way instruction in Vietnamese at DeMille Elementary School.

“The Vietnamese Dual Language Immersion program has been a labor of love to get up and running,” Garden Grove Unified Board of Education President Lan Nguyen said. “We are excited to give these very small students one gigantic opportunity that paves the way for their academic success.”

Murdy would seem to be an ideal location. The campus is located in the heart of Little Saigon, and about 70 percent of its students are of Vietnamese descent.

But the program has attracted transitional kindergarten students from throughout the Garden Grove district, officials say. Along with receiving standards-based instruction in English, they’ll learn Vietnamese letters and begin developing foreign language skills with the help of Vietnamese literature.

“Research shows that developing more than one language leads to high critical thinking skills, creativity and academic proficiency,” Principal Marcie Griffith said. “Research also shows that dual-language students outperform their peers (who are enrolled) in English-only programs.”

GGUSD Superintendent Dr. Gabriela Mafi, school board President Lan Nguyen, State Senator Janet Nguyen, GGUSD Assistant Superintendent Sara Wescott and Murdy Principal Marcie Griffith
The Garden Grove Unified School District celebrated the opening of its new Vietnamese dual-language immersion program on Thursday, Sept. 21. Above, State Senator Janet Nguyen (center) presents a certificate of recognition to Garden Grove Unified Superintendent Dr. Gabriela Mafi, Board of Education President Lan Nguyen, Assistant Superintendent Sara Wescott and Murdy Elementary School Principal Marcie Griffith. (Photo courtesy of GGUSD)

Griffith said the students in these programs further benefit from higher levels of self esteem and motivation, and they’re better prepared for the global job market.

A similar take was shared by State Senator Janet Nguyen (R-Garden Grove), who was born in Saigon and arrived in California with her family in 1981. In her remarks, she touted the benefits of learning a second language at a young age.

“As mentioned, in this society, knowing more than one language is a key to unbelievable opportunities for any student,” she said.

Other dignitaries at the Going Global Launch Party included Westminster Mayor Tri Ta, Garden Grove Mayor Pro Tem Phat Bui, Westminster school board member Frances Nguyen and representatives from the offices of Congressman Lou Correa, State Assemblyman Travis Allen, State Assemblyman Tom Daly and Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do.

The event, held in the Murdy Elementary School multipurpose room, was also attended by parents and partners who helped make the program a reality, including representatives from the California Association of Bilingual Education, the National Resource Center for Asian Languages and the district’s Vietnamese Focus Group.

As was noted, this marks Garden Grove Unified’s second dual-language program. A Spanish program launched last year at Monroe Elementary now serves about 300 students.

For more on the benefits of multilingual education and its correlation to college and career success, take a look at this brief video featuring Orange County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Al Mijares.​