Immersion Style Classes vs. Ordinary Online Classes
Choosing a language program presents parents with a barrage of choices. The good news is there is no need to panic – researchers, teachers and students the world over have found language is best acquired and retained in an immersion class.
What is immersion?
Immersion is actually a balance between what teachers call ‘L1’, the student’s native language, and ‘L2’, the new language. A good program will use the student’s mastery of English to support and encourage the acquisition of new words and phrases in Spanish.
There are a few ways teachers and programs achieve this. One is with a lot of visuals. This includes gestures, modelling, real-life objects to help illustrate a theme or situation and lots of pictures or videos. Another is open-ended questions that encourage conversation as opposed to inquiries that only garner a basic “yes” or “no”.
Students new to a program will use some English to start, but over time will depend on their new language to build their fluency.
The Problem with Non-Immersion Classes
Automated programs like Rosetta Stone make the claim that a student can learn their second language the same way they learned their first. In other words, tap into your former, baby brain and use it to acquire a whole new set of vocabulary.
There is a major issue with this approach – a brain grows up. And by growing, a brain makes significant changes in its connections and processes from year to year. While a three-month old brain can perceive any number of phonemes or distinct sounds within words, a one-year old brain is no longer able to do this. By that age, babies only respond to words and sounds they already know.
Young children also get the opportunity to guess at a lot of words. A small child of three might call a spoon a fork, for example. Parents are there to correct them over time and steer them towards the right answers.
Some programs have copied this, allowing language students to guess at which word matches which picture. While this technique works for babies, it’s ineffective for everyone else. After all, a student can accidentally guess the right answer any number of times, but getting lucky isn’t an effective way to learn.
Benefits of Immersion
Immersion style learning helps a lot because it shifts a learner’s first language into something new without allowing for a lot guesses. It’s a more natural and instinctive approach.
Most of us need to know some basic things with language like how to ask “What’s your name?” or “How much for milk?” With immersion, a learner takes the phrase he or she already knows and transforms it into “¿Cómo te llamas?” or “¿Cuánto cuesto el leche?”
Yes, the grammar and structure is a bit different, but the idea is the same. This crossover helps make for better understanding and retention.
Students who learn in an immersive style have a lot more confidence in their new language and feel much better entering a conversation with new people who might not speak any English. Most importantly, it means your son or daughter will actually speak a language, not a smattering of words or random phrases, and that is real bilingualism.
Ready to give HSA’s immersive program a try? Sign up for a free class today.