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Immersing in another language

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Should Wake beef up its foreign language instruction to offer an immersion program in one or more schools?

That's an idea being studied by the school board's student achievement committee. The issue could come up at Tuesday's committee meeting.

In a dual immersion program, students would spend a significant part of the day learning in both English and another language. They'd often be paired with native speakers in that other language.

In full immersion, students would learn everything but English language arts in another language.

The closest Wake has come is at Joyner Elementary, which from 1999 to 2002 was dubbed a Spanish immersion school. Students received 2 1/2 hours of daily instruction in their regular subjects — math, science, writing, language - completely in Spanish.

But complaints from some parents and a hard time recruiting magnet students caused Joyner to scale back the program. Students still get daily Spanish instruction, but it's for far less time now.

Foreign language instruction has been harder to get at elementary schools, especially non-magnet ones.

Click here for a handout from Wake staff on immersion programs.

(I'm going to be in a computer training class for most of the week so my access to the blog will be limited.)


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Immersion education

Interesting Idea WCPSS has for immersion education. Funny that it seems so 'innovative' when a full immersion, public school education is available in Wake County but at a Charter School. Seems the initiative and innovation of Charter Schools is overlooked by traditional public schools but then the Charter Schools are criticized for not bringing innovation to traditional schools. Well, who's fault would that be. I'd love to see an article on immersion education in any public school in NC to give the public info on this topic.

I took French for 4 years in

I took French for 4 years in HS and 2.5 years in college and loved it. I still remember some and the times I traveled to France (its been over 10 years now) I've been amazed at how much I could pick it up again. I agree that its not a necessity with so many people around the world speaking English, but it is something that I value a lot. My kids will be taking a foreign language again when they are in middle school & high school whether they want to or not. :-)

Jenman - don't get me wrong

I didn't say learning a foreign language is bad or even broadening, only it is a "luxury" course. In times of budget cuts, I don't think we should discuss adding this on. People that take the time to learn a new language do benefit from it, but again, does it serve the need of the public, or the individual? If it were the former, I suggest we have many languages taught throughout the country to aide our diplomatic and intelligence functions of government. Right now the government trains those that have the aptitude for language and the skills that they desire.

The real question to pose

In a world of many languages, which one should we chose, if any, to teach our children? As pointed out, English is a universal language. Yes, Spanish is the second most common language spoken in the US, but in a way aren't we giving up some of the supremacy of English. In Canada, they have two languages, French and English. The complications of this bi-lingual system are very real, I've seen it first hand. It may even eventually cause Canada to break up into two countries. Someone pointed out Chinese; did you know there are more English speakers in China, than the US? Besides which dialect do you teach? French used to be the second Universal language in the world and it is still used in the UN, but it's losing it's popularity to English. So back to the basic question we should address, IS IT WORTH IT? My view for what it's worth: Foreign Language training should be offered as an elective and for an additional fee if at all ( I know this is a new concept ). It really does not help the vast majority of students to succeed and our public money could better be spent. BTW- I do have much experience working and even learning with many other nationalities, both here and abroad. Funny thing, it was all in English.

Mandarin Chinese

Chinese as in Mandarin Chinese, not any of the dialects, but the official language.

I use to think schools

I use to think schools offered and colleges requried a foreign language because it was important to speak it but I think another reason is that "they" (education powers) want students to be aware of countries and cultures outside of NC and "they" do that through the foreign language program. 

How about the fact that

How about the fact that learning another language helps your skills in your native language?

That's quite a compelling argument, to me.

Maybe, but is it necessary

There are other ways to do that that would do more. If you want another language course that would do that, try Latin. I am not against optional foreign language courses but we frankly don't have the money right now for that luxury. I would go for a local subsidized program that would mostly paid for by those families that want there child to attend the courses.

Universities require 2

Universities require 2 years of language for admission but I wonder if some future day this requirement will be dropped.  I used to get scientific papers in French or German but now all you have to do is hit the "translation" key and there it is in English.  Unless you need language for travel as the student population increases in colleges they may drop language requirement due to the changes in technology.

I wonder if they said that

I wonder if they said that about math when the computer came along ... many programs can solve algebraic formula symbolically but we still require algebra and calculus ... While the need for many languages may decrease there still may be a fight for dominance ... with the decline of the US and the rise of the China it is not a given English will be the one single world language ... I just hope it is since I am too old to learn Chinese.

Computers help there too

Haven't you read about real time voice translation computers that translate spoken word? Our military uses them. The programming still has bugs, but it has come a long way and has been aided by faster computers and multi-core processors. I believe this is the wave of the future. I routinely use language translators online to translate foreign web sites.

As far as math. You still need to learn application of formulas and programs need to be written. Without the ability to know how to apply math to the real world, computers are not the end all in math. It sort of like a power mitre saw to the carpenter; you still need to know how to build. Computers, while very helpful in a lot of applications, do not cut it entirely. And besides, you may not always have a computer or calculator handy.

BTW- I was there when calculators and computers became available to students. I had a state of the art $99 calculator that only did basic math in my senior year of high school and learned how to program PC's to do math in the 8086/8088 days. It really wasn't that long ago. They have given students the ability to achieve more calculations in a shorter time frame, but not learn math in application.

What about Geography user1234?

Isn't Geography where we can teach about cultures of other countries? When I was taught Geography and World History, learning cultures was an important part of the curriculum. User1234, I took 3 years of French, I don't feel any better about the French and for the most part don't admire them much. Nor have I found it essential. And in case you think I'm racist I have French ancestry(about 50%). You reasoning falls on deaf ears here. BTW-French Canadians that can speak English in France do because their dialect is shuned by a lot of native French....explain that.

I do like their wine and a lot of their food though.

"And in case you think I'm

"And in case you think I'm racist I have French ancestry(about 50%)."

 That doesn't change the fact that you're still a bigot.

Do you know the definition?

BIGOT - One who is strongly partial to one's own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ.

I do have strong political views, but I am tolerant and encourage other views that are supported by facts. I am not ashamed of that. I do admit intolerance of hypocrites, criminals, true bigots, and  those that limit on my rights and freedom under the constitution. But that doesn't make me a bigot. I guess if I disagree with you on anything, I'm a bigot...who's intolerant?

On my French remark, that was my opinion based on my life experiences and studies. The fact I don't admire a group, doesn't make me a bigot. I don't bear any anomosity to French people in general.

"The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not."- Thomas Jefferson

Was he a bigot?




That’s interesting

That’s interesting. Geography class in my school (required 7th grade) was mostly about globes, maps, topography and earth formation (rocks, caves). We learned about countries and cultures in “social studies.” It was incorporated into class time in ES and then in 6th grade in MS it was a required class. Of course, history and language classes also incorporated that information. Only the kids planning on college took foreign language (don’t think votech students could fit foreign language into their schedule), but everyone learned about other cultures. I’m curious how do kids here learn about countries and cultures? Also curious, what about local history – do they learn about the history of Raleigh and Wake County?

My school did it different than they do here

I had three courses in Geography that included the study of the land, resources, culture, and people of the world.  I believe the terms are human and physical geography. It did actually have a huge impact on me appreciating cultures.

It's called social studies now... emphasis on 'social"

I  WISH they taught geography and history (here or anywhere).  Take a look at your kid's social studies book sometime. There's nary a paragraph about George Washington or Abe Lincoln, or the Constitution for that matter.  But, I kid you not, my son's 3rd grade history book had a recipe for tortillas.  In the older elementary grades, socialism is mentioned, but it's always termed as 'socialism, "where people share equally", or some such blather.  A black and white picture of stacks of wheat is next to it.  It would be funny if it wasn't so pathetic.

Hey, I'll see some of you at the tea party tomorrow?  I wonder if ACORN, I mean Homeland Security will be there writing down my license plate number.  I am a right wing extremist doncha know!


I'll be there too

I think I'll wear my new WARNING - Extremist Right Wing Radical Combat Veteran  T-Shirt. I wonder how many left wing rent a mob will be there to cause trouble or play radical right wing imposter.

I took six years of German

I took six years of German in Middle and HS and don't remember it much.  If colleges did not require it , it might dry up.  I pushed my daughter to select Latin to help with SATs (National Merit Commended Student) ... she took French too ...

BTW .. welcome back ... I figured you were at your beach vacation house while the rest of us held down the fort ...

Yes I was on vacation

Thanks for working so hard "holding down the fort" [ROFLOL]. I took my kids on a wonderful educational trip to Arizona where they learned about native American culture, geology, geography, and science.  It was not all educational, we visited relatives and had fun too. Sorry to burst your bubble, I don't own a beach house or even a second home. I am fortunate I could do that since my children are more or less on the same schedule, and air fares are cheap right now. And yes my middle schooler missed a day of snow makeup.

I knew I liked you....

From your description of your vacation, I think you were right in the area where my husband and I grew up.  Arizona ROCKS!!  To be honest, I'm being held hostage in North Carolina until I can convince certain people to move back!  LOL

I wish the "education

I wish the "education powers" put as much emphasis on American history and teaching the US constitution.  Clearly, to many young Americans, the US constitution is a foreign language.

 How about economics 101?  Most young Americans don't understand how to get a mortgage and pay for it, balance a check book much less the meaning of capitalism.  I say we start with making sure we teach the basics of making it in America, then worry about making it in the rest of the world.  Did you ever stop to think that perhaps one reason the US is losing its dominance because were moving away from our principals and trying to act like the ROW?

You forget something:

To many adult Americans, the US Constitution is a foreign language. Don't believe me?  Go to a shopping mall with the Bill of Rights on a clipboard (without the label "Bill of Rights" on it) and ask a random sampling of people over 30 what they think of these ideas for good government.

I guarantee that the answers you get will make any Constitutional scholar weep.

btw, I think my daughter

btw, I think my daughter had an econ 101 in 9th grades since she talked about chosing stocks, balancing a check book, budget a home, filling out tax forms, and compared morgage interest  ... they had an investment manger come give a class ... was it business essentials?  May be an elective?

Why American is losing its edge ... laziness ... things are too easy ... poverty and hungar drive change ...

Really shouldn't be an elective...

That kind of a class is something that every kid should take.  That is the information that all adults need!  So many kids getting out of high school get talked into a new car and have no idea they're paying 20% interest, or even what interest is!!  I bet if you asked graduating seniors, only 25% would even know what a insurance deductible is.  Or how to make compound interest work for you!

Agree it should be required

As an econ major and former not-for-profit credit counselor I agree that everyone needs this type of class! My clients came from all education levels, income levels and walks of life.

That's great.  I'm glad to

That's great.  I'm glad to hear that.

You're exactly right, poverty and hunger drive change.  But we don't allow that to happen in the US anymore.  We tend to try and prevent anyone from feeling any "pain" in this country, irregardless of their personal choices.

You know it took the

You know it took the Russians sending up a satellite for our parents to get off their duff and push for more math and science.

Chinese language should be

Chinese language should be offered considering China is the biggest foreign creditor to the United States.

As long as it stays on a 'by

As long as it stays on a 'by choice' basis. The way our board makes their decisions about schools, kids, assignments, etc., who knows?

It's an intriguing possibility

I think it's an intriguing idea, not sure how easily it would be to get an immersion program going.

This is purely anecdotal, When my oldest son was in kindergarten (different state), on the first day of school, there was a boy from France. Kid only spoke French. His mother instructed the teacher that she didn't want ESL for him, she wanted him to learn by being with only English speakers, (his fellow kindergarten students). By the end of the year, he spoke flawless English, with no French accent. It still amazes me 10 years later!

That reminds me of way back when, when I was in kindergarten. (Different state as well) A little boy from Mexico (his parents were illegal immigrants), started kindergarten with us. He could speak NO English as well. By the end of the year, he was a flawless English speaker. I'm still friends with him, btw. He's a very successful guy, as are his parents/siblings.

So there ya go, two anecdotal stories of success, that should be all WCPSS needs? ;)

I spend a lot of time

I spend a lot of time overseas and I was very worried about languages for my children. It is amazing to see the Dutch switch from language to language as they talk to people … no wonder they have always been a trading center ….

With that said, while in Japan, I expressed my concern to one of my executives who assured me that my kids were ok to have exposure to so few languages … she mentioned that English is the default language of business and my kids would not be at a serious disadvantage … but they would not be at an advantage either … in Japan, your ability to speak English clearly establishes how high you can be promoted ….. it is interesting to observe the Chinese and Japanese communicating in English because it is common to both groups which helps me…… given that English is being taught in China schools today which could make it the largest English speaking country in the world one day is ironic … also you may have noticed that the Chinese have suggested that the world move away from using the US dollar as the standard because of our financial mismanagement so English could go the same way one day … A few other comments … have you noticed the number of jobs saying being bi-lingual is an asset or that the US Government has many job opening for people who know other languages … so an option today may be a requirement tomorrow … finally, I think we are at a point in history where the US’s dominance may be on the decline and we will need to work with other people around the world and not be able to bully them around …. So speaking their language is a must ….

So, better mastery of foreign languages would be an asset to students … but so would more challenging mathematics …. I would prefer language offerings be part of a comprehensive, long range plan to bring our kids to world standards and not be the “choice of the day” for the 2009 school year.

So by your logic, there is

So by your logic, there is absolutely no reason to have an immersion program in Spanish.  There is not one single major business country in the world that uses Spanish as the primary language.  If your goal is to work for the US gubment or US healthcare system, the maybe Spanish is necessary...what does that say?

My travels are all to Asia

My travels are all to Asia so I don't pay much attention to Spanish but I will say that Latin America is one of the fastest growing regions so Spanish would be a good language if you want to do import / export or open a branch in LA.

I would love to see an

I would love to see an immersion program in Wake County, although it will be too late for kids to use it. We were at Joyner for 4 years--the first of which was 'immersion'. We LOVED it and were very disappointed when they reduced the Spanish classroom time. Its still a great school, but I'd love to see an immersion program again.

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About the blogger

T. Keung Hui covers Wake schools.