Navigating Language Immersion Education

When children learn all subjects in a new language — called immersion education — they benefit in many ways. In developing fluency in another language in daycare, Pre-K or kindergarten, children gain a lifetime skill that can be useful personally and professionally. According to experts at the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), dual language education benefits reading, enhances cognitive and problem-solving skills, increases ability in other languages and helps children develop a positive approach to the diversity of other cultures.

But navigating the practical, emotional and cultural components of immersion — along with the “education” component — can be complex for parents. According to the Multilingual Children’s Association, children entering into daycare or school where a foreign language is spoken may have a difficult adjustment in the first few months, and could seem angry or withdrawn. Within a couple of months, when they are better able to communicate in the foreign language, children begin to make friends and participate more fully. Over the first three months of immersion education a child’s comfort level and vocabulary grow quickly, but the child may require an adjustment period.

For parents, this “sink or swim” period can be difficult emotionally. In addition, some parents may question the depth of cultural immersion that occurs — is it in line with their own values or expectations for education? Can they help children with learning in a language they don’t speak themselves? Additionally, issues surrounding school funding, inclusion and the child taking part in non-immersion activities may raise questions as well.

To make the best decision on immersion education for your child and family, speak to other parents and your local schools. Los Angeles County is home to language immersion programs in Spanish, French, Mandarin, German, Korean, Japanese, Armenian and other languages. For more information, visit achieve.lausd.net.

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