Language immersion classrooms: Programs are popular, diligence translates to performance

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  • staypuffinpc Provo, UT
    Jan. 31, 2012 6:32 a.m.

    Orem Parent, you're still off base. After 6 years of learning in a language, these kids will have near native fluency. My 2nd and 3rd grade sons are learning French and Chinese, respectively, and they have already developd an ear for the language that would take an adult learner much longer to acquire.

    Then, the school will support them in middle school. Then, in high school, they will be able to take the A.P. language courses that are already offered with many of these languages. In the case of some districts, like Provo, they already maximize their language teacher resources by offering some languages at one high school and other languages at another. Because the two schools are so close together, they are able to bus kids back and forth in the middle of the day.

    When I worked with the young men in my church, there were several who were taking Japanese classes at the other high school in town. The structure is already in place to support these kids in many instances. The program is much better thought through than you re giving it credit.

  • Brian Wasilla, AK
    Jan. 30, 2012 10:50 p.m.

    To "Orem Parent" ...our son had three years of Spanish Immersion twenty five years ago before we had to move. When he was called to a Spanish speaking mission he thought that he had long since lost all of his Spanish but was able to carry on conversations after two weeks in the mission home and was fluent in Spanish for virtually all of his mission.

  • Orem Parent Orem, UT
    Jan. 30, 2012 9:03 p.m.

    I agree stay puff, it is the best time. However one period a day won't be enough...

  • staypuffinpc Provo, UT
    Jan. 30, 2012 7:42 p.m.

    The state has actually thought through and discussed with parents how they intend to make a 1-period/day class available to these students once they hit 7th grade. That is not currently happening b/c most of these programs have not matured to their full 6 years. Every year, they add another year. Many programs are only in their 3rd year, meaning it'll be another 4 years before these students will be in 7th grade. In some cases, this program has lead to international teacher exchanges, strengthening international ties between countries.

    Also, the notion that 6-12 yrs. old is a poor time for language development is completely off-base. It's one of the best times in a person's life for developing a second language natively.

  • Orem Parent Orem, UT
    Jan. 30, 2012 7:14 p.m.

    The biggest problem with these programs is they end at 6th grade. The language they are learning is nowhere close to being solidified in their brains at that early age. Once they get to middle school you won't be able to find teachers that speak fluent Chinese for each of the 7 or 8 classes the child will take. What happens? They get thrown back in with the crowd to forget everything they have learned.

    It is a HUGE roadblock that no one is addressing.

  • Coach P Provo, UT
    Jan. 30, 2012 3:23 p.m.

    To answer the question above about immersing our students in English and why we can't do this, well in these immersion programs, they also learn many of the core subjects with another teacher, in English. They do some of their subjects in the language in which they are being immersed. I imagine teaching all subjects in Chinese, Spanish, French to students that are learning this language would be very frustrating to these students and counterproductive. It is probably the same process of me teaching US History to ELL students that are struggling to learn English. These students are actually learning English quite well but learning US History as well is challenging (Imagine that you go to Mexico tomorrow, enter a classroom and you have to learn Mexican History and the teacher speaks only Spanish and you have a test in Spanish on Mexican history in two weeks--you probably aren't going to do too well).

    But there are some great teaching methods being taught to teachers that help teachers teach both content and language content at the same time as to bring the students along with both the academic language of a subject matter and increasing English literacy overall.

  • raybies Layton, UT
    Jan. 30, 2012 3:06 p.m.

    I think this is a great idea. I wish my kids had this option. My youngest daughter's best friend is native of Mexico, and I'd love it if she could learn to be bilingual. It's a great asset especially for those of us Mormons who believe the whole world needs to hear the great news of the Restored Gospel. Language can be a tall barrier to communication, I hope we can get a program like this near us now.

  • one old man Ogden, UT
    Jan. 30, 2012 2:50 p.m.

    We will all need to learn to speak Chinese soon if the tinkle down philosophies of St. Ronald don't stop landing on us.

  • staypuffinpc Provo, UT
    Jan. 30, 2012 2:40 p.m.

    As a researcher who has reviewed the academic literature to see if and in what ways learning a second language might affect (positively or negatively) one's first language, I must say kudos to the author of this article. Usually, in news articles, there is a great lack of information regarding sources. The sources cited are at the forefront of folks who have researched this topic.

    For those who are worried about the "watering down" of education and the basics, I would encourage you to read the aforementioned research. You will learn the pros/cons that have emerged over the course of decades of studies in thousands of different cases. Overall, the results are positive (and usu. statistically significant), indicating that kids may lag behind their monolingual counterparts for a year or two, but catch up after 2-3 years, and eventually surpass their peers in understanding of their native language.

    Claims of increased performance in all other subjects are somewhat suspect (to me), but the research is fairly clear and consistent that there is no lasting negative impact, i.e., time spent learning in another language does not negatively affect students' math and science performance. This means that school is a much better use of students' time than when they just focus on "the basics."

  • Springvillepoet Springville, UT
    Jan. 30, 2012 11:53 a.m.

    Language immersion is one of those pretty little programs which get a lot of attention. Unfortunately, none of it really means very much without ensuring students are being given a strong foundation of the basics.

    I really do like the idea of foreign language being taught in school. It just seems to me there is a lack of focus and standards in our schools. Core classes suffer and performance suffers when we start demanding too much from our schools and our students. Get our students to be able to think critically, get them to use the basics to develop original thoughts, and then give them elective coursework at the appropriate levels to reinforce those abilities.

  • Christine Orem, UT
    Jan. 30, 2012 10:05 a.m.

    How can Utah be so successful teaching children french, spanish, and chinese but they can't teach english to all kids? Something is wrong with this picture.

  • Tangar Orem, UT
    Jan. 30, 2012 9:43 a.m.

    If language immersion is so great for english speaking students who want to learn another language, then why don't we use it on spanish speakers who (theoretically, at least) want to learn english?

  • AZRods Maricopa, AZ
    Jan. 30, 2012 9:34 a.m.

    As I work to learn a 3rd language I absolutely agree that there are many benefits to learning additional languages. The stimulation it does for the brain, even at the age of 57 is clear and beneficial.
    The study mentioning how it makes the brain develop and flex make a lot of sense to me. After reading other articles about the benefits of learning a new language later in life to stimulate brain growth to help slow the effects of old age it all just makes sense.
    Not to mention the pleasure and benefits of speaking multiple languages.
    Most countries I've traveled to require English as well as the local native language, and in some cases a 3rd language that might also be prominant in that part of the world.
    Good for Utah for helping lead the way in this great educational tool.

  • skooby SOUTH JORDAN, UT
    Jan. 30, 2012 8:25 a.m.

    Currently IMHO the system needs to change to involve more English into the program. My wife is an aide and she can't use English with the children at all. This can result in frustration between teachers and students. One other thing is that parents still need to be involved with the progress of their students. A few of the students seem ill suited to be enrolled in an immersion program and parents should listen to what their teachers are saying. Overall it is a tremendous program and will have many benefits in the future.