The Advantages of an Immersion Education

Immersion education is a research-based educational methodology that has been shown to improve academic achievement, reduce the achievement gap between white and minority students, boost economic potential and deliver lifelong cognitive benefits. Ready to learn more? Click on the links below!

What Is Immersion Education?

Excerpt from: “What Parents Want to Know About Foreign Language Immersion Programs” by Tara W. Fortune, Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition, University of Minnesota and Diane J. Tedick, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Minnesota

 Modeled after the pioneering French immersion programs developed in Canada in the 1960s, foreign language immersion programs in the United States are designed to enrich the education of native-English-speaking students by teaching them all of their academic subjects in a second language. The goal is for students to become proficient in the second language and develop increased cultural awareness while reaching a high level of academic achievement. Students develop proficiency in the second language by hearing and using it to learn all of their school subjects rather than by studying the language itself. 

READ More: What Parents Want to Know About Foreign Language Immersion Programs

Study: Portland Immersion Students Become Better Readers, English Speakers

Excerpts from: Study: Portland Immersion Students Become Better Readers, English Speakers

The RAND Corporation and the American Councils for International Education compared language immersion students with other Portland students from 2004 through 2014.

An immersion classroom in Portland, OR. Photo: Rob Manning/OPB

Key Finding No. 1:  Students randomly assigned to immersion outperformed their peers in English reading by about seven months in fifth grade and nine months in eighth grade.

Key Finding No. 2: Immersion students have 3-point lower rates of classification as English Language Learners (ELLs) by sixth grade, and this effect is larger (14 points) if students’ native language matches the classroom partner language.

READ/LISTEN to the Full Oregon Public Broadcasting Article: Study: Portland Immersion Students Become Better Readers, English Speakers

READ the Research Brief: Dual-Language Immersion Programs Raise Student Achievement in English

Immersion Programs Teach Much More Than Another Language

Excerpts from: Immersion Programs Teach Much More Than Another Language by Cindy Long

Matthew Bacon-Brenes is a dual language immersion mentor teacher in Portland Public Schools in Portland, Oregon. He teaches Japanese, Mandarin, Vietnamese and Spanish. We spoke to the NEA Foundation Horace Mann Awardee about about language immersion programs and the wide-ranging benefits they bring to all students.

Why is learning a culture as important as learning a language?

It’s a gateway to understanding the multicultural, multi-perspective world in which we all live. My interest in language is deeply rooted in cross cultural communication. We need to understand different cultures and perspectives to fully understand our place in history and our relation to the world.

There is great power in history lessons told in a different language with a different cultural lens. That’s how we learn about narratives and paradigms that don’t exist in one language but do in another.

What other benefits do language immersion programs have for students?

There is a lot of research that shows the rigor of language acquisition combined with content acquisition has enormous cognitive benefits for native and non-native speakers, raising achievement particularly in language arts and math.

Benefits are seen in every student demographic – affluent, low income, native speakers and English native speakers. Higher level learning skills comes from the power of transferring words and ideas from one language to another, thereby reinforcing them.

It’s a little hard sometimes for parents and educators to get on board with 50-50 immersion programs because there is an initial lag. Some parents wonder how their child, who might already struggle in math, will catch up if he’s learning math in a second language. But they do catch up. In fact statistics show that dual language students not only catch up, they pass up English-only students.

READ the Full Article: Immersion Programs Teach Much More Than Another Language

Economic Advantages of Bilingualism

Excerpts from: Realizing the Economic Advantages of a Multilingual Workforce by Dr. Patrícia Gandára and Sylvia Acevedo, June, 2016

In the 21st century, language will be as important to business as technology was in the last century. For the last twenty years, the growth of “emerging markets”— markets from smaller or less developed non-English speaking countries—has surpassed the size of the United States market. In 1990, emerging markets accounted for less than a third of a much smaller total. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), 2013 was the first year in which emerging markets accounted for more than half of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) on the basis of purchasing power.

“…. As English usage proliferates worldwide, it’s becoming less of a differentiator or advantage. In fact, it’s making ‘bilingual’ the new prerequisite. Imagine a world in which everyone speaks English. You just graduated with an accounting degree. Congratulations. Prepare to compete with accounting graduates fluent in at least two languages. Given equal technical qualifications, who do you think will get the job? The same argument holds for a 20-year seasoned business executive. Do you really think your experience is enough? Brazil, Russia, India, China—and a host of European, Latin American, and Asian nations— are producing expert executives with outstanding resumes and multilingual fluency.”

– Michael Schutzler, Forbes Insights, 2011

In this information age, language and culture are the new “soft”ware. Adding an additional skillset in response to market conditions is exactly the type of challenge that America has risen to historically. While supporting English fluency is a must for all in America, we currently have educational language policies that by design or default constrict American workers’ global economic opportunities in fields that require biliteracy. Pivoting education to support academic fluency in multiple languages gives American workers new competitive advantages, at home and in global markets.

READ the Full Report: Realizing the Economic Advantages of a Multilingual Workforce

Bilingualism Delivers Cognitive Benefits at All Life Stages

Excerpt from: Reshaping the Mind: The Benefits of Bilingualism by Ellen Bialystok

Abstract: Studies have shown that bilingual individuals consistently outperform their monolingual counterparts on tasks involving executive control. The present paper reviews some of the evidence for this conclusion and relates the findings to the effect of bilingualism on cognitive organisation and to conceptual issues in the structure of executive control. Evidence for the protective effect of bilingualism against Alzheimer’s disease is presented with some speculation about the reason for that protection.

READ the Research: Reshaping the Mind: The Benefits of Bilingualism