Utah Immersion Model
In today’s world, increased conversations about globalization permeate the work force. Dual language immersion education is taking center stage as the most effective and efficient program for preparing linguistically and culturally competent students who can successfully compete in a complex global economy. To achieve this goal for Utah students, the Utah Chinese Dual Immersion curriculum model engages students in two different languages throughout their elementary school learning experience: Mandarin Chinese and English.
From kindergarten to the sixth grade, fifty percent of a student’s day is spent in Chinese instruction with their highly qualified Chinese-speaking teacher and the other fifty percent is spent with their English-speaking teacher. In grades K-3 most of the core content learning is delivered by the Chinese teacher while the English teacher concentrates on developing the building blocks for strong English language skills and literacy. To ensure that the students understand the core content subjects, a strong collaborative effort exists between the two teachers to reinforce the students’ learning.
Although the amount of time spent in each classroom doesn’t change, the curriculum model shifts when students enter grades four through six as a greater sharing of content area responsibility is developed between the two teachers. For example, some areas of math, social studies, and science will shift to the English half-day with an increased concentration on Chinese literacy during the Chinese half-day to help improve the students’ proficiency.
Students entering immersion programs in kindergarten or the first grade will become part of an immersion strand of study that culminates in Advanced Placement Chinese by the 9th grade (and the AP Chinese test), and college-level coursework from grades ten to twelve as they work to achieve advanced level proficiency on graduation from high school. We anticipate that many students who stay with Chinese through high school will also graduate with significant progress toward an undergraduate minor in Chinese at several Utah area colleges and universities. Speaking in Tongues Video
There is no other type of instruction, short of living in a second-language environment, that is as successful as a dual immersion program to help students attain high levels of second language proficiency and well-developed cultural skills. The cognitive, socio-cultural, and economic benefits are great. Young children especially thrive in this type of instructional environment. Economically, the Utah Chinese dual immersion model is also the least expensive and most sustainable way to deliver second language instruction. The reason is simple: Chinese dual immersion teachers are hired by schools as regular elementary teachers who also happen to speak and teach in Chinese, and at no additional personnel cost to the school. They are permanent and critical members of the school’s faculty, just like their English-speaking partner teachers. Together, this powerful team offers a high quality education to Chinese dual immersion students. Global Citizenship Video
Second Language Skills
By enrolling in a dual immersion program, students achieve high proficiency in the immersion language. Utah’s Chinese dual immersion students are on a pathway to read, write, speak and listen in Chinese at a high intermediate proficiency level by the ninth grade when they take Advanced Placement Chinese and the Chinese AP test. If they continue to study in high school, they can achieve advanced language proficiency skills and possibly earn credit towards a Chinese minor at many Utah colleges and universities.
Improved Performance on Standardized Tests
Immersion students perform as well as or better than non-immersion students on standardized tests of English and math that are all administered in English. Year-end tests given to our students to judge performance in English language skills, and quarterly tests given in Math have shown that Chinese dual immersion students in Utah regularly test at least as well as or better than their non-immersion peer students throughout all of our Chinese dual immersion programs. It’s remarkable to see how well the students can understand core content instruction delivered in Chinese, and the proof is in their benchmark scores. Chinese Math Video
Enhanced Cognitive Skills
Immersion students typically develop greater cognitive flexibility, demonstrating increased attention control, better memory, and superior problem solving skills as well as an enhanced understanding of their primary language. Current research shows that being bilingual boosts brainpower(News article). Cognitive Video
Increased Cultural Sensitivity
Immersion students are more aware of and show more positive attitudes towards other cultures and an appreciation of other people. A survey of top international business executives done by the Center for Applied Second Language Studies at the University of Oregon in 2007 showed that multinational businesses are looking for potential high-level employees with cultural sensitivities and the skill to perform in a foreign environment. “What really counts for multinational businesses is employees’ ability to effectively communicate in a variety of cultures and contexts. Bilingual employees are valuable, not only for their language skills, but also for their ability to interact effectively with people around the world in either their first or second language.”
Long Term Benefits
Immersion students are better prepared for the global community and job markets where a second language is an asset. China has both the world’s quickest growing economy and the largest population. More people speak Mandarin Chinese than any other language on the earth. It is difficult to see an American future isolated from Chinese influence. Why not give our children an increased opportunity to compete in this drastically evolving economic and cultural landscape?
- Maximize students’ second language proficiency.
- Provide a rich academic environment in both first and second languages.
- Develop students’ abilities to work successfully in multiple cultural settings.
- Offer a rich, culturally diverse experience for the entire school community.
What to Expect In a Dual Immersion Program
Dual Immersion offers a rich bilingual experience for young learners when their minds are developmentally best able to acquire a second language; when their brains are hard-wired for language acquisition. Children at this age are adept at picking up language in meaningful contexts. In class, the Chinese-speaking teacher speaks only in Chinese and communicates using a wide range of engaging strategies including pictures, songs, games, body language, expressions, pantomime, drama, etc. After about halfway through the first year of dual immersion study, students too will be encouraged to speak only in Chinese during Chinese class. From second grade forward both teachers and students will conduct all learning and conversations in Chinese during Chinese class. You’ll be delighted how quickly your child becomes a comfortable and competent Chinese speaker.
Who Can Participate
The Dual Immersion program seeks to enroll students of varying backgrounds and all abilities. Applications are open to all students entering first grade. However, it may not be a wise choice for children experiencing significant communication delays in their primary language. The application process is determined by the individual school and district. Please contact the closest participating school for more details.
- Commit to long-term participation in the immersion program
- Develop an understanding of immersion education
- Read with your child (in English) 20-30 min. daily
- Encourage the use of Chinese outside of school (SEE TIPS AND TRICKS)*
- Provide community support and, when possible, volunteer
- Enjoy the challenges; celebrate the results
- Learn as much of the language as you can!
How to Enroll My Child
For information about enrolling your child in one of Utah’s Chinese Dual Immersion programs, please contact one of the schools or school districts listed on the Participants section of this website. If no programs exist in your area, encourage your school/district leadership to look into starting a program by applying through the Utah State Office of Education World Languages Department.
Tips and Tricks
What Non-Chinese Speaking Families can do to Support Chinese Learning (thank you to the Chinese American International School in San Francisco for sharing these innovative ideas)
- Recognize that learning a second language is a big commitment for the child and family, knowing that for a period the child will likely struggle in either or both languages.
- Show great interest in your child’s learning, routinely checking in with your child, ask him/her to read/say/show you something they have learned. Encourage your child to be the “teacher” and give you lessons about what words he/she learned that day.
- Closely communicate with your child’s teachers. It’s good practice to get updates about his/her current learning progress above and beyond parent-teacher conferences.
- Make homework a part of daily life. It’s important to remember that time spent reinforcing what your child learns in school each day at home will help make it “stick” for your child.
- Get tips from the teachers for what language games you can play with your kids at home, or what tools to use to enhance learning at home. Our teachers are a wealth of knowledge and can give you advice regarding tapes, CDs, videos, websites and more.
- Invite your child’s classmate or friends over to work on homework or assignments together. Create a learning buddy system. It can also develop a healthy social life.
- Encourage your child to take advantage of every speaking opportunity in Mandarin that he/she can. For example, talking with merchants in stores who speak Mandarin, Chinese restaurants, etc.
- Attend/celebrate Chinese cultural events during the weekend to arouse children’s interest towards Chinese culture. There are many cultural events that happen in our own backyard.
- Babysitters. Planning a date night or an adult only weekend getaway? Consider hiring a Mandarin speaking babysitter who will help reinforce vocabulary and might even be able to help with homework.