Language immersion is a form or method of teaching language, usually a second language, in which the target language is used as both curriculum content and medium of instruction (Johnson and Swain, 1997 in Johnstone, 2002).
Two-way immersion programs “integrate language minority students and language majority students in the same classroom with the goal of academic excellence and bilingual proficiency for both student groups” (Christian, 1997).
An advantage of two-way immersion is that learners are exposed to mother tongue teachers and also to classmates who have the immersion language as their first language. Each language group of learners therefore has a teaching role (i.e. helping the other language group) and a learning role (i.e. learning from the other language group).
Two way immersion Programs typically aim for these general goals http://www.cal.org/twi/toolkit/PI/Basics_Eng.pdf:
Pupils will develop high levels of proficiency in the first language. This goal means that for example native English speakers will develop high levels of listening, speaking, reading, and writing ability in English, and English language learners will develop these same abilities in their native language (e.g. Chinese). Neither group of students will have to forego development in the native language as second language proficiency improves.
All pupils will develop high levels of proficiency in a second language. Two-way immersion programs are called additive bilingual programs for both groups of pupils: they give all students the opportunity to maintain and develop oral and written skills in their first language while they simultaneously acquire oral and written skills in a second language.
Academic performance for both groups of students will be at or above grade level. Dual language programmes maintain the same academic standards and curricula as at other schools. Academic requirements are not diluted for dual language students, and the same levels of academic performance are expected for them as for other pupils. Evidence that this goal is attainable has been documented in empirical studies.
Multiple research studies have demonstrated the significant cognitive benefits derived from early language learning, as well as the potential long-term educational and career benefits.
Some characteristics of immersion education:
- Subject area instruction through the minority language occurs for at least 50% of the school day (Kensington Wade will employ a 50/50 model).
- There is support for the first language, both from parents and the school. That is, immersion is not intended in any way to devalue or threaten a learner’s first language. It is unlikely that this would be the case if a learner’s first is the majority language of the country.
- Clear and sustained separation of languages during instructional time. Teachers use one language or the other, but never both, in class (Johnstone, 2012).