What is two-way immersion and is it the same as bilingual education?
Bilingual education can take many forms. It can mean any use of two languages in school, and not all bilingual education programs have the goal that students achieve proficiency in two languages. In dual language education programs, students are taught academic courses in English and a partner language. Two-way Immersion is a form of dual language education that seeks to balance the numbers of native English speakers, bilingual speakers and native speakers of the partner language, so that all groups serve as both learners and role models.
What are the advantages for my child in a two-way immersion program?
First, children achieve high levels of language proficiency and literacy in both languages. Second, children show high levels of academic achievement in comparison to their same-language peers in traditional programs. Lastly, students in TWI programs show positive cross-cultural attitudes, and have a greater sense of ease among diverse groups of people.
Recent research has also highlighted many cognitive benefits of bilingualism in general, including greater mental flexibility, planning, problem-solving, and memory. Lastly, people who are bilingual have access to a greater number of national and international employment opportunities.
What are the differences between a 50:50 program and a 90:10 program and are there advantages of one over the other?
In a 50:50 program, each language is used half the time at all grade levels. The 90:10 model implements Spanish instruction 90% of the time in kindergarten and first grades, tapering off to 50% in each by 5th and 6th grades. Research has shown that for both language groups, the 90:10 model results in higher achievement in Spanish while having no negative impact on achievement in English.
When will my child achieve grade level in both languages?
English: Native English speaking children usually are at grade level as soon as they begin to be taught language arts in that language; while native Spanish speakers tend to reach grade level in English by middle school.
It is important to compare native Spanish speakers’ achievement in English in TWI and traditional programs. In English-only programs, many children of this language group appear to achieve grade level in English early on, but after approximately 3rd grade, their performance drops and continues to decline through high school when they tend to perform well below average on English reading tests.
In other words, bilingual programs designed to preserve a child’s native language, such as Adelante’s, give the child the GREATEST chance of achieving grade level skills or above in English through high school and beyond.
Spanish: native English speakers achieve grade level performance typically by third or fourth grade; native Spanish speakers achieve grade level by about 2nd grade.
Will immersion education negatively affect my child’s academic performance in other subjects, such as science and math?
Research has consistently found that both language groups show academic achievement at equal or superior levels to the achievement of same-language peers who had not gone through immersion programs.
How can I help my child with his homework in a language I don’t speak?
- First, understand that teachers of two-way immersion programs understand that most parents will not understand one language or the other. Teachers do not expect children to initially be able to perform in their second language as well as their first language peers.
- Make sure your child has an appropriate, quiet space and tools to complete assignments, and provide your child with books in his/her second language.
- Identify bilingual parents in your child’s class and reach out to these parents when your child’s teacher is unavailable.
- Read to your child in your native language.
- Enthusiastically listen to your child read to you in her/his second language, even if you don’t understand it.
- Volunteer in the school, either during or after school hours. Research shows that when parents become involved in school activities, children’s general school behavior improves, academic achievement increases, achievement gains are sustained, and language performance improves significantly.
- Be supportive and enthusiastic. Research shows that children whose parents who have positive attitudes toward the partner language have greater success in immersion programs.
- Praise, rather than correct, your child’s attempts to communicate in her/his second language.
Won’t my child become confused with exposure to two languages?
There is no evidence that children become confused. Studies of bilingual toddlers show that even at that young age, children are able to address monolingual speakers in their language. “Code mixing”, or alternating usage of languages is a normal behavior in bilinguals. It is not considered to be evidence of confusion but instead shows the child is fully utilizing her/his language resources.
What do I do when my child mixes the two languages?
Children should be given positive feedback for all their communication attempts. As the child’s competence in each language grows, she/he will be have more full access to all necessary vocabulary and syntax to be able to communicate entirely in one language or the other. If possible, it is best not to mix languages yourself, so that you model a consistent language structure to your child.
1) The Astounding Effectiveness of Dual Language Education for All
Virginia P. Collier and Wayne P. Thomas, George Mason University, NABE Journal of Research and Practice, 2:1 Winter 2004 http://hillcrest.wacoisd.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_345/File/Publications/ELL/Dual%20language%20survey.pdf
2) Center for Applied Linguistics Two-Way Immersion Toolkit http://www.cal.org/twi/toolkit/introduction.htm
3) The Rich Promise of Two-Way Immersion, Kathryn J. Lindholm-Leary, Educational Leadership, December 2004-January 2005 http://www.lindholm-leary.com/articles/EducLeadership_TWI2.pdf
4) Top Ten Answers for Parents About Immersion Education, Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition, Newsletter, May 2007, Vol. 10, No. 3 http://www.carla.umn.edu/immersion/acie/vol10/may2007_parentsten.html
5) What the Research Says About Immersion, Tara Williams Fortune, Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition. http://www.carla.umn.edu/immersion/documents/ImmersionResearch_TaraFortune.html