English immersion first

In a study of English Language Learners released by the Arizona Department of Education, English immersion students learned faster than students placed in bilingual classes. Those in immersion classes scored higher than bilingual education students “in every grade level between second and eighth grade in reading, language and math, based on Stanford 9 scores,” reports the Arizona Republic. By sixth grade, immersion students were more than one year ahead of bilingual students.

Critics say the study may not have compared similar students. For example, it’s possible that students in bilingual classes start with weaker English skills than students in English immersion.

It’s a valid point. However, a critic of the critics notes that bilingual advocates were happy to use dubious data comparing dissimilar students when it served their cause. Arizona voters passed an English for the Children initiative in 2000. During the campaign, bilingual advocates cited a state education department survey that found bilingual students outperformed English immersion students. But the data compared high-scoring bilingual students with all English immersion students; most bilingual students were exempted from testing.

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  1. Mad Scientist says:

    My wife is a foreign language teacher (both French and Spanish), and knows for a fact that immersion is the fastest way for ANYONE to learn a second language.

    After all, how do people learn their FIRST language?

  2. Re: Mad Scientist

    It’s call job security. Afterall, if the students fails to learn English, they’d be stucked in Bi-Lingual classess longer.

    It takes me about 1 year to learn English when I first came to America. I was 11 years old, and the ability to absorbe new language tends to degrade with age. That’s why teacher’s union (especially those with large bi-lingual teachers) fights tooth and nail against immersion.

  3. Chris Haynes says:

    Just watched my first Spanish Toyota commercial on bay area ABC channel. Maybe it was a mix up or maybe not. This is an English language channel. Am I being immersed?

  4. Ha. In my local movie theater, they’re running the pre-trailer commercials that includes an English(sort of) commercial of a Telemundo Telenovelas or Mexican soap opera. It’s kind of weird in that the sales pitch narrative are in English, and all of the character dialogue are in Spanish.

  5. As Mark Twain once said, and I am probably paraphrasing,
    “There are three kinds of lies – lies, damn lies, and statistics.”

  6. My husband didn’t speak a word of English until he was dumped into an English-only class. He’s completely fluent. That was 40+ years ago.

    My niece didn’t speak a word of Hebrew until she was dumped into a Hebrew-only class with a teacher who didn’t speak any English. She was fluent within 6 months. That was less than 4 years ago.

  7. Richard Aubrey says:

    I worked with exchange students for more than twenty years. (AFS).
    Immersion works.