In a globalized world, learning a second or third language is becoming more and more popular. There are different approaches to learning languages and there is no right or wrong choice, every approach can lead to the ultimate goal. As parents with young children, one of the options that are available in public, charter, and private school is the “Language Immersion”, but what does that mean?
Language immersion is a method to teach people a second language, in which the language being taught is used specifically for instruction purposes. Language immersion uses the target language to immerse the student completely within the subject. The teacher teaches entirely in the target language with the use of strategies to make content comprehensible. In a language immersion program, students learn academic content and language at the same time. For example, in a Spanish immersion program the teacher will be speaking Spanish while teaching a fractions lesson or a social studies lesson, providing students with the opportunity to use Spanish to communicate socially and academically during the class.
Within the language immersion world, parents can find different types of immersion models; these different types of immersion models can be characterized by the total school time students spend immersed in the language. The most common models in school districts are 50-50 meaning that students take half of the subject areas in English and the other half in the second language. Most schools who adopt the 50-50 model keep the same model from kinder to 5th grade. There are also the 90-10 and 80-20 models, where students spend most of the time learning in the second language and less time in English. Most of the schools, who adopt this model, gradually add time to the English and decreases the second language until they reach a 50-50 usually around 4th grade.
Trilingual immersion schools are less common in the United States but popular in Europe. Tohui is based on the successful 80-10-10 model implemented for years by a school district at El Paso, TX. In this model students are immersed in Spanish (meaning that the teacher speaks the target language while teaching) for 80% of the time, 10% in English and 10% in Mandarin Chinese. The English and Spanish percentages change until they reach a 50-50-10. The Mandarin time remains the same from pk3-5th, this means that the Mandarin language is the language that will progress at a slower rate since the exposure to it is only 10% of the time.
To summarize, in a language immersion program the teacher teaches the content (math, science, language arts) in the target language and scaffolds language to encourage students to use the target language academically and socially. Tohui offers an immersion program following the 80-10-10 model.