One distinctive feature about our study abroad programs is our immersion-style of foreign language learning. From junior high students to professionals seeking continuing education, we offer a “no-English” approach to teaching a foreign language. We feel this is the best way for an individual to truly learn a foreign language while studying abroad.
We’re starting to notice a trend among educators in general seeking immersion-style methods in classrooms. Just do a quick Google News search on “immersion schools” and look at the long list of articles that come up regarding school districts considering immersion or dual-immersion programs. Seems as though we’re not the only ones aware of the benefits of learning multiple languages. The number of immersion programs is growing. According to Maureen Magee with UT San Diego News,
“In little over a decade, the number of dual-language programs in the county has skyrocketed from nine in 2000 to 48 today — with 18 of them opening since 2009. This is one of the few areas in public education that is experiencing unprecedented growth….”
Immersion and Duel-Immersion Language Schools
Traditionally, dual-language schools were thought of as opportunities for Spanish speakers (or students not fluent in English) to learn English alongside native English speakers. Total immersion classes were geared toward English speakers and taught in a foreign language. Schools began noticing the benefits of teaching English-speaking and non-English speaking students side-by-side and dual-immersion classes began.
In the past, most schools have taught Spanish in the immersion setting, however with forecasts of a shifting global economy, Mandarin Chinese is becoming popular for immersion teaching, too. Other schools offer programs in French, German and other languages from which families have ancestral ties. In these classrooms, the foreign language is used either 50% or 100% of the time.
Test Scores and Immersion Language Schools
It’s common for any parent to be initially concerned with this style of learning when it comes to test scores. At first glance, it’s assumed children taught in a language they do not speak will not perform well on the tests. However, as data continues to pour from elementary schools with dual-immersion or total immersion classrooms, we’re seeing positive results.
“Students catch up and then outperform their counterparts in the district by the time they reach fourth grade,” [UT San Diego]
“The dual language immersion program makes students more comfortable and empowers them,” Banuelos said. “The native Spanish speakers are leaders and then the native English speakers are leaders. They work together to help each other learn the language and content.” [Gazette Times]
“Immersion students tend to outperform their English-only peers on standardized tests.” [Desert News]
“Numerous studies show a link between learning a second language as a child and IQ.” [Desert News]
“The nature of language immersion teaches students how to stick to difficult tasks. This diligence translates to better performance on exams, because students will be more likely to persist on challenging problems, according to a report released by the department of education at the University of Pennsylvania.” [Desert News]
We’re excited to be part of the movement toward immersion-style language learning. We feel it’s the key to truly connecting with another culture and reaching the goal of becoming bilingual.