We’ve reached the dog days of summer, and it’s time for many people to head back to school.
Increasingly, though, many children are not heading back to the normal district school to which they are assigned. Instead, many parents are choosing to send their children to language immersion schools where almost all of the instruction takes place in a foreign language such as Chinese, French, or Spanish.
According to Southern California Public Radio (SCPR), one of the children with firsthand experience in a Chinese language immersion school is 5 year-old Gemma Gomez. While initially concerned that Gemma would fall behind if not experiencing school in her native tongue, Gemma’s academic progress and success in the Mandarin language soon put her parents at ease.
Research suggests that other students at immersion schools have had similar success. According to the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition,
“English proficient immersion students are capable of achieving as well as, and in some cases better than, non-immersion peers on standardized measures of reading and math.
This finding applies to students from a range of socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, as well as diverse cognitive and linguistic abilities. Moreover, academic achievement on tests administered in English occurs regardless of the second language being learned. In other words, whether learning through alphabetic languages (Spanish, Hawaiian, French, etc.) or character-based languages (Mandarin, Japanese, Cantonese), English-proficient students will keep pace academically with peers in English-medium programs.”
In some cases, it seems that students in language immersion programs may actually do better than their peers in non-immersion schools. Take, for example, two immersion schools in Intellectual Takeout’s backyard: Yinghua Academy (Minneapolis, MN) and the Twin Cities German Immersion Charter School (St. Paul, MN). Students at both language immersion schools score in the 80th and 90th percentile for reading and math, while their counterparts in the Minneapolis and St. Paul district schools are unable to top the 50th percentile in either subject area.
Would it be wise to pursue more language immersion schools in the U.S.?
Image Credit: Yinghua Academy
Annie Holmquist is the editor of Intellectual Takeout.