Language Immersion

There’s a difference between learning a language and learning IN a language. Discover more about that distinction here.

What is an immersion school?

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.

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.

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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.

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Read about an Académie Lafayette graduate who scored a perfect 36 on the ACT English test.

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.

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Why should I choose immersion education for my child?

As a parent, you want to make the best educational choice for your child. For many, this includes the advantages of bilingualism. However, the ability to understand and speak more than one language is not the only benefit of immersion education. Research shows that students gain additional cognitive, academic, and employment benefits. For more information:

How does immersion differ from other types of language instruction?

In traditional second language instruction, the target language is the subject of instruction. Immersion programs use the target language for instruction and as a means of communication. This authentic communication allows students to learn a second language in the same way they learned their first language.

A November 2007 article in The Language Educator states, “the younger an individual is when exposed to a new language, the greater the probability for success in acquiring proficiency as well as native pronunciation.”

Do children in immersion schools have to be above average academically in order to succeed?

No. Children with all types of academic ability can succeed in an immersion program, not just above-average students. Studies show that students with lower academic abilities do as well in immersion as they do in English programs. Every student has the same opportunity and the potential to become bilingual.

Other than learning a second language, what does my child gain from an Immersion program?
  • Mental flexibility — Students with two languages can focus more on meaning and pick out the most relevant points from information provided. They are better able to communicate their thoughts and express themselves and can answer open-ended questions more easily than those with only one language.
  • Lifelong learning — Learning a second language in elementary school enhances imagination and critical thinking while improving analytic and interpretive capacities. Generally, children who speak more than one language are more flexible and open to learning.
  • Increased sensitivity to others; heightened awareness, receptivity and appreciation of language — Acquisition of a second language makes your child more sensitive to communication and better able to understand and respond to the needs of others. Their exposure to another culture makes them respectful of differences and allows them to communicate effectively with people of diverse backgrounds.
  • Improved cognitive abilities — According to the Center for Languages, Literatures and Cultures at The Ohio State University, “Research has shown that math and verbal SAT scores climb higher with each additional year of foreign language study, which means that the longer you study a foreign language, the stronger your skills become to succeed in school. Studying a foreign language can improve your analytic and interpretive capacities.”
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