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language immersion program?

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
We have a public school here that offers language immersion programs. one is Chinese, the other is Spanish. sdoes anyone have any experience with such a program? what would be the benefit of learning in a completely foreign language, other than the obvious? We speak neither one at home, but there are a small handful of children already in the program in a similar situation.
post #2 of 21

My son went to a tri-lingual school. He was in full Spanish Immersion through 5th grade but started Mandarin in a more traditional method 3 or 4 times a week starting 3rd grade. For us, the benefits were very high. DS is an auditory learner. He is dysgraphic which makes writing very difficult. The heavy oral nature of immersion school was a good fit for him. His chatterbox nature was actually appreciated (as long as he used the right languages lol.) He developed an excellent year for accents. His understanding of language structure is outstanding and has translated into a unique understanding of the English language. He has a deep appreciation for other cultures and continues to keep track of what is going on in the world. He feels good about his abilities in this area. He likes being able to talk to different sorts of people (we live in an area where the Spanish is super useful and the Mandarin does pop-up.) Any language he chooses to pursue later in life will come that much easier. They tend to give homework that the student really should be able to do independently as they know most parents aren't fluent..

 

The complications? My own kid was an excellent speller in English throughout elementary but I know for some, it didn't really click until later in elementary. Some parents were nervous about this but seems like they all turned it around. You need to encourage a lot of English reading at home but really, you'd do this anyway. Don't expect to HEAR much of their languages. Most totally compartmentalize their lives and choose to use their languages only at school. They often test lower of standardized tests (which are in English) in the early grades and then pull out way ahead by 5th, do be patient. Working in the classroom is a little tricky.... not impossible but if this is really important to you, keep it under consideration. 

 

We have no regrets in choosing this educational option for our son. I do wish it had been an option for my eldest.

post #3 of 21

My kids don't do immersion, but my dd2's school does offer a dual language program with Spanish. Is the program your school offers true immersion and everything is in Spanish/Mandarin or is part of the day in Spanish and part in English? Ours is a dual language program with part of the day in English and part in Spanish. We have a lot of Hispanic kids whose first language is Spanish, so for them they're learning English and for the kids whose first language is English they're learning Spanish. The school makes an effort to keep the program to about a 50/50 split. For the non-Hispanic kids it's a great exposure to a different culture. All the parents I know who have their kids in the program are really happy with it.

 

We did not do it because my dd1 really struggles with anxiety and was barely able to hold it together for Kindergarten in English, much less a foreign language. We ended up sending her to a small private school that could offer us more flexibility for dealing with her anxiety issues (they let me stay in the class, etc). When it was time for dd2 to go to school we sent her to the same private school. We switched to public school when dd1 was in 5th and dd2 was in 2nd. I might have considered dual language for dd2 if we had sent her in K, but she couldn't do it in 2nd (and didn't want to). I do think it's a great program and I am glad for the exposure to the language that dd2 does get both peripherally through the proximity of the dual language kids and through the Spanish classes the traditional kids take twice a week. She doesn't particularly love Spanish, but I'm hoping she will have at least picked up the sounds and a few words which might make it easier in middle or high school.

post #4 of 21

One of the less obvious benefits is that immersion programs tend to be preferentially filled with kids whose parents put lots of value on their kids' educations -- because it's a program of choice, one which contains a special type of enriched learning. Which tends to equal "kids who are bright, optimistic, secure and well-behaved." Which is a pretty nice educational cohort to have your child in. Obviously these are only generalizations, and particular schools, classrooms and children can differ a lot from the generalized trend, but I think it's worth pointing out.

 

Miranda

post #5 of 21

There is an immersion school in our city. We didn't choose it for two reasons. First, it has a mixed reputation and language acquisition through immersion is not important enough for me to favor that over some other things the school was lacking. But, also we didn't choose it because of our experience with enrolling DC in a school when we were living overseas. Had we stayed, she would have gone to school there and dealt but the experience was really hard for her AND our DC has some unique reading issues that in retrospect I fear would have been seriously complicated by learning in a second language. I do agree that the environment of the school is likely to bring some benefits outside of the language - certainly going to school with people who value multiculturalism has enormous value. I guess it's just a matter of what you're getting/sacrificing in order to have the language program, yk? 

post #6 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by beanma View Post
 

Ours is a dual language program with part of the day in English and part in Spanish. We have a lot of Hispanic kids whose first language is Spanish, so for them they're learning English and for the kids whose first language is English they're learning Spanish. The school makes an effort to keep the program to about a 50/50 split. For the non-Hispanic kids it's a great exposure to a different culture. All the parents I know who have their kids in the program are really happy with it.

 

This is/was exactly our situation. DD1 finished the program plus three years of middle school advanced Spanish. DD2 is finishing up the dual-lang. immersion part this year. However, DD1 has chosen to switch to Japanese in high school. Not sure what DD2 will do. I am a translator, and my husband and I are trilingual, raising kids bilingual already, so this program added their 3rd lang (differnt than mine and DH's, incidentally). A multicultural program, immersion in other cultures (the assemblies with folk dancing, folk songs, celebrating Day of the Dead, Children's Day, Mother's Day, etc. are great) and learning other languages are important to us. This program certainly fit the bill. BTW, ours was a "strand"  within the local neighborhood school not a separate school, so I feel our kids also got the full benefit of being in their neighborhood school, knowing kids they will be going to middle and high school with, etc.

post #7 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by whatsnextmom View Post
 

Don't expect to HEAR much of their languages. Most totally compartmentalize their lives and choose to use their languages only at school. They often test lower of standardized tests (which are in English) in the early grades and then pull out way ahead by 5th, do be patient. Working in the classroom is a little tricky.... not impossible but if this is really important to you, keep it under consideration. 

 

Agree with this! I do not speak Spanish, and my kids rarely let me hear them speaking Spanish. Because we don't speak it at home, their teachers have always encouraged extra speaking practice, but honestly that hasn't happened. I let it slide because I speak another language with them already, but that is something to consider. Some kids in their classes are more confident about speaking, though, and well on their way to fluency.

 

Also, ask how the program handles standardized testing. In certain grades our program has to do extra math practice/vocabulary practice in English before the standardized tests so that the kids understand it because they had had Spanish math all year.

post #8 of 21

DD (1st grade) is in her fourth year in a full Mandarin immersion program and we love it!  I actually don't even really notice anymore that they're working in another language - it just seems natural.  We don't speak any Mandarin and it has been fine so far.  The teacher explains the homework at school and she seems to figure it out.  Actually, it's kind of nice not being able to help her that much!  There can be some language and cultural barriers with the teachers, but you just have to be a little bit patient.  

post #9 of 21

I'm not a fan, as a teacher. I see a lot of students start out in an immersion program then switch out later on with far-behind-average skills in English. I think the key is to stick with it throughout the course of the program and also take a look at the school's standardized test scores to see if they're doing well maintaining the basic skills they need.

post #10 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by pastamama View Post
 

I'm not a fan, as a teacher. I see a lot of students start out in an immersion program then switch out later on with far-behind-average skills in English. I think the key is to stick with it throughout the course of the program and also take a look at the school's standardized test scores to see if they're doing well maintaining the basic skills they need.

 

There is a bit of a lag in many kids' English skills. That's completely to be expected, as the focus in the early years is almost 100% on the new language. English almost always catches up once kids are over the first hump with 2nd language acquisition, but you're correct that there can be a [usually temporary] problem if they leave the immersion program after just 1-4 years. Kids who are avid readers (in English) at home are much less likely to have this problem, but it's hard to know at age 4 whether your child will pick up English reading easily and fluidly and enjoy reading in her first language for pleasure.

 

Miranda

post #11 of 21

I really like immersion for my kids. that being said, it is French immersion and I speak French fluently and we live in a bilingual English/French city. at the parent-teacher interview, my husband spoke in English, I spoke in French, with the teachers. I didn't use French at home until now as my eldest didn't really start talking until 3 so I was concerned about the stress of another language.

 

I do think if you can commit to at least speaking the bare essentials, it can be a very easy transition for kids. my 4 year old is in junior kindergarten and gets 1.5hrs of French/the rest English. next year he will be 1/2 for each, and my eldest (in grade one) is instructed 100% in French, and by high school will be back to half and half. I do think it is especially important if you live in an area where the language is used...so here it is useful - at any given playground there will be both Anglophones and francophones, and I do think it is cool that when we go to mexico, the boys pick up bits and pieces of Spanish quickly, so I think that's been a lovely benefit of immersion.

 

but again, if you can commit to at least having a few words of the language, I really think that would make it a more seamless transition...and you might surprise yourself with your own ability to learn the language as well (my husband's French has improved remarkably since our eldest first went into early French immersion.

post #12 of 21
Thread Starter 

Thanks so much for all the helpful responses! There are a couple moms i know in the program that I will be picking the brains of later as well! My first choice is really to homeschool, but since I dont think this is a possibility (as of yet anyways) this seems like a really interesting opportunity.

post #13 of 21
Thread Starter 

so, i'm still really debating this! here's the other caveat of the situation. we are moving soon and part of our decision is based on what kind of school she will be going to.  my husband wants to move to the "better school district" which boasts some of the top public schools in the nation.  knowing that we have an opportunity to get our kids in the program, DH is pretty adamant on going this route. part of me likes the idea of that, and part of me still thinks that fully learning another language (Mandarin) teaches a skill that is more than just "learning another language" but turning on parts of her young brain that most people never get a chance to use.

 

that being said, if you had the opportunity to get into some of the best schools in the nation would you pick that over learning another language? what kind of questions should we ask the school with the immersion program to help make  a decision like that? DH wants some hardcore research or SOMETHING to make a decision because he says i'm going on a whim. i told him there are not really a whole lot of studies, and yes, part of this is a leap of faith. URGH! 

post #14 of 21

I would honestly look at what "best" means with these schools. I live in a fairly wealthy area with some excellent schools (considered best in the state - don't know about nationally). My kids attend the "worst" schools in town in terms of test scores, but we have had a fine time there. They had small classes and awesome arts programs. The schools are diverse in student body and staff. They did have the opportunity to do the two-way immersion program, which was a huge plus for us. Your mileage may vary, of course, but what I see as some of the issues with the "best" schools around here, besides a lack of diversity, which is important to me, is intense pressure on the kids to perform academically and fit in socially, as well as to some degree lack of a willingness to let the kids take responsibility (thinking of hazing incidents at a high school where the parents lawyered the kids up). It all depends on your priorities.

post #15 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ragana View Post
 

I would honestly look at what "best" means with these schools. I live in a fairly wealthy area with some excellent schools.

 

I agree about checking into what is meant by "best."  I would also look into the demographics of the area and then discount what ever is happening in terms of test scores that is directly linked to demographics. The "best" school district in my city is in a small area where houses are SO expensive that is mostly kids come from families that are highly affluent and highly educated. In addition to the advantage of those genes and living in those households, they pay for tutors for their kids. Don't discount what families who make >250K a year will do to ensure their children are successful. I've no idea how much credit the school should get because the kids would do well pretty much anywhere.  There are also certain social issues that arise in highly affluent areas: the competition for status symbols, bragging about expensive vacations, and kids who have been spoiled to the point of not taking responsibility for themselves. (Think about spoiled kids with lawyers for parents -- it isn't pretty)

 

And in our city, racism. shake.gif  Our city is very mixed and tolerant, but the few "monied" schools are predominantly white, and some of the parents want their kids there because of that. Far more problems with blatant racism in the "best" schools.

 

Have you guys run the numbers? Compared the price of the houses in the "best district"  to houses elsewhere, and considered the impact on your kids of being able to spend that money on other things, like lessons, educational vacations, etc?

 

It might help you and your DH to think about this is terms of 2 good choices, rather than the right choice and the wrong choice. It is just 2 different paths, and they both have pros and cons.

post #16 of 21

I agree with being cautious about what the word "best" means. I am reminded of this thread because our DC and I went to the big 5th grade school choice panel at our DC's old school last night. We were invited to talk about the process of choosing a school. I had the chance to listen again to all the wonderful advice we were given about how to pick a school. The best of which is that there are lots of great schools out there but that a parent should be concerned with helping their kids find a good fit for their child. 

 

For my DC we chose one of "the best" schools but not because of its ranking (entirely) but because the school we helped her pick offered a good, fairly traditional, well rounded education in a small-school setting. Strong principal a good mix of teachers. But my DC is a pretty "regular old kid". The school she goes to would not have been a good fit for a child who needed to grow in a larger school, or a kid who needed some room for bending & making rules. Stuff like that. 

 

Of the kids who went on to pick a 6th grade (our city has school choice for that age group) ALL of the kids seem super happy - I think because they were able to find a good fit for themselves (with the help of their parents).  

 

It's harder for an early elementary school but it's something I would start factoring in now --- above stats and "extras" that you understandably want for your child, I would start thinking of all of the schools you are looking at as "good schools" but think more in terms of what will be the best fit for your child. 

post #17 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Linda on the move View Post

 

And in our city, racism. shake.gif  Our city is very mixed and tolerant, but the few "monied" schools are predominantly white, and some of the parents want their kids there because of that. Far more problems with blatant racism in the "best" schools.

Linda, to some degree in my city, too, although it's known on the surface for being a liberal town. It's not stated as such - usually "test scores" are given as the reason.

post #18 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by strmis View Post
 

so, i'm still really debating this! here's the other caveat of the situation. we are moving soon and part of our decision is based on what kind of school she will be going to.  my husband wants to move to the "better school district" which boasts some of the top public schools in the nation.  knowing that we have an opportunity to get our kids in the program, DH is pretty adamant on going this route. part of me likes the idea of that, and part of me still thinks that fully learning another language (Mandarin) teaches a skill that is more than just "learning another language" but turning on parts of her young brain that most people never get a chance to use.

 

that being said, if you had the opportunity to get into some of the best schools in the nation would you pick that over learning another language? what kind of questions should we ask the school with the immersion program to help make  a decision like that? DH wants some hardcore research or SOMETHING to make a decision because he says i'm going on a whim. i told him there are not really a whole lot of studies, and yes, part of this is a leap of faith. URGH! 


I would pick the immersion school hands down. In 20 years, no one will care or ask what elementary school your kids went to, but the kid will have a second language forever (if you work at maintaining good opportunities for them to use their second language).

Also, in my experience, a good school means a very academically oriented school. In our neighbourhood we had several choices, among which a "good" school (English).

I know that ds's friends who are in the good school have a lot more homework and more pressure to perform academically. I find this unnecessary for elementary school level.

post #19 of 21
Thread Starter 

thanks again for all the input. this perspective is really refreshing, as DH comes from the stereotypical asian mentality of "nothing below an A matters."  so, in doing a quick yelp search of our local HS, i see how pressured these poor kids are (per the reviews, anyways). If i could have it my way, i'd actually homeschool my girls so they could actually have time to be kids, but with two working parents, it doesn't look like that will happen anytime soon.  I'd really dislike seeing my kids grow up thinking that all that mattered were good grades, the way my deprived DH was raised. and, all in all, i think it comes down to your parenting and HOPEFULLY setting a good foundation for the kids. 

 

as for the immersion program, there is an orientation coming up in a few weeks that we will be attending. DH is actually coming around to the idea of the whole thing. we shall see. i'll keep ya'll posted if you like =)

post #20 of 21

Do keep us posted! :) And if you're interested in academic pressure and the issues it can cause (beyond your DH's personal experience - I get that, having been raised similarly), watch the documentary "Race to Nowhere" - very eye-opening. I thought it would be interesting, but not applicable to my town's high school. Boy, was I wrong. The commentary time was full of parents and professionals outlining these problems in our community. Although I can't send my kids elsewhere - only one high school here - at least I am more prepared for the pressures and can act accordingly with my kids.

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