Students of all ages have long been encouraged to study languages, as many research studies connect linguistic skills to other academic achievements. The work that is required to read, write and speak in a new language can help students develop essential skills that they can utilise in other areas of their lives.
While studying a language is important, it has been found that language immersion programmes are much more effective when it comes to fluency.
What is a Language Immersion Programme?
A language immersion programme is an experiential learning technique that goes beyond the basic instruction offered by language courses in traditional curriculum programmes. In a language immersion programme, the student is exposed to two different languages throughout their educational experience. For example, in a Chinese-English immersion programme, students would receive instruction in both Mandarin and English in all of their core courses, rather than merely taking a Mandarin course in addition to all of their other main subjects that are taught in English. This teaching technique has proven to be more effective than other language courses that do not allow for an immersive and intensive experience.
How Does it Work?
Immersion programmes are unique in the sense that all courses offered in the curriculum are taught in both languages. The instructors who teach these courses must be completely fluent in both languages taught, as they will be required to introduce their lessons in both languages. In most cases, an immersion programme includes one language that nearly every student in the community is familiar with and another language that they will have significant exposure to. At OWIS, the Chinese-English bilingual programme aims to expose students equally to both Mandarin and English languages and develop fluency in both languages.
Full Immersion Language Programmes
There are several distinct types of language immersion programmes. The full immersion language programme is typically reserved for older students who have been exposed at some level to each language that is being studied. In most cases, their lessons will be taught entirely in their non-native language. The immersion teachers recognise that their students will not necessarily understand all they are saying, so they will rely on other tools and resources to provide students with information about the new concepts. For instance, they might use hand gestures, images and technology in order to convey their point while instructing in a different language.
Partial Immersion Language Programmes
Partial immersion language programmes are another option for schools that want to prioritise language skills in their students. Partial immersion language programmes are preferred at the elementary and primary school level because these programmes expose children to both languages that they are studying. Instructors in partial immersion programmes will spend equal time teaching in both languages, which gives younger students an opportunity to make connections and develop a solid foundation in both languages. A partial immersion language programme can prepare students for full immersion programmes in secondary school.
Two-Way Language Immersion Programmes
A two-way language immersion programme is unique because it brings together two groups of learners who have different native languages. For example, one group of students may speak English primarily, while another may have learned Mandarin in their homes. Together, the students are instructed in both languages, which allows them to enhance their native speaking, reading and writing skills while simultaneously becoming fluent in a different language.
How Long Does Proficiency Take?
The amount of time that it will take students to become proficient in both languages will vary significantly based on their age, the amount of time they have spent in an immersion programme, the type of language immersion programme they are enrolled in, their academic skill level and their exposure to both languages outside the classroom. On average, it takes students two or three years in an immersion programme to be fully proficient in both languages. This time can be longer or shorter, depending on the age of the students.
Benefits of Language Immersion Programmes
There are many benefits associated with language immersion programmes, including:
- Students are more likely to excel in all subject areas when they are enrolled in language immersion programmes. In particular, research has shown that students have higher achievements in language, arts and maths. While there is an initial lag as students adapt to the instructional style, most students quickly pick up speed and exceed their peers’ academic achievements in non-immersion programmes.
- Students are exposed to another culture in addition to another language. They learn about more than just the basic words and phrases of the language, and they begin to develop a better appreciation for the culture as a whole.
Language Immersion at OWIS
At One World International School, we are proud to offer several language programmes for our students. Our primary school students, starting from Grade 1, can begin a language immersion programme through our Chinese-English bilingual programme.
All our students, from Early Childhood to Secondary, are offered Mandarin as a second language right from Early Childhood 1. Upon entering grade 8, students can continue their Mandarin language programme or opt for a different second language (as per their language proficiency), such as French or Spanish.
To learn more about our language programmes and the other offerings at OWIS, contact us today or set up a virtual school tour with us.