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Immersion programs often raise eyebrows among parents who think their kids should concentrate on learning their native tongue, but for the Knudsens, an intensive regimen of Japanese seemed the perfect way to begin their daughter’s education.

In 1989, when Tena Knudsen and her husband, Eric, heard their school district in Fairfax County, Va., was introducing a partial language immersion program for first- and second-graders, they immediately enrolled their daughter, Devon, in the Japanese program at Great Falls Elementary School.

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