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. 

Core Characteristics of Immersion Education 

  • Additive bilingualism with sustained and enriched instruction through the minority language and the majority language is promoted
  • Subject area instruction through the minority language occurs for at least 50% of the school day during the elementary school years
  • Teachers are fully proficient in the language(s) they use for instruction
  • Support for the majority language is strong and present in the community at large
  • Clear and sustained separation of languages during instructional time

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

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