Support Your Children in Language Immersion
Support Your Children in Language Immersion
Spanish Immersion is defined as a method of foreign language instruction in which the regular preschool curriculum is taught through a second language (in our case, Spanish). In other words, our teachers speak 100% Spanish throughout the day to communicate with the children; we don’t teach children Spanish vocabulary.
Studies indicate that learning a second language at an early age has many benefits:
There is no evidence to suggest this. A child doesn’t have to be exceptional to become bilingual. As long as the child is exposed to two languages throughout early childhood, he or she will acquire them both. Additional activities at home are not required for a child to successfully learn a second language.
No, children know when the teacher is using Spanish and when the teacher is using English. Your child will switch back and forth in the same way as a completely bilingual adult without thinking about “which” language they are using.
Yes! This is one of the most studied topics in immersion language learning. What the research consistently reveals is that students show a temporary lag in specific English skills, such as capitalization, punctuation, spelling, word knowledge, and word discrimination on standardized tests. But after approximately the fourth grade, they perform better than their monolingual peers on tests in English. There are no long-term consequences to their ability to speak or read English or to their literacy development. And for parents worried about the vocabulary of their bilingual learner, consider this: their overall vocabulary is actually double that of a monolingual—they know the same word in English and their second language.
If you need further proof, new research from RAND compared 27,000 students over ten years here in Portland. The headline of the study is that immersion students outperformed their non-immersion peers in English reading by seven months in fifth grade and nine months in eighth grade. That is basically a full school year ahead.
This study was particularly groundbreaking because the students here are assigned to the programs by lottery, meaning that this was one of the first randomized trials representing students from all different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds.
Often, parents and medical professionals worry about the language development of bilingual language learners. It is important to remember that the child is getting multiple language inputs. During the early years of language learning, children have to learn the vocabulary, grammar, and differences between two separate language systems. This may be a bilingual child who is considered to be a “late talker” compared to monolingual peers. As seen in the table below, while many of the early language milestones are about the same, bilingual children don’t put two words together until 3-3 ½ years old, compared to monolingual speakers that put two words together around 2 1/2 – 3 years old. Every bilingual child learns language differently depending on the exposure amount, use of languages in the home, and their community.
Vocabulary development for bilingual speakers occurs at approximately the same rate as monolingual speakers. When taking an account of vocabulary, all words spoken must be counted. For example, a child might know five animals in English, ten foods in Spanish, and “hello” in both English and Spanish. This child would have a vocabulary of 16 (5+10+2). Knowing how to say “hello” in both English and Spanish is counted as only one concept, therefore counts as one in a vocabulary count.
Ultimately children who grow up bilingual not only score significantly higher than their monolingual peers, but they also acquired a second language for their lifelong use.
The goal of this program is full immersion in Spanish but at the teacher’s discretion, English may be used at times to ensure the intellectual, socio-emotional and well-being of a student or the group. There may also on occasion be visiting teachers who may teach a class in English. All communication, notices, and newsletters are issued in English.
A long-term commitment is essential for children to experience the great benefits an immersion education yields. Parents can support their child in these ways:
In all honesty, no preparation is necessary for the child. Children are excited but nervous to go to school. This is the same for children entering a dual-language program. It is a life transition just like entering a “regular” preschool would be. Parents may question whether they have made the right choice. There are few (very few) children who do not thrive in an immersion classroom at the preschool level. Don’t second guess your decision. Believe you made the right choice; research shows you have!