Feed their brains
The benefits of a bilingual education can have benefits for a student’s learning capacity in other subject areas and is even thought to improve the brain’s resilience to diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
The American Psychiatric Association reports that the commendable benefits of language immersion can result in children who have an enhanced ability to process sounds and therefore pay attention in a learning situation. Other benefits include improved cognitive ability, social or emotional skills and educational advancement.
It’s not that simple
This all sounds great, but is it really that simple? How can teachers, whose abilities and resources are already stretched, realistically put in to practice such a learning atmosphere? One answer of course, is to start small. By working within in your means, subtle changes can be made to the classroom environment to introduce a second language. One such simple method is bilingual word posters in the classroom. Additionally, students could be encouraged to greet one another in both languages, which could result in a gradual cultural change within the classroom environment.
Speed up the process
A more authentic language immersion experience for students can be achieved with a language assistant. They can help students to totally immerse in the language by engaging in cross-curricular teaching. It may seem counter-intuitive to take the language assistant out of the classroom. However, the truth is that the use of language is a spontaneous activity. It requires a combination of mental agility and confidence to authentically pronounce the words in order to engage in a conversation.
It could be said, that the use of a language assistant in other academic and areas of the school community can be a useful way to build up the language skills of students. For instance, students’ conversational confidence may come from practicing conversation with the language assistant at break time. Alternatively, perhaps a student finds it easier to consider the numbers of another language while they learn mathematics.
What are the benefits?
The overwhelming evidence of science based research into the overall benefits of the brain’s agility is an area for attention – especially for educational practitioners looking to improve the overall standards of language learning in UK schools. Not only this, but immersive language learning could improve students’ future lives by equipping them with the confidence to become global citizens. This broadening of students’ horizons could ultimately lead them to live more open, culturally aware lives with enhanced opportunities for travel and work, which could result in them leading happier adult lives.