ICS-West will be a “partial immersion” or “dual language” program, meaning that part of each student’s day will be in Spanish and part will be in English. For people who have never seen language immersion in action before, it can be hard to imagine and frankly can seem pretty strange. Here are some frequently asked questions about immersion.
Q: Why should I enroll my child in an immersion program? What are the benefits?
Immersion programs are the fastest growing and most effective type of in-school foreign language program. Young children especially thrive in this environment – learning a new language comes as naturally as learning their first one.
Forty years of research into language immersion programs in the US have found significant benefits:
World Language Proficiency: Bilingualism provides skills to interact competently with more people in many places, essential in an increasingly interdependent world community.
Improved Test Performance/Academic Achievement: Immersion students’ performance on standardized tests is comparable, and often surpasses, that of students in non-immersion programs.
Enhanced Cognitive Skills: Immersion students often demonstrate greater cognitive flexibility, increased attention control, better memory and superior problem-solving skills, and an enhanced understanding of their first language.
Increased Cultural Sensitivity: Immersion students demonstrate more positive attitude towards different cultures and an appreciation of people who have different cultural perspectives and practices. Bilingual employees are valuable, not only for their language skills, but also for their ability to interact effectively with people around the world.
Long-Term Economic Benefits: Bilingual students are better prepared for the global community and job markets. They are more sought after for jobs, and consistently earn higher salaries than do peers who speak only one language.
Q: OK, I’m sold on the importance of a second language, but why Spanish? Why not teach (French, Mandarin, Arabic, Russian, German, etc etc)?
It is practical: Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the world, with 414 million speakers. (Chinese is first, and English is third.) It is also the most widely spoken second language in the US after English. Locally, over 12% of Philadelphians are Spanish-speakers.
It makes learning the language easier: Many modern-day English words trace their origins to Spanish. This means that students learning Spanish as a new language have a relatively quick learning curve, which can boost their confidence in learning a new language.
It has long-term benefits: In the long-term, whether here in the US or abroad, Spanish is a key language to know in a range of industries, such as healthcare, business and trade, pharmaceuticals, energy, hospitality, government, even popular culture. The Latin American countries are among our most critical trading partners, and having skills to communicate in Spanish offers an invaluable economic advantage.
It’s what we do at ICS. We have been highly successful teaching in Spanish at our Center City school since 2001, and we have developed extensive curricular materials and expertise in Spanish. In short, it’s what we know how to do and do well.
Q: What will the student’s day look like?
A: Part of each student’s day will be in Spanish and part will be in English. For kindergarteners, for example, they will have a Spanish-speaking teacher and an English-speaking teacher. Some of the subject areas (Math, Literacy, Science, etc.) will be taught in Spanish and others will be taught in English.
Q: My child doesn’t speak any Spanish at all. Is that OK? How will they understand what to do in the class?
A: Absolutely. There is no expectation that students will speak Spanish when they begin at ICS-West
(though it’s terrific if they do). Immersion teachers convey meaning in lots of ways, including exaggerated voices, gestures, movements, stories, all so that students can understand. Remember, most of the students in the class will be in the same boat. It’’s up to the teacher to make sure they get what they need to.
Q: Will they be following the regular PA Common Core curriculum? Will they take regular PA standardized tests (in English)?
A: Yes and Yes. Language immersion is a means of teaching content, while also teaching language. ICS-West blends all the state standards into our curriculum. One of the particular benefits of the partial immersion model is that there is always an opportunity to reinforce in English in areas where a student may be struggling.
Q: I don’t speak Spanish. Is that OK? How will I be able to help my child with their homework? How can I help them be successful in a Spanish program?
A: This is absolutely fine. There is no expectation at all that parents will speak Spanish.
That said, there are lots of ways you can and should support your child when they begin at ICS-West, including: read to them at least 20 minutes a day, talk to your child about words and language in daily life, and offer to volunteer and get involved in the classroom at ICS-West.
Q: I’d like to learn Spanish along with my child. How can I do that?
A: It’s great that you want to learn Spanish. It’ll be wonderful for your child to see you learning alongside him or her too. There are plenty of computer/app-based programs, and some are even free. Try Mango Languages, available free through the public library. If enough families are interested, we might even be able to set up after-hours language classes at the school. Contact us if this is something that interests you: firstname.lastname@example.org.
To apply for the ICS-West lottery, simply fill out a brief application on our website: icswest.org!