World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Language immersion


Language immersion

Language immersion, or simply immersion, is a method of teaching a second language in which the learners’ second language (L2) is the medium of classroom instruction. Through this method, learners study school subjects, such as math, science, and social studies, in their L2. The main purpose of this method is to foster bilingualism, in other words, to develop learners' communicative competence or language proficiency in their L2 in addition to their first or native language (L1). Additional goals are the cognitive advantages to bilingualism.

Immersion programs vary from one country or region to another because of language conflict, historical antecedents, language policy or public opinion. Moreover, immersion programs take on different formats based on: class time spent in L2, participation by native speaking (L1) students, learner age, school subjects taught in L2, and even the L2 itself as an additional and separate subject.


  • Background 1
  • Formats 2
    • Age 2.1
    • Class time 2.2
    • L1 students 2.3
    • Location 2.4
  • Outcomes 3
  • Cases by country 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6


The first modern language immersion programs appeared in Canada in the 1960s. Middle-income Anglophone (English-speaking) parents there convinced educators to establish an experimental French immersion program enabling their children 'to appreciate the traditions and culture of French-speaking Canadians as well as English-speaking Canadians'.[1]



  • Early immersion: Students begin the second language from age 5 or 6.
  • Middle immersion: Students begin the second language from age 9 or 10.
  • Late immersion: Students begin the second language between ages 11 and 14.
  • Adult immersion: Students 17 or older.

Class time

  • In complete immersion, almost 100% of class time is spent in the foreign language. Subject matter taught in foreign language and language learning per se is incorporated as necessary throughout the curriculum. The goals are to become functionally proficient in the foreign language, to master subject content taught in the foreign languages, and to acquire an understanding of and appreciation for other cultures. This type of program is usually sequential, cumulative, continuous, proficiency-oriented, and part of an integrated grade school sequence. Even after this type of program, the language of the curriculum may revert to the first language of the learners after several years.
  • In partial immersion, about half of the class time is spent learning subject matter in the foreign language. The goals are to become functionally proficient in the second language, to master subject content taught in the foreign languages, and to acquire an understanding of and appreciation for other cultures, but to a lesser extent than complete immersion.
  • In content-based foreign languages in elementary schools (FLES), about 15–50% of class time is spent in the foreign language and time is spent learning it as well as learning subject matter in the foreign language. The goals of the program are to acquire proficiency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing the foreign language, to use subject content as a vehicle for acquiring foreign language skills, and to acquire an understanding of and appreciation for other cultures.
  • In FLES programs, 5–15% of class time is spent in the foreign language and time is spent learning language itself. It takes a minimum of 75 minutes per week, at least every other day. The goals of the program are to acquire proficiency in listening and speaking (degree of proficiency varies with the program), to acquire an understanding of and appreciation for other cultures, and to acquire some proficiency in reading and writing (emphasis varies with the program).
  • In FLEX (Foreign Language Experience) programs, frequent and regular sessions over a short period or short and/or infrequent sessions over an extended period are provided in the second language. Class is almost always in the first language. Only one to five percent of class time is spent sampling each of one or more languages and/or learning about language. The goals of the program are to develop an interest in foreign languages for future language study, to learn basic words and phrases in one or more foreign languages, to develop careful listening skills, to develop cultural awareness, and to develop linguistic awareness. This type of program is usually noncontinuous.

L1 students

  • In submersion one or two students are learning the L2, which is the L1 for the rest of the class. By analogy, the former are "thrown into the ocean to learn how to swim", in the sense that the special student may lack the necessary language skills to follow the class and understand the subject. Professors may offer extra L2 lessons or a special in-class treatment to the student to compensate that. If they do not, the student may find the lessons too complicated.
  • In two-way immersion, also called "dual-" or "bilingual immersion", the student population consists of speakers of two or more languages. Ideally speaking, half of the class is made up of native speakers of the major language in the area (e.g., English in the U.S.) and the other half is of the target language (e.g., Spanish). Class time is split in half and taught in the major and target languages. This way students encourage and teach each other, and eventually all become bilingual. The goals are similar to those of partial immersion. Different ratios of the target language to the native language may occur.


  • In language travel, a person temporarily relocates to a place where the target language is the predominant language. For example, Canadian anglophones go to Quebec (see Explore, and Katimavik) while Irish anglophones go to the Gaeltacht. Often this involves a homestay with a family who speak only the target language.
  • There are also intensive immersion programs for new immigrants, such the ulpan in Israel.


  • "Improvement in linguistic and meta linguistic abilities"[2]
  • An increase of cognitive ability "such as divergent thinking, concept formation, verbal abilities," listening skills "and general reasoning"[2]
  • Improves one's "understanding of his/her native language."[3]
  • "Opens the door to other cultures and helps a child understand and appreciate people from other countries."[3]
  • "Increases job opportunities in many careers where knowing another language is a real asset."[3]
  • Superior SAT scores and standardized testing[4]
  • Enhances memory[4]

Learning a foreign language has its assets, and studies suggest that immersion is an effective way to learn foreign languages.[5] Many immersion programs start in the elementary schools, with classroom time being dedicated to the foreign language anywhere between 50% and 90% of the day.[6] Learning a second or third language not only helps an individual's personal mental skills, but also aids their future job skills. Jean Piaget, a developmental psychologist, had a theory that stated that when a child faces an idea that does not fit their understanding, it "becomes a catalyst for new thinking". As a new language is completely foreign to a child at first, it fits perfectly as this "catalyst for new thinking".

Baker[1] found that more than 1,000 studies have been completed on immersion programs and immersion language learners in Canada. These studies have given us a wealth of information. Across these studies, a number of important observations can be made.

  • Early immersion students "lag behind" their monolingual peers in literacy (reading, spelling, and punctuation) "for the first few years only". However, after the first few years, the immersion students catch up with their peers.
  • Immersion programs have no negative effects on spoken skills in the first language.
  • Early immersion students acquire almost-native-like proficiency in passive skill (listening and speaking) comprehension of the second language by the age of 11, but they don't reach the same level in reading and writing because they have enough level to communicate with their teachers. Also, if they communicate only with their teachers, they don't learn the skills to hold day-to-day conversations.[1]:275,309
  • Early immersion students are more successful in listening and reading proficiency than partial and late immersion students.
  • Immersion programs have no negative effects on the cognitive development of the students.
  • Monolingual peers perform better in sciences and math at an early age, however immersion students eventually catch up with, and in some cases, outperform their monolingual peers.
  • Studies have also shown that students in dual programs have "more positive attitudes towards bilingualism and multiculturalism".[6]

Cases by country

In the United States, and since the 1980s, dual immersion programs have grown for a number of reasons: competition in a global economy, a growing population of second language learners, and the successes of previous programs.[6] Language immersion classes can now be found throughout the US, in urban and suburban areas, in dual-immersion and single language immersion, and in an array of languages. As of May 2005, there were 317 dual immersion programs in US elementary schools, providing instruction in 10 languages, and 96% of programs were in Spanish.[7]

In Israel, the first full immersion program, the Brandeis University-Middlebury Program in Israel was founded in 2011. Participants are required to take the Middlebury College Language Pledge, a promise to speak only the language they are studying for the duration of their time in the program.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Baker, C. (1993). Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
  2. ^ a b Benefits of Being Bilingual, Reshma Jirage,
  3. ^ a b c Benefits of Being Bilingual, American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (reprinted from the Center for Applied Linguistics)
  4. ^ a b Why study a foreign language?, Bernadette Morris, LEARN NC, a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education
  5. ^ Cognitive Benefits of Learning Language, Duke Gifted Letter: Volume 8, Issue 1, Fall 2007. The Duke University Talent Identification Program. Online Newsletter for Parents of Gifted Youth
  6. ^ a b c Freeman
  7. ^ Potowski
  • Anderson, H., & Rhodes, N. (1983). Immersion and other innovations in U.S. elementary schools. In: "Studies in Language Learning, 4" (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 278 237)
  • Andrade, C., & Ging, D. (1988). "Urban FLES models: Progress and promise." Cincinnati, OH and Columbus, OH: Cincinnati Public Schools and Columbus Public Schools. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 292 337)
  • Chen, Ya-Ling (2006). The Influence of Partial English Immersion Programs in Taiwan on Kindergartners' Perceptions of Chinese and English Languages and Cultures. The Asian EFL Journal Vol 8(1)
  • Criminale, U. (1985). "Launching foreign language programs in elementary schools: Highpoints, headaches, and how to's." Oklahoma City, OK. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 255 039)
  • Curtain, H., & Pesola, C.A. (1994). "Languages and children-Making the match. Foreign language instruction in the elementary school." White Plains, NY: Longman Publishing Group.
  • Freeman, Yvonne (2005). Dual Language Essentials For Teachers and Administrators. Heinemann: Portsmouth, NH, 2005
  • Potowski, Kim. Language and Identity in a Dual Immersion School. Multilingual Matters Limited, 2007.
  • Tagliere, Julia. "Foreign Language Study--Is Elementary School the Right Time to Start?".
  • Thayer, Y. (1988). "Getting started with French or Spanish in the elementary school: The cost in time and money." Radford, VA: Radford City Schools. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 294 450)
  • Walker, Cheryl. "Foreign Language Study Important in Elementary School". Wake Forest University.
  • The Wingspread Journal. (July 1988). "Foreign language instruction in the elementary schools." Racine, WI: The Johnson Foundation.
  • Artigal, Josep Maria & Laurén, Christer (a cura di) (1996). Immersione linguistica per una futura Europa. I modelli catalano e finlandese. Bolzano: alpha beta verlag. ISBN 88-7223-024-1
  • Baker, Collin (1993). Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
  • California. Office of Bilingual Bicultural Education (1984). "Studies on immersion education: a collection for United States educators". The Department.
  • Genesee, Fred (1987). Learning through two languages: studies of immersion and bilingual education. Newbury House Publishers.
  • Lindholm-Leary, Kathryn J. (2001). "Dual language education". Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. ISBN 1-85359-531-4
  • Maggipinto, Antonello (2000). Multilanguage acquisition, new technologies, education and global citizenship Paper given in New York (Congress of AAIS-American Association for Italian Studies). Published on Italian Culture: Iussues from 2000.
  • Maggipinto, Antonello et al. (2003). Lingue Veicolari e Apprendimento. Il Contesto dell'Unione Europea... Bergamo: Junior. ISBN 88-8434-140-X
  • Potowski, Kim (2007). "Language and Identity in a Dual Immersion School". Multilingual Matters Limited.
  • Ricci Garotti, Federica (a cura di) (1999). L'immersione linguistica. Una nuova prospettiva. Milano: Franco Angeli. Codice ISBN 88-464-1738-0
  • Shapson, Stan & Mellen Day, Elaine (1996). "Studies in immersion education". Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. ISBN 1-85359-355-9
  • Swain, Merrill & Lapkin, Sharon (1982). "Evaluating bilingual education: a Canadian case study". Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. ISBN 0-905028-10-4
  • Swain, Merrill & Johnson, Robert Keith (1997). "Immersion education: international perspectives". Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-58655-0
  • Wode, Henning (1995)."Lernen in der Fremdsprache: Grundzüge von Immersion und bilingualem Unterricht". Hueber. ISBN 3-19-006621-3

Inmersión lingüística

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.