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Understanding Immersion

Ashley Doughty
A basic understanding of what immersion is and how it works.

What is immersion?

 

An immersion program or dual language program, is a program in which "a substantial portion of their school subjects are taught through the medium of a second or foreign language" (Paradis et al. 165).  Students at StarBright can expect the majority of their day to be relayed to them in a language other than English. New concepts and ideas are taught first in a language that is not native to the student, and then can later be reinforced and reviewed with English.

This also applies to interactions between the student and the teacher.  For example, when speaking to a child, the teacher will address the child in the target language.  "As-tu faim?" ("Are you hungry?") will be asked while the teacher gestures toward the stomach and mimics chewing with the mouth.  Students understand, based on the context, we are asking if (s)he is hungry. The response from the student (usually in English) will be translated by the teacher - "yes" is repeated as "oui."  

 

How does it work?

 

"The rationale behind immersion is that students can learn a language effectively if it is used for significant periods of time and for substantive communication in school, much as children learn their native language in the home" (Paradis et al. 180).  Many times, parents are doubtful their child can pick up a second language at such an early age. But one must consider how a first language is acquired; it is not taught with grammar and spelling and syntax rules, but just through experiencing the language.  Parents speak to their child from the moment (s)he is born, and it is through experience children learn how to use the correct words and sentence structure to talk about the world around them and their place in that world. StarBright's immersion program aims to replicate the very same process, but in another language.


 

Works Cited

 

Paradis, Johanne, et al. Dual Language Development & Disorders: A Handbook on Bilingualism & Second Language Learning. Baltimore, Paul H. Brooks Publishing Co., 2011.

 

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