Types of Foreign Language Immersion Classroom Experience

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What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of a

Foreign Language Immersion Classroom Experience?


The purpose of this paper is to investigate the advantages and disadvantages of a foreign language immersion classroom experience. This topic is particularly valuable to parents and teachers of learners who are, or will be, part of a foreign language-based classroom that fosters both academic development and multilingualism. Foreign language immersion is an approach to learning that involves immersing students in an environment that uses a target language throughout the school day. Using a variety of instructional strategies, teachers teach academic subjects in the target language, so that students become proficient in another language, in addition to English, and develop a sense of cultural awareness. To understand foreign language immersion programs in greater detail, I will explore the varied types of language immersion models and the advantages and disadvantages of this kind of classroom experience.

Language Immersion Program Models

Language immersion education can take a number of forms. These program models may vary according to grade level and the degree to which the academic content is provided in the target language. They may also differ based on the amount of time that is spent using the target language during the school day, the number of years when specific academic subjects are taught in the second language, and the number of students of the school’s population who are non-native speakers. Students entering an immersion program past kindergarten and first grade (early immersion), and into fourth and fifth grade (middle immersion), or sixth and seventh grade (late immersion) may experience a

Figure 1

program model different from their grade level peers, in order to receive core second language instruction (Brondum and Stenson, 1998). Figure 1 shows the most common language immersion programs in the United States (Lenker and Rhodes, 2007). This paper lists and describes the three most common types of foreign language immersion program models.

Total Immersion

The total immersion model, comprising of mostly English speakers, is where 100 percent of the subjects in kindergarten and first grade are learned in the target language. Students in these grades learn to read and write in the target language first. Starting in second grade, the amount of language immersion instruction drops to 80 percent, and then to 50 by grades five and six (Brondum and Stenson, 1998).

Partial Immersion

The partial immersion model is where 50 percent of the instruction is provided in the target language.
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