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Language immersion, in the simplest terms, is a technique used to teach people a second language. However, the language being taught is used for instruction purposes only. Immersion programs are not a new thing as they have been evolving for decades. Canada can be described as the origin of immersion techniques as it started in the 1960s; middle-class English speaking parents in Canada were seen campaigning for their children to be taught French through the experimental technique of language immersion. The tutors could thus teach students about various French traditions and culture. The students could, in turn, understand and appreciate these traditions and their role in real life.
How immersion teaching differs from other language-teaching techniques
How could it feel when students learn a second language by simply opening a science, history, or math book? What if the same students could grasp the culture of the 2nd language that they are learning? It even gets better when the same student learns other subjects while on the language immersion program. All that is available when the immersion teaching approach is applied. Immersion training takes the students (virtually) to a region or country where the target language is spoken. The students will thus learn the language fast and, at the same time, understand the culture.
Immersion training takes advantage of authentic material such as interactive multimedia content that is usually consumed by the native speakers of the target language. The students will thus take advantage of modern technology and get exposed to loads of authentic materials, which will consequently allow them to achieve a high level of fluency and proficiency.
The idea is to recreate the immersive experience that the students would encounter if they were living in the target region on a fulltime basis. The approach allows students to gain familiarity with the target language’s unique pronunciations and sounds. Such students also pick and learn subtle non-verbal elements, codes, and social etiquette. Ideally, language immersion makes the target language a medium rather than the object of teaching. The approach will allow the students to use the target language naturally when they are communicating normally. The parent and the teacher play crucial roles to make language immersion work.
Levels of language immersion
Students under this level spend 100% of their time learning the 2nd language. The goal is to encourage students to get used to the second language and have spontaneous conversations. The students will then use the 2nd language rather than having conversations with planned sentences that are usually learned from the heart.
The students under this level will spend 50% of their class time learning the second language. The goal of this level of training is to teach the students the culture and traditions associated with the target language.
This approach is also known as dual immersion—the students in such a class understand two or more languages. The typical class time of a two-way immersion session is split into two halves; each will focus on one language. The two sets of students will interact and learn from each other and eventually become bilingual.
Foreign Language in Elementary Schools (FLES)
5-15% of the class time is devoted to learning the second language while the rest of the time is on the first language. FLES aims at proficiency and accuracy in listening as well as acquiring a thorough understanding of the cultures of the target language.
Foreign Language Experience (FLEX)
These are short programs that occur regularly over a while. The time spent on foreign language is 1-5% of the entire class time. FLEX aims at sparking interest within the students to learn the second language. Such students will later learn the second language in detail using the other approaches.
Why immersion training?
Students become comfortable with the target language
Most people have a fear of the unknown. A second language may appear hard to learn during the first interaction. Immersion training lets the students break all the barriers to communication and thus rethink the target language. Immersion curriculum does not focus on the language alone but goes ahead to check on the content and ideas that come into play. Students who are self-conscious about their grammar skills or accent are thus empowered through this approach. Students will not be judged based on the usage of the language. Rather, it is the understanding of various concepts and the content that matters. Such students will thus interact naturally and freely as they do not fear ridicule whenever they are using the second language.
Language immersion is known to support educational excellence
Students who undergo immersion training seems to gain a significant edge over their monolingual counterparts. The edge is not only in language but also manifests in thinking patterns. Such students seem to perform better in other areas such as cross-cultural sensitivity, cognitive development, and literacy. Immersion teaching gives the students the essential tools to become better at creative thinking and problem-solving. Students who undergo immersion training are also highly employable in the competitive global market.
Exposes students to foreign cultures
Most people believe that what matters in a language is fluency. However, this is not the case because knowledge of the culture in question is also essential. Learning a second language sometimes creates language and cultural gaps, but immersion training bridges them. The training essentially exposes the students to the cultural aspects of the target language. Some of these cultural aspects are not taught in regular classrooms, and they include pop culture, social etiquette, and gastronomy.
Learning the second language becomes effortless
The first few days may be hard for the students. This happens when such students have limited or scarce knowledge of the target language. However, as they get exposed to this language more, fluency will no longer be an issue. It will become effortless even for those students who may feel as if they are not good at learning foreign languages. Such students can shine in other subjects such as math or science. The passion for their favorite subjects will make them learn the second language with ease.
Immersion Teaching Skills
Use of visuals to complement lessons
Some students learn through listening. However, some need visuals for the points to sink home. Students can perform better when they see words in writings. A combination of visuals and audios is always a good choice for such students.
- Use of posters and signs with colors, oversized typography, and images are bound to make key vocabularies and concepts to pop up.
- Use real-life objects or puppets to demonstrate a concept and make it sink.
- Use of body language to send the message home. For instance, showing excitement through a smile when describing a positive event in history will make the students get the message better.
- Use charts to illustrate different concepts while teaching a foreign language. The chart can show the relationship between different elements in the target language.
- Movies combine visuals and audio to make it easy for students to grab various concepts.
- Posters and ads which are made up of large educational images and signs can also serve the purpose. Scattering them around the school or the classrooms makes it easy for the students to learn from them. The idea behind such an approach is to increase familiarity with the target language.
Create a structured learning environment
A typical language class setup involves loads of content, vocabulary, and concepts that are introduced at the same time. Making students learn all these things together is easy with a structured environment.
Long lectures, demonstrations, or readings can overwhelm students. Such long sessions make it hard for students to cram new concepts. Such students need enough time to learn and practice everything they come across.
The best way to avoid information overload is to work with structures. Essential information should be presented in bullet points and then have an example that will illustrate every point. A worksheet that recaps the entire chapter will also work magic. The worksheet should be handed out before the start of the lessons.
Writing down some of the essential keywords on the blackboard while analyzing a concept in detail is also essential. Summary of the important information, use bullets, grids, lists, and graphs helps to keep work structured and neat. PowerPoint presentations that are easy to follow are useful to pass the information. Switching between slides is easy to make sure that students are on track.
Students feel energized when they are motivated after they perform well in class and beyond. A good teacher should take time to learn the character of every student to determine the nature of rewards that might work out best. One of the shy students may now be super-active in class. There may be another student that is motivating others to learn the target language even though he or she is not a master yet. There are several approaches to motivate such students
- Gift them with items with cultural flavor. The ideal gifts are those that motivate the students to learn more about the target language. A novel written in the target language can send help the students understand the language better. A cult movie composed in the target language lets the students learn about the culture of that language.
- Rewards that appreciate students’ efforts. The rewards do not have to be costly or something fancy. It is just a positive gesture that shows students that they are on the right route. A simple reward makes students feel appreciated and that someone is noting their efforts.
- Hold celebrations. Immersive teaching is all about letting the students learn the culture of the target language. Setting up celebration events based on the culture of the target language is one of the best approaches. Celebrating holidays of the target language is also an awesome approach.
Subjects that makes it to learn a language through immersion techniques
Most people love stories of things that happened in the past. The history teacher needs to be a good storyteller to immerse the students into the culture and comprehend various concepts. It even gets better when the language teacher integrates history lessons.
History goes beyond teaching the basics and roots of the language. The students get a framework to think, understand, and analyze the current challenges. The students can create historical timelines to make the learning curve smoother.
Teachers split students into groups and then assign them historical timelines. The students will then cover and learn about the culture of the target group and then make presentations. The students will thus learn from one another which makes the exercise fun. Teachers can use illustrations such as colors to make it easy to learn these events. For instance, you can have color pink to represent politics, red for battles, green for economics, black for social events, and blue for arts.
Passing around points theoretically may be hard for some students. There are those who want to touch, feel, and experiment with what they are learning. Science experiments are thus crucial when it comes to learning a second language through immersion even the kid is learning from home.
Students learn scientific vocabulary while at the same time interact with key theories, processes, and concepts. For instance, creating a volcano and letting the students see the action makes the points more believable. The ideal scientific experiment is when you ask a question, come up with a hypothesis, come up with testable predictions, execute the experiment, gather & analyze data, come up with a discussion and draw conclusions. Experimenting lets the students learn about different concepts in a smooth manner. The choice of the experiments will depend on the age of the students and their education levels.Learning a second language comes with a lot of benefits as you can see from the above points. The biggest challenge is getting a tutor that will follow the laid-down principles and deliver the quality of output that you require for your kids. A governess agency makes it easy to land a tutor that ensures that your kids get the attention they deserve when learning a second language.