Spanish Immersion FAQs

  • What is language immersion?
    In language immersion programs, the regular school curriculum is taught via the target language. Spanish is not the subject of instruction; rather, it is the vehicle for instruction. Children acquire the language naturally, while also learning the academic content.
    What is a 90:10 program?
    In a 90:10 model, also called a full immersion program, 90% of instruction is delivered in Spanish during kindergarten and first grade, with the remaining 10% delivered in English via special classes such as art, music, PE, etc. Starting in second grade, English literacy instruction is introduced and the instructional time in Spanish decreases each year until there is a 75:25 ratio by the end of the K-5 program.
    What are the benefits of a dual language immersion program?
    Dual immersion programs have many benefits. Children learn languages much easier and more naturally than adults do, making elementary school the ideal time to become immersed in a second language. Beyond achieving high proficiency in biliteracy and bilingual skills, research shows immersion students outperform native English-speaking classmates on standardized tests and have enhanced cognitive skills. Students also gain interpersonal skills, including increased cultural sensitivity, and are prepared for a global society and marketplace. Additionally, being able to communicate and excel academically in two languages also gives students greater self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment.
    Will my child be confused?
    Immersion teachers are very skilled in utilizing language acquisition strategies to ensure that their students understand the language and content. These include gestures and actions, visuals, drawings, hands-on materials, TPR (total physical response), and simultaneous participation activities. As children are learning, they may sometimes confuse words between the two languages. Yet, research shows that this extra cognitive effort is good for the brain. Constantly choosing between two languages actually makes the brain stronger and improves executive function, meaning the ability to make decisions, stay focused, follow multi-step directions, set and achieve goals, and remember things.
    How will my child’s English language and literacy skills be affected by learning in Spanish?
    Research consistently shows that being in a language immersion program actually enhances English language development. Learning in a second language increases students’ metalinguistic awareness, meaning that they have a deeper knowledge and understanding of language, which applies to both Spanish and English. That said, it is important to note that in 90:10 programs, students’ English development may lag temporarily in reading, word knowledge, and spelling in the early grades. This is because instruction is conducted entirely in Spanish in kindergarten and first grade, with English language arts introduced in second grade. However, after a year or two of instruction in English language arts, this lag disappears. By fifth grade, immersion students consistently perform at or above the level of their monolingual peers on English language arts assessments. It is important for parents to understand that this initial lag is temporary and to be expected.
    How can I help my child at home if I don’t speak Spanish?
    You do not need to speak Spanish to support your child. The best thing you can do is read aloud to your child, in your home language, every day. This builds listening and comprehension skills, as well as a love for reading. When your child does have homework in Spanish, ask him/her about the homework. It is perfectly fine for you and your child to speak in English since if your child can explain the homework to you in English, it demonstrates his/her understanding of the content and task. If your child has a book to read in Spanish, you can listen to him/her read and then ask questions about the book. Again, it is fine if the questions and answers are in English; your child will still be able to show his/her level of comprehension of the book through his/her answers.
    How long should my child stay in the dual language immersion program?
    Research shows that long-term participation of 5 to 7 years is necessary for the benefits of the dual language immersion program to be fully realized. Thus, enrolling your child in the K-5 dual language immersion program is a long-term commitment. Additionally, continuing to participate in the dual language pathway in middle and high school will enable your child to maintain his/her bilingualism and biliteracy, as well as the possibility of taking advanced placement Spanish classes and potentially earning college credits while in high school.