The Immersion program has garnered tremendous attention in the recent past, and understandably so. These programs allow students to acquire considerable linguistic skills while broadening their intellectual scope. There are also cultural benefits to accrue from participating in immersion programs.
But if you’re encountering this term for the first time or have never given due consideration to the concept, it’s natural to wonder if immersion programs live up to their hype. Well, this post shall endeavor to address those concerns.
Below is a comprehensive guide to what immersion programs entail, with a special focus on the core benefits of these programs.
What Is An Immersion Program?
A dual-language immersion program, commonly known simply as an immersion program, is an academic program in which content is taught in two languages. Think of all the knowledge you’ve acquired in Math or Chemistry. Then picture a situation where these subjects were dispensed in a foreign language like Chinese or Icelandic.
As we’ve already indicated, the past few years have witnessed a growing number of academic institutions where students can participate in an immersion program. If that trend holds, it may only be a matter of time before the concept achieves mainstream recognition.
What Are The Benefits Of Dual-Language Immersion?
Promotes Bilingual Proficiency
This is unarguably the most significant benefit of taking part in a dual-language immersion program.
As immersion programs entail teaching a subject in two languages, these programs can help promote bilingual proficiency.
Proficiency in multiple languages is a huge bonus in a world that has since become one global village. Expressing oneself in a second language is particularly useful for students pursuing careers in serious communication, such as journalism, content creation, tourism, and public relations.
Enhances Intellectual Scope
Learning a second language can be challenging at first. But it’s ultimately rewarding. Numerous studies have shown that students exposed to two languages in their earlier academic years tend to develop enhanced cognitive skills.
All other factors are held constant; bilingual students can outperform their monolingual counterparts across all aspects of cognitive functioning. These range from attention span to ease of learning, problem-solving, and even working memory.
Improves Cultural Literacy
Not only does learning a second language make you bilingually proficient. It can also help you develop cultural literacy. You’ll seamlessly learn about their cultural norms and values as you engage with international students in a dual-language immersion program. For instance, you’ll know what constitutes pleasantries and taboos in the other language.
This literacy level can come in handy when dealing with people from different cultures and walks of life.
Enhances Social Connections
Dual-language immersion programs typically combine students from different cultural backgrounds. In most cases, the programs consist of a uniform mix of native and non-native students. That means there’s an even pair of students from different cultural backgrounds who may not have interacted before.
The shared learning environment can promote socio-cultural cohesion while helping the students build strong connections.
If maintained well into the future, such connections can help forge business partnerships. Besides, isn’t it cool to be friends with someone from a different cultural background?
Strengthens Understanding of the Target Subject
Another key benefit of dual-language immersion programs is that they can boost understanding of the target subject.
Certain aspects of a subject will only become more apparent when explained in an alternative language. That’s especially true for technical subjects like Math and the Sciences.
Note that the objective of immersion programs isn’t to translate words and phrases directly between the two languages. Instead, it’s to explain similar concepts using different languages and approaches. So, if you miss one language, you will surely get it in the other.
Improves Proficiency of the Primary Language
There’s a common misconception that participating in a dual-language immersion program can affect learners’ understanding of their native language. Nothing can be further from the truth.
On the contrary, immersion programs can help you achieve a higher degree of proficiency in both the second and primary languages. That’s because vocabularies in the second language will be explained easily in your native language and vice versa.
How Do Dual-Language Immersion Programs Work?
Different schools have their unique ways of dispensing language immersion programs. But in most institutions, the programs start from kindergarten levels and continue throughout elementary, middle, and high school. Classes typically consist of half native English speakers and half native speakers of the target language. English and Spanish are the most widely targeted languages. However, you could enroll in an immersion program involving many other languages, including Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Swahili, etc.
Next, tutors give their instructions using either a 90/10 or 50/50 model. A 90/10 model entails giving 90% of the instructions in the target language and 10% in the native language. In a 50/50 model, the coursework comprises half the native language and half the target language.
Lastly, learners sit for their examinations. Note that these examinations do not assess a student’s knowledge of the second language per se. Instead, they primarily test the learner’s understanding of the taught content.
Dual-language immersion programs offer numerous benefits. So, if you’re a young learner or have school-going children, there’s much to gain by enrolling in an immersion program today.