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What is Language Immersion?

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Copyright © 2005 Dorioara Pinku

Language immersion is a program where a foreign language is used as the language of instruction in school. In partial language immersion, only 50-80% of a given school day is in a foreign language. In full language immersion programs and international study abroad programs, students eat, sleep, and breathe the language they are attempting to learn, and so the language is picked up much more quickly. The curriculum that the student follows will still be the same. The only difference is the language of instruction used by the teachers. This differs from second language programs where the students attend a class learning the language singularly.

Those who partake in an immersion program are forced to communicate in the foreign language. If you choose to study French in Paris, all classes will be taught in French. Also, you will practice French all over Paris, speaking to native people. Language is effectively acquired through the regular usage of it. You have to communicate socially and there is a wide variety of situations that require the language to be learned. This natural interaction is fun and enriching and it also motivates you to learn about the culture. While studying Spanish in Barcelona, for example, you are likely to desire to learn as much as possible about the culture of the people around you. By incorporating language learning with content learning, it becomes an important part of a student??s cognitive and social development. Those in an immersion program learn the foreign language faster and are more likely to become proficient in the language than those attending a regular second language class.

Bilingualism and multilingualism are increasingly becoming the norm. Bilingualism opens doors to communication with people of different races and languages in different parts of the world. Those who know more than one language will be more competent in this ever-cosmopolitan world of ours. Not only does immersion assist us socially, but there is also a high possibility of reaping economic benefits. A company looking for a bilingual employee is much more likely to hire someone who has studied Spanish in Madrid or learned Japanese in Japan than someone who took a few language classes at an American university. No college, regardless of how prestigious, can replicate the experience and result of learning a language among native speakers. 

Regardless of what some people might think about how to handle a second language, it will not jeopardize your ability to speak your native language. In fact, research shows that the stronger the development of your mother tongue, the greater the proficiency level in the immersion language. This also works vice versa.

Being able to study in another country, absorbing the cultures, lifestyles and habits, is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity. There are many countries whose education systems provide immersion programs for international students, where you will be able to learn the language with other students from all around the world.

Paris, the capital of France, proud host of the grand Eiffel Tower and the Louvre art museum, is a wonderful place for students studying abroad. France is a country rich in culture and heritage, with a history that links closely to England??s. You can be romancing down the Seine, visiting the disturbing Catacombs, or marveling at the French gothic masterpiece, the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Besides being the perfect tourist attraction, Paris has schools and immersion programs that cater to people of all levels of French language proficiency. The French are very proud of their language, and they have a reason to be, for it truly is a beautiful language. After learning French in Paris, you will no doubt appreciate the beauty as much as the native French do.

What about a walk down the birthplace of the oldest civilizations known? See the 900 year old Forum, or take a look at Pantheon, the floating dome. Rome, Italy is the perfect place to indulge in the Italian language, culture and heritage. Studying in the heart of Rome, you, as an international student, gain not only proficiency in one of the most spoken languages in the world, but you also learn about modern Italian culture and society. And don't forget the food!

There are so many places in the world that you can go to and absorb culture. From studying Chinese in China to living in laidback Spain, the choices are endless. Each country gives you an entirely new experience from the other. You live life their way, you eat their food and you breathe their air; there is much to learn and take in. If you choose to study abroad or taking an immersion program, be prepared for a whole new world that will open up to you.


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