Broaden education through language immersion programs

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — If going back to school wasn’t hard enough, imagine learning everything in Spanish or Mandarin. Hello, buenos dias and zaoshang hao… 3 different languages ​​students in West Michigan fully immerse themselves in throughout the school year. We caught up with the Forest Hills School District to see how their Spanish and Mandarin Chinese immersion programs prepare students beyond expectations.

A simple hello in a different language is just the beginning of what these students learn. Being immersed in Spanish or Mandarin means that every part of their school day is taught in their new language.

“So math, science, social studies, reading, writing, everything is done in Spanish. So as soon as the kids walk through the doors of the school, we start speaking Spanish all day, until ‘until they leave,” said Gabriela Tobar, the Spanish immersion teacher.

Starting in kindergarten, students at Ada Vista and Meadow Brook Elementary dive into these languages ​​and continue to learn that way through high school.

“I think the earlier you start it’s essential. They obviously become bilingual, not even just bilingual, but they learn to read, write and speak in Spanish. So the earlier you start the better,” said said Tobar.

The teachers say that at first the children can be a little confused and stressed, but they quickly understand and work very hard every day.

“With every activity we do. We speak Spanish except they make us do it in a fun way,” said Aylin Cumings, a 5e-class student.

Teachers make school fun while learning a new perspective on new cultures within these languages ​​while covering the typical curriculum. Teachers say learning a second language can also be very beneficial for the brain development of these students. The transition from day one to the end of the year is amazing, leaving students able to write, read and speak in their new language.

“Many students feel great accomplishments and are proud of themselves,” said Yiling Cumings, a Mandarin Chinese immersion teacher.

“It’s great, I can speak a new language. It’s so much fun,” said Arin Goel, a 4e-class student.

It is an immersion experience in which parents must take a leap of faith, as many parents are unfamiliar with the language their students are beginning to understand well. It’s a decision parents usually don’t regret.

“I think parents who choose this program are definitely giving kids a better chance and a better opportunity in the future, so they’re not stopping them for where they want to be in the future or where they want to go,” Cumings said.

From kindergarten to adult life and beyond these immersion programs, these students have a springboard with a great new tool in their toolbox.

“I think they just help give their kids opportunities. And with prospects, because that’s one of the big chunks. It’s not just about learning a language, it’s about to learn to be empathetic,” said Allison Woodside, the Ada Vista director.

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