About French Immersion
What is language immersion?
Language immersion is an approach to second language instruction in which the usual curricular activities are conducted in a second language. This means that the new language is the medium of instruction as well as the object of instruction.
Immersion students acquire the necessary language skills to understand and communicate about the subject matter set out in the district-wide program of instruction. They follow the same curricula, and in some instances, use the same materials (translated into the target language) as those used in the non-immersion schools of their district.
Why is immersion an effective second language model?
A great deal of research has centered on second language acquisition in various school settings. Over the past thirty years, due in large part to the success of immersion programs, there has been a shift away from teaching language in isolation and toward integrating language and content.
- Language is acquired most effectively when it is learned in a meaningful social context. For young learners, the immersion setting offers them the opportunity to communicate with their peers not only about academic subjects, but about their feelings and attitudes as well.
- Important and interesting content provides a motivating context for learning the new language. Young children are eager to learn about insects or planets or pioneer days, and language learning becomes a natural part of those learning experiences.
- First language acquisition, cognition and social awareness go hand in hand in young children. By integrating language and content, second language learning, too, becomes an integral part of a child's social and cognitive development.
- Language acquisition takes time. An immersion classroom provides many hours of exposure to the language and many different opportunities for listening, speaking, reading and writing in the second language.
What are the effects of immersion education?
A growing body of research on immersion education has shown that immersion students consistently meet or exceed academic expectations in the following areas:
- Second language skills: Immersion students by far outperform students in traditional foreign language classes. They are functionally proficient in the immersion language and are able to communicate according to their age and grade level.
- English language skills: In the early years of English instruction, there may be a lag in English reading and writing skills. The gap begins to close once English instruction has begun, and by the end of elementary school, immersion students do as well or better than students in English-only classes.
- Content areas: Immersion students achieve in academic areas as well as students in English-only programs.
- Cultural sensitivity: Immersion students are more aware of and show positive attitudes towards other cultures.
Are there other immersion programs in the U.S.?
According to the most recent survey by the Center for Applied Linguistics, there are 448 immersion programs in 22 different languages. In Minnesota alone, there are some 50 elementary and secondary programs in which students are learning content curriculum within an immersion setting, making us second in the nation for immersion education!
Where can I get more information about immersion education?
The Minnesota Advocates for Immersion Network (MAIN) and the American Council on Immersion Education (ACIE) web sites are excellent resources for parents considering immersion education for their child. You will also find these articles interesting:
- Research Notes: Language Learning and the Developing Brain
- Top Ten Most Consistent Findings from Research on Foreign Language Immersion
- Why, How and When Should My Child Learn a Second Language?
L'ÉTOILE DU NORD.
Hennepin, Marquette, Nicollet, La Salle.
Belle Plaine, Bellevue, Champlin, Claremont, Coleraine, Detroit Lakes, Duluth, Faribault, French Lake, Grand Marais, Grand Portage, La Crescent, Lac qui Parle, Lafayette, Le Roy, Le Sueur, Mille Lacs, Montrose, Prairie du Chien, Sault Ste. Marie, St. Cloud....
Streets, cities, townships - and we haven't even mentioned lakes, rivers and landmarks. Minnesota has a rich French cultural heritage that is celebrated here at Normandale. That, in addition to sharing a border - and history - with our Canadian neighbors, makes our French immersion program especially relevant here in Minnesota.
Students at Normandale are also part of a larger, international community. Over the years our staff has represented many French-speaking cultures - France, Canada, Belgium, Switzerland, Senegal - and we are reminded that people all over the world share our adopted language.
Normandale parents offer to their children the gift of a second language, and those children hold a special place in our increasingly international world.