Language Immersion refers to the practice of immersing the child where the target language is the main language, the language of instruction if referring to a class. There is a strong belief that this is the best way for people to learn a language. By immersion in a second language children learn naturally. They are able to listen, absorb and speak without relying on translation or flashcards, which tend to not interest or engage young children.
Language immersion provides a real life experience, bringing the language alive and giving children a reason for using it. I believe this is the best way to foster bilingualism and for that reason we do annual language immersion trips to China for the whole family. This enables children to be surrounded by the language as well as the culture therefore making the language meaningful and giving it a context. For our preschool children we see a marked improvement in their spoken language as well as their comprehension after just a week of full immersion.
Over the years we have done trips to Beijing, Hangzhou and Shanghai. These are extremely popular and some families have been with us to each destination. The children spend half a day in a local school, where our Julia Gabriel Education Mandarin teachers accompany them. Here they join the local students and take part in all aspects of their school day. I attended one of these trips with my daughter Ruby who was four years old at the time. She joined the Kindergarten One class at Chong Wen Kindergarten in Beijing and thoroughly loved it. She still tells everyone about the toilets in the school and how different they were and how good the children were at gymnastics during PE!
Even though we live in Singapore, both my children and myself were born here, we rarely find ourselves in a Mandarin speaking environment. By attending an immersion language trip to China we gave the language a cultural context which was vital for maintaining an interest in both the language and the culture.
If you think about it, children learn their first language effortlessly through immersion where they pick up the language that is spoken around them. This is done without any extra help in most cases. If we can provide a situation that immerses young children in another language they will learn it.
During the China Learning Adventure trip I was able to watch as my daughter used the language in real-life situations with peers, parents, teachers and strangers. She was extremely proud of being to tell me what the taxi driver was saying when were stuck in a traffic jam. She would have listened to and spoken more Mandarin in that one week than in whole year of once a week classes! This was evident when she came home and was so much more confident with the language in her childcare class.
At Chiltern House preschool, emphasis is placed on the learning of languages through Edudrama where students would get to act out certain roles in a play . That way, they are able to quickly learn the language.
We know there are multiple benefits to bilingualism. Children who are learning a second or third language are at an advantage as the cognitive process that underlie the ability to learn a foreign language transfers from language to another. Research has shown that children who are affectively bilingual are more successful at:
As the world becomes more and more global the advantage to being able to speak more than one language is huge. If you can create a dual language immersion at home that is fantastic. This is when one parent, or generation speaks only one language from the very beginning. For example one parent speaks English and one speaks Mandarin, or parents speak English, grandparents speak Mandarin. This is extremely affective but can be extremely challenging as well. Both parents will need to make a conscious effort to maintain this environment. By doing this your children will soon be able to switch effortlessly from one language to the other, being fluent in both.
However if this is really impossible for you, as it would be for me, then a Language Immersion Adventure is the answer for you and your children. The other advantage of the Language Immersion Adventure is the opportunity to take time out of very busy schedules for families to share the wonder and excitement of doing something new together. The memories created will last just as long as the language learning.