Language Immersion

image

Language immersion is the term used particularly when the linguistic background of the group is similar: all the children have the same mother tongue and they do not hear the immersion language at home.

The main principle of immersion is for the teacher to understand the children’s mother tongue but to systematically use only the immersion language with them. All the general goals related to a child’s growth, development and learning are also used in language immersion. We also aim for a special goal, which is to prepare the child for studying in a foreign language at school. However, not all children apply to an English immersion class after pre-school. For those children the goal in immersion is to create enthusiasm for languages, interest for cultures and a curious and open-minded attitude.


Learning the language

The learning of a language in a kindergarten begins with play and activities. A child is able to understand the teacher’s speech when things are demonstrated with pictures and actions.

Messages are connected with recurring events that allow for the situation itself to give the message. Therefore teachers plan their messages in a way that reveals and repeats the central vocabulary for the activity. Language is also learned with conversations, stories, rhymes, songs and drama. Adults have to be open to receiving children’s feedback and be able to revise their activities based on the children’s interests. Gradually children begin to imitate the teacher’s messages initiatively or through encouragement. There are big differences between children’s will to start using the immersion language.

Morning circles are a very meaningful beginning for a day in a language immersion kindergarten. Absorbing a new language begins by learning the daily phrases and beginning to use them. In the morning circles children learn new vocabulary by using all their senses. In a language immersion kindergarten, linguistic goals are a part of everyday situations, even using the bathroom. However children are allowed to tell their own stories and describe their feelings and experiences in Finnish.

image

Long-term goals

In language immersion, co-operation between staff and parents is very important. Parents and staff should think about the child’s linguistic goals together. In language immersion the child needs a lot of support and encouragement from the parents in developing their mother tongue.

The long-term goal in language immersion is naturally to reach as high a level of knowledge in English as possible. It is also important to accustom children with cultures and guide them to come to terms with difference. In Hansa Kindergarten we mark the most important celebrations of English cultures, such as Halloween, St.Patrick´s Day, Valentine’s Day and Thanksgiving. We take children’s backgrounds into consideration when planning, and respect them by celebrating the important festivities of their cultures, for example the Chinese New Year. By doing so we hope to build children a foundation that helps them enthuse towards new languages and people without prejudice. We also hope the early learning of language will help them to free their self expression so it will be easy for them to maintain a humoristic and light attitude towards themselves throughout life.