WHAT IS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE IMMERSION PROGRAM?
Immersion is defined as a method of foreign language instruction in which the regular school curriculum is taught through the medium of the language.
The foreign language is the vehicle for content instruction; it is not the subject of instruction. Total immersion is one program format among several that range on a continuum in terms of time spent in the foreign language.
In total immersion, all schooling in the initial years is conducted in the foreign language, including reading and language arts. Partial immersion differs from total in that 50% of the school day is conducted in English right from the start. In partial immersion, reading and language arts are always taught in English. Beyond that, the choice of subjects taught in each language is a local decision.
WHAT ARE THE GOALS OF AN IMMERSION PROGRAM?
The long-range goals of an immersion program include:
1) developing a high level of proficiency in the foreign language;
2) developing positive attitudes toward those who speak the foreign language and toward their culture(s);
3) developing English language skills commensurate with expectations for student’s age and abilities;
4) gaining skills and knowledge in the content areas of the curriculum in keeping with stated objectives in these areas.
WHAT EVENTUAL EFFECT DO IMMERSION PROGRAMS HAVE ON VERBAL AND MATHEMATICAL SKILLS IN ENGLISH?
Studies (Holobow et al., 1987; Swain & Lapkin, 1991) have consistently shown that immersion students do as well as, and may even surpass, comparable non-immersion students on measures of verbal and mathematics skills.
WHAT ARE THE KEYS TO SUCCESSFUL IMMERSION PROGRAMS?
Successful immersion programs are characterized by:
1) administrative support;
2) community and parental support;
3) qualified teachers;
4) appropriate materials in the foreign language;
5) time for teachers to prepare instructional materials in the language;
6) ongoing staff development.
WHERE CAN ONE GET MATERIALS FOR USE IN AN IMMERSION PROGRAM?
French materials are available from both Canadian and European sources, as well as from a number of American publishers.
FINDING OUR WAY WITH WORDS
Adapting to the Global Age means having a voice in it. Can America’s schools break the language barrierr?
“The best case scenario in elementary language instruction, according to experts at the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, is when world language specialists are on teaching teams, and can incorporate subject matter the students are learning in other classes in their language lessons. Not only will students learn new vocabulary in the target language, but they get to work on the concepts they need to master for other classes, and yes, for high-stakes tests. That’s how they do it in Glastonbury, says Oleksak: “We pre-teach, co-teach, and post-teach what’s going on in the elementary classroom.” To read the full National Education Association article, click here.
Articles on Bilingualism, Immersion and Language (click on article to access PDF):
Why Learn Two Languages? (The New York Times, March, 2012)
How Reading in a Second Language Protects Your Heart (The Journal of Neuroscience, May 9, 2012)