Our Spanish Immersion Program (SI) journey began with a post card inviting us to an informational meeting about Evergreen Christian School’s new Spanish Immersion program. The idea intrigued us since there are significant benefits both academically and career-wise to being bilingual—as well as just having a larger more understanding view of the world. However, even with the tantalizing idea of our children being bilingual, we of course had questions and concerns.
Are there any negatives to being in a full immersion setting?
We talked to local moms that had gone through immersion schools in British Columbia, Canada and the feedback was universally positive with virtually no regrets—except that there was no immersion program locally for their children.
Will my children be able to understand what’s being taught, especially in the first year?
The first week was indeed hard for them. Both children came home complaining. This dissipated quickly however; by the second week if asked “What was your favorite thing you did today?” it was not uncommon for the reply to be “Spanish!” By the end of the first year, both were able to converse quite well in Spanish.
Will my children lack basic reading and writing skills in English?
Our experience has been there is a lag in English skills, however less than we expected. One example that comes to mind is our daughter, while in 2nd grade, with no English instruction, picked up a Bible (NIV) and read the 1st chapter of John without assistance. She is currently in 4th grade and reading at grade level in English.
Is it worth the cost?
Our children are now in 1st and 4th grade. Our 4th grade daughter can speak, read and write in Spanish quite well. Our 1st grader can comfortably converse, read and write at a 1st grade level in Spanish. They both thoroughly enjoy their parents asking them how to say or pronounce something in Spanish. When one of our children talks to a native Spanish speaker in the community, they are astonished that the children not only can carry a conversation in Spanish but they also speak with the proper accent. Yes, it has been worth it and has exceeded our expectations.
Would we repeat this journey again?
Our daughter was in the 1st immersion class at Evergreen, and started her Spanish immersion experience in Kindergarten. A teacher hadn’t even been hired when we enrolled her. Each year was new for both us and the school. It was also discovered during the 2nd grade that our daughter had learning issues not specific to bilingual learning. Addressing those in an immersion setting was new as well. In spite of the challenges of a new program, both our children have thoroughly enjoyed school and especially learning Spanish. The first time our very shy daughter developed enough courage to order her own food at a restaurant it was in Spanish. When she plays with dolls it’s not uncommon for them to be speaking in Spanish. She was actually saddened when she learned that in 3rd grade less of her time would be in Spanish. Our son often comes home talking about the new Spanish words he learned. When we ask him what his favorite thing at school was that day, the answer is almost always “Everything!”
The short answer: Absolutely!
Amy Harman, Spanish Immersion Parent