As the world becomes increasingly globalized, the benefits of being multilingual are constantly increasing. You may have heard that an educational model called immersion is spreading throughout the U.S. that offers families the option of an immersive approach to learning a new language that increases children's cognitive development and supports bilingual fluency from a young age.
An immersion program may be right for your family if you are seeking an alternative to traditional language classes and are considering making a long-term commitment for your child to learn a particular language.
Is an immersion program the right fit for your child? Here are four ways that an immersion program is different from traditional language classes.
- Many traditional language classes begin during a student’s preteen or teen years. However, immersion programs often begin as early as preschool, since research has shown that children are able to more readily learn a new language if they start at a young age. At Maryknoll, families may choose between traditional language classes and immersion. Students may enter the Chinese Immersion Program starting in kindergarten or first grade. Students in Chinese Immersion participate in 2.5 hours of instruction in Chinese daily.
- In an immersion program, students speak and are spoken to in the languages that they are acquiring. Immersion provides context for language usage and is the most effective way to learn a language. For example, in Maryknoll School’s Chinese Immersion Program, students are taught 50% of the day in English and 50% of the day in Mandarin.
School lessons provide an excellent setting and context for children to hear and practice Mandarin. During the Mandarin half of the school day, the teachers speak to the students solely in Mandarin – not only when they are covering a lesson, but also when they are directing the students to put their books away, prepare for lunch or sit in a circle. Likewise, students speak to their teachers in Mandarin, repeating words and phrases until they become second nature, and complete assignments in Mandarin.
By applying the language to everyday activities, students learn the language faster and with greater understanding of context. Core subjects such as math and science are taught in Mandarin. Mandarin words and lessons are reinforced during the English portion of the day and vice versa. This teaching format allows students to practice and apply the new language throughout the day.
- An immersion program integrates learning a language with learning core academic subjects. In Maryknoll’s Chinese Immersion Program, students learn topics like math and science in Mandarin Chinese and their fluency in Mandarin grows simultaneously with their understanding of math and science concepts. Maryknoll’s Chinese Immersion Program is for grades K-12 meaning that students who enter the program in kindergarten will be able to continue learning in an immersion setting through high school graduation.
- Research shows that immersion programs confer many other advantages besides fluency in another language. Students in immersion programs are stronger at problem solving, demonstrate enhanced cognitive skills and outperform monolingual students even on standardized tests in English.
- The goal of an immersion program often includes global citizenship or cultural understanding in addition to learning another language. Maryknoll aims to have its students be bilingual, biliterate and multicultural, with increased worldwide aspirations and job opportunities.
An immersion program is a greater commitment than a traditional language course, but with the potential for a highly enriching experience for both the child and their family.
Want to learn more about Maryknoll’s Chinese Immersion Program? Let us know that you’re interested. We host families year-round for campus tours and Chinese Immersion classroom observation sessions.