Frequently Asked Questions
What is a language immersion education?
Language immersion is an educational model in which students learn the core curriculum in a second language, often referred to as a target language. All of the traditional subjects taught by a monolingual school—a school where only one language is spoken—such as language arts, math, social studies, and the humanities are taught in the target language.
What is the difference between a language immersion education and taking a second language in school?
According to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, a target language is “all that learners say, read, hear, write, and view.” Therefore, language immersion education utilizes the target language exclusively, particularly when the students are young.
The target language is not an elective added to an English-based curriculum. In addition to the use of the target language in the classroom, language immersion schools ensure that language comprehension is facilitated by a rich variety of target language-related activities both inside and outside of the classroom.
Does the timing of a child’s entry into a language immersion program matter?
Yes. Children who enter language immersion programs at the beginning of their early childhood education display more complete target language acquisition skills. However, with some additional resources, students can successfully matriculate into a language immersion program and succeed at any age.
Are there different language immersion models?
Yes. The Center for Applied Linguistics outlines three primary models of language immersion:
Total Immersion: All or almost all subjects taught in the lower grades (K-2) are taught in the target language; instruction in English usually increases in the upper grades (3-6) to 20%-50%, depending on the program.
Partial Immersion: Up to 50% of subjects are taught in the target language; in some programs, the material taught in the target language is reinforced in English.
Two-Way Immersion: Two different groups of students are combined to facilitate the learning of a second language. For example, one group may be native English speakers looking to learn a target language. The second group natively speaks the target language and is learning English. Core curriculum academic instruction is integrated for both groups.
How does a language immersion student’s cognitive ability in English and math compare to those of students enrolled in a monolingual school where only one language is spoken?
Research shows that language immersion can improve cognitive proficiency in English as well as heighten symbolic reasoning and math skills for immersion students relative to their monolingual peers. In fact, at HudsonWay Immersion School, the median percentile ranking in language arts and math for our students is 92.
What is the Linguistic Interdependence Principle?
The Linguistic Interdependence Principle, as it relates to bilingualism, was developed by Professor James Cummins of the University of Toronto in 1979. The premise is that linguistic competence in a second language is partially dependent on a threshold of linguistic competency in the first language. In other words, to achieve the cognitive and academic benefits of bilingualism, the threshold of linguistic competency in the first language is a key determinant. For this reason, HudsonWay Immersion School has chosen the Total Immersion model for its students.
Is language immersion education a growing trend in the United States?
Yes. Based on data collected by Studica, language immersion programs are growing in the United States and this trend is taking place against a backdrop of declining foreign language classes in monolingual schools.
Available data from 1981 to 2011 shows that language immersion programs grew 94% in the United States. In contrast, a Pew Research Center survey in 2018 found, “Throughout all 50 states and the District of Columbia, 20% of K-12 students are enrolled in foreign language classes, according to a 2017 report from the nonprofit American Councils for International Education.” That figure compares to 92% for students in Europe.