Benefits of Spanish Immersion
Recent studies have shown that there are “windows of opportunity” for learning certain skills. There is strong evidence that the ability to acquire a foreign language is best before the age of five.
Young children acquire languages with greater fluency than older children or even adults.
Some benefits of acquiring a second language at an early age are:
- Enhances academic and linguistic performance in both languages
- Cognitive advantages — physically enhances brain development
- Increases career and social opportunities
- Scores statistically higher on SAT college entrance exams
- Expands world view
- Increases attendance at colleges and universities
- Improves English language skills
- Enhances learning capacity for life
The brains of young children actually form new neural connections. This strengthens their intellectual “foundation” as well as future academic success.
Numerous studies have shown that in addition to greater appreciation for other cultures, learning a second language also results in strong academic and developmental advantages.
Consider the following findings of cognitive benefits:
- Benefits of a second language include improved overall school performance and superior problem-solving skills
- Learning another language can enhance knowledge of English structure and vocabulary
- Students of foreign languages may have better career opportunities
- Students who had studied a foreign language for 4 or more years outscored other students on the verbal and math portions of the SAT
- Students who were in “rigorous” programs in high school, which included 3 years of foreign language study, were likely to earn better grades in college and less likely to drop out
“Learning other languages altered grey matter – the area of the brain that processes information – in the same way that exercise builds muscles. People who learned a second language at a younger age were also more likely to have advanced grey matter than those who learned later.”
Read more about it in this related article: Being Bilingual Boosts Brain Power. BBC News, October 2004
A key linguistic benefit of early language learning is a more native-like speaking ability:
“Early exposure is the best way for a human child to achieve full and equal native fluency in two languages with no accent or grammatical error.”
(Start Early to Help Your Child Become Bilingual, Pediatrics for Parents, Vol. 20, Iss.10, 2009)
Learning a second language also leads to
- Enhanced level of English language skills and of metalinguistic awareness, a skill that positively impacts learning to read in any language because it facilitates decoding abilities
- Greater facility in learning additional languages
Bambini’s parents prepare their children for a lifetime of success in the multicultural, multilingual world of the twenty-first century.
- The full immersion approach takes advantage of children’s unique ability to absorb the foreign language naturally, the way they absorbed English.
- In a full immersion setting, children learn a second language without having to translate.
- The window of opportunity, where the brain is hard-wired to learn language naturally, exists from birth to approximately adolescence.
- Our native-speaking teachers use Spanish throughout the whole school day, taking advantage of a young child’s ability to mimic native accents flawlessly.
- We use bright, clear visuals, dynamic gestures, miming, vivid facial expressions, and dramatic voices to facilitate comprehension in the context of 100% immersion.
- Children are encouraged to actively use the foreign language throughout the course of each session.
- We provide consistent language clues, use choice questions, model answers and prompt group repetition to help children speak the new language.
- We use a system of rhythmic chanting to promote retention and retrieval of new words and key language structures.
- We use key phrases —simple, well articulated, consistent phrases—to promote comprehension and speaking.
- Our small groups foster individualized learning; our teachers challenge each child to develop comprehension, basic verbal skills and increased spontaneous speech at his or her own pace.
- In this multi-level learning environment, newcomers learn from peer-models while more experienced children build confidence and leadership alongside more advanced language skills.
How Does It Work?
Bambini’s curriculum presents the Spanish language in phrases, simple sentences and target structures. We believe that language instruction for children must go beyond simple vocabulary lists to functional language. We want to give children the tools to express themselves simply in another language.
Teaching children language in functional chunks such as, “Mi nombre es______,” or “Yo quiero______” allows children to assimilate and communicate global meaning before breaking language down into its discrete grammatical parts. Linguistic research shows that children retain and retrieve language best in chunks, rather than in individual words; this approach enables them to communicate more fully, sooner.
The key components of our curriculum include:
Language Chunks: equipping children right away with functional language through key phrases and language chunks rather than just vocabulary lists
Sheltered language: using slower, well-articulated language and consistent phrasing to facilitate comprehension
Rhythm: setting key phrases and structures to rhythm as a retention and retrieval tool
Repetition: repeating key phrases and structures to reinforce retention
Constant language: optimizing exposure time to the language by providing maximum input
Positive reinforcement: rewarding children with praise at every level of participation and skill to foster a positive, can-do attitude toward language learning.