Language Immersion Programs

I am a huge fan of language immersion programs at elementary schools.

I feel as though this program has many benefits and only a small number of drawbacks. I am going to take a somewhat non-traditional approach to this blog post and create a pro/con list of sorts for immersion programs. A lot of this is my opinion, but I will try to support as much as possible with research and facts in order to provide a well-rounded and strong argument in favor of the programs.


Pros Cons
bilingual skills are increasingly valuable in the workplace could temporarily slow down progress in core subjects
learning a second language makes it easer to learn more languages in the future “unfair” to students who don’t speak English or Spanish
makes it easier for students who know Spanish and not English
research shows it doesn’t negatively impact performance on standardized tests
more effective than separate language classes that only teach that language for a portion of the day and the students don’t encounter it the rest of the day
makes it easier for students who know Spanish and not English
proven to be successful with other languages, such as Chinese also

This list is my justification for supporting language programs in schools> While some parents and teachers believe it could be detrimental to kids learning overall, research has shown this is simply not the case. Learning a language biologically trains the brain to work in ways that help kids in their future studies rather than harms them. It also prepares them for an increasingly diverse world and helps unify populations in schools that may have language barriers. I remember in high school I had a latina friend who I ate lunch with every day. We ate with a group of her friends from her latin@ community who primarily spoke Spanish. That was the exact reason why I switched from French to Spanish in high school. I wanted to be able to understand what they were saying at lunch and feel like I was a part of them instead of an outsider looking in. Language is so crucial to a community and unification so encouraging this at a younger age and equipping students with the tools to understand each other is so important. It is also beneficial in not giving Spanish-speaking students (for example) the message that their language or culture or community is not important, and that they should learn English because it is superior. This is a very dangerous idea to give kids when diversity should be acknowledged and celebrated. ELL and ESL programs seem to do that whereas immersion programs put students who speak those two language on a level playing field.

In the article I used for most of my pro/con list, “What the Research Says About Immersion“, it states that the Latin@ community is the most rapidly growing community in America and also has the lowest graduation rates. Creating an easier and smoother transition from their homes and communities that also benefits English speaking students is a win-win in my opinion! Expecting children to enter a school where a foreign language is being spoken and not providing adequate support systems to help them adjust is simply setting them up for failure.

I can’t imagine being thrown into a situation where my future depended on my success but I couldn’t understand the language or what was expected of me. How can we expect that of children?

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