Language is learned in many different ways, but the most effective method is Language Immersion. Language Immersion is an educational approach that teaches the target language through the core subjects usually using thematic units. Students develop language naturally, learning through real-life environments. Similar to how they learned English listening and learning from their parents. The target language is learned through authentic interactions between teachers and students.
Students who are taught in a Language Immersion program consistently develop native-like levels of comprehension, such as listening and reading skills, in all three languages. They also learn the language naturally, the way we all learned our first language. The target language is learned quickly, due to the extended periods of time that the student is exposed to the language.
There are different types of language immersion programs.
Dual immersion is a model wherein students learn academic content in two languages. Students receive math, science, or social studies instruction in a target language, such as Spanish, French, or Mandarin. Because of the teaching strategies used, the students learn the concepts and skills for the subject area and develop the ability to read, write, speak, and listen in another language. The goals are for the students to develop literacy skills in both English and the target languages while attaining academic achievement that is at or above their grade level.
This is opposite to a language instruction block, where a native speaking teacher typically will teach children the language, without content, in a limited amount of time. An example would be a Spanish teacher coming into the class for an hour to teach Spanish. This method is called the Push-in model.
A new model has been created at Amici Trilingual Montessori, Tri-immersion. Students have a native Mandarin, Spanish, and English speaking teacher in the classroom. They deliver the Montessori lessons in their native language, utilizing the Montessori curriculum. Amici Trilingual Montessori also supplements the Montessori curriculum with a Chinese, Hispanic, and American thematic curriculum that teaches not only language but music, art, food, and other cultural celebrations and holidays. Students are also taught all three languages each day in the Language Arts block. Each teacher teaches Circle time. Teachers review concepts such as calendar, time, and weather or introduce a new work or group lesson. Often, songs are sung, poems are recited, or bodies become aware of creative movement exercises such as yoga or tai chi.
At Beibei Amigos Language preschool we offer both the Montessori program and a traditional program. In the Traditional program, students receive half the day in Spanish and the other half in Mandarin. English is used sparingly. Students in this full language immersion program receive more concentrated language instruction due to more direct instruction from the teacher. In Montessori, the languages are learned organically throughout the day through individual teacher instruction and the Language Arts block of the Montessori classroom.
Language Arts in both the traditional and the Montessori classrooms encompass all the aspects of language learning a parent would expect; reading, spelling, grammar, writing, and penmanship. Unlike the traditional approach, Maria Montessori developed her curriculum by noticing when children are hungry developmentally for each aspect of language arts.
There are many benefits to learning three languages. Recent brain-based research provides good news- learning a foreign language can increase the size of your brain. It also has been discovered that people who speak more than one language fluently have better memories and are more cognitively creative and mentally flexible than monolinguals. Fully proficient bilinguals and trilinguals also outperform monolinguals in the areas of divergent thinking, pattern recognition, and problem-solving.
Sean Michael Diana M.A.Ed.