Language immersion programs, also called dual-language programs, are educational programs in which students receive instruction in two languages. Students develop their native language skills, i.e. in English, while simultaneously learning a second language like Spanish or French. The ultimate goal of these programs is for students to become fully bilingual, with the ability to read, write, and speak in two languages.
In New York City, language immersion programs generally start in preschool or kindergarten and extend through elementary school. Dual-language programs are available across school type; excellent multilingual programs are offered by independent schools, public schools, and charter schools alike.
Why enroll your child in a language immersion program? Well, knowing more than one language is normal - at least in the global context. Over half of the global population speaks more than one language, but only 20% of Americans do. Opening your child’s world to another culture and language can confer a wide range of cognitive and social skills.
Learning more than one language early in life can be very beneficial for cognitive development. Studies on dual-language learning have proven that conversing regularly in more than one language increases a child’s learning flexibility and their ability to focus. Dual-language programs have also been shown to boost comprehension skills.
Language immersion programs have also been shown to correlate with increased executive functioning skills, which are increasingly critical in today’s educational environment. Bilingual students have an easier time focusing on one task at a time and inhibiting other distractions, skills that they practice daily in focusing on using one language over the other at any given time.
Especially in a diverse locale like New York City, learning multiple languages can have a positive impact on a child’s social development. Multilingual students can more easily navigate the world around them and connect with a wider range of people. Of course, language flexibility can also translate to material benefits in terms of travel opportunities in secondary and higher education, and job opportunities in adulthood.
It’s also worth noting that many language immersion programs spend a good deal of time focused on building cross-cultural awareness. For example, a dual-language program in English and Mandarin may devote time to studying Chinese history, taking part in Chinese traditions like Chinese New Year, sampling Chinese cuisine, and other experiences that can broaden a student’s mindset. This heightened cultural exchange develops students who are more empathetic and globally-minded, which is excellent preparation for future leadership roles.
If you’re considering a language immersion program for your child in New York City, reach out to us for advice on which programs are the best fit. We’re here to help you navigate the wide landscape of NYC public and private schools!