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Queen Letizia of Spain visits Manhattan school to tout dual-language partnership

Her Majesty Queen Letizia of Spain, center, and

Her Majesty Queen Letizia of Spain, center, and New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina, right, listen as Nassim Gomez, 6, asks the queen a question on Monday, Sept. 22, 2014. Credit: Charles Eckert/POOL

Bilingual students in upper Manhattan received a royal visit Monday from Queen Letizia of Spain, who welcomed four New York schools to an international partnership in dual-language education.

Dos Puentes Elementary School in Hudson Heights, which has a bilingual curriculum and a large Hispanic student population, joined the International Spanish Academies program. The initiative encourages the exchange of resources and information between American and Canadian schools and the Spanish ministry of education.

Long Island's Southampton Intermediate School was among the four schools admitted to the program Monday.

The queen toured Dos Puentes with Spanish-born New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, who said she hopes to start 40 new dual-language programs in the city. Queen Letizia is visiting this week with her husband, King Felipe VI, for the United Nations General Assembly.

The demand is high among parents of students who speak only English, she said. Learning Spanish, French, Arabic and Mandarin would help prepare children for a "global economy," Fariña said.

"It's very important in the world today for our students to be able, not only to speak in two languages, but think in two languages," she said.

The queen did not make public remarks but met with kindergarten and first-grade students in their classrooms. One student, Nassim Gomez, 6, asked her in Spanish how it feels to be queen before bowing gallantly. His question drew laughter.

Dos Puentes Principal Victoria Hunt said knowing two languages is more than speaking words, but also "knowing two worlds."

Hunt said membership in the International Spanish Academies makes her school part of an important network. She was not certain whether or how funding from the Spanish government might play a role.

Hunt said the school's name, which means two bridges, "represents what this partnership is about."

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