View Full Version : Thoughts or experiences on elementary school language immersion programs?

12-05-2004, 09:38 AM
I can't believe I am already having to think about this, LOL!

The school district we live in offers language immersion programs starting in kindergarten and in 1st grade. To get her into a kindergarten program, we'd have to apply next winter. But we want to start doing some research about the schools and the programs now.

In our district, they offer immersion (really partial immersion) programs in Spanish, French, German and Japanese. For kindergarten, the only programs are in Spanish. The other languages all start in 1st grade.

Does anyone have any experience with these types of programs? Anything to look for? Unfortunately none of these programs are available at the elementary school we are slated to attend, so I would have to drive her to the school. Some are not too far, but some (the Japaneses programs in particular) are quite far.

Any thoughts on the "best" or most "useful" language?

12-05-2004, 12:41 PM
A district not far from us (well, about 45 min. away) offers this in Spanish. I've spoken to some parents who are really happy with it, but I'm not sure I can give too much help. The thing I would really think makes a difference is the teachers in the programs and their fluency in the immersion language and English.

What I was going to suggest is that they most useful language probably depends on your family, permenance where you live, lifestyle etc. Where we live, hands down the most useful would be Spanish. But that changes over time, where I grew up there was a large French Canadian population. When my dad was a kid, everyone spoke French, by the time I was a kid, the 2nd language of choice was Spanish. I think in most places in the U.S., the most useful 2nd language now would be Spanish. But for international living/travel, maybe Japanese would be best. My thoughts being that English gives a basis for Latin lanugages and Japanese would give a basis for Asian languages.

Just my .02,

12-07-2004, 07:22 AM
I can't help with what works, but as for most useful I would definitely say Spanish. From Spanish you can derive French and Italian (however, you can't reverse this French to Spanish and Italian).

Japanese will only help you with Japanese it doesn't translate to any of the other Asian languages. The other problem with Japanese is the fact that there are several different writing system Kanji, Romanji, Hiragana, and Katakana. Different style are used based on if you are writing native or non-native words. I realized how difficult Japanese was when I asked our housing agent how to operate our phone and she told me that she would have to get back with me as she couldn't read all the characters on it (play, stop, fast forward, rewind, etc.) and she is a native Japanese!

Just my two cents.

Jen in Okinawa
Mom to a wonderful preschooler,
who just turned three, Noelle!

12-07-2004, 09:27 AM
Interesting that you say this. Mu husband works for a very large Japanese consumer electronics company. He was discussing the idea with some of the (native) Japanese in his office. They agreed that they saw little value in a partial immersion program for non-Japanese children. They mentioned exactly what you said, that native Japanese have a hard enough time and spend hours and hours of study every day learning all the different alphabets. If you are not willing to do that, you will never be truly fluent in written Japanese.

They did think it might be a good supplement for a child born to Japanese parents who live in the United States, in order to get more exposure outside the home to Japanese language and culture.

At this point, I am interested in pursuing the kindergarten options, although DH is more into the French and German options.

12-07-2004, 08:53 PM

I have been wanting to enroll Katherine in a language immersion class for some time now. She wants to take French, because I took French in high school and college. I want her to take Spanish, because we have a large Hispanic population in the area where I live. Once we get past the holidays, I am going to look into the classes, but she could only attend the Saturday classes because she is in school M-F.


I had no idea that you could kind of derive French and Italian from Spanish, but not vice versa. I took French and have been able to figure out some Spanish words here and there. That is so interesting to know!