Immersive teaching

we teach in language, not the language

The concept of immersion or immersion education may appear to some as a completely unknown or new word. However, if we take a closer look at its essence, we will find that it hides a not so completely unknown phenomenon, namely bilingual education.

The term immersion in the general sense of the word means immersion or embedding. In our case, we are talking about immersion in the system of another language.

Language immersion is an approach to teaching where common educational activities are carried out in a foreign language. This means that a foreign language is a means of obtaining instructions, and at the same time a subject of instruction.

Often the term immersion is loosely used in schools and the media to denote an increasingly popular form of foreign language teaching. Unfortunately, however, this term is used inaccurately or unjustified in most cases. Indeed, many use this word to denote any class in which a foreign language is the medium of instruction. In any case, if the teaching takes place in a foreign language, this does not mean that it is language immersion. We could consider the definition of immersion by F. Genesee (1987) to be very precise: If we want to talk about immersion education, at least 50% of the teaching in a given school year must take place in a second language. If this criterion is not met, then we should not use the term immersion to describe such education.

In recent years, the isolated teaching of a foreign language has gradually begun to be abandoned, which can be described as a very desirable trend. A person learns a language much more effectively if he learns it in a meaningful social context. It is important to be able to express what we really want to talk about and what matters to us. We should be able to talk mainly about our feelings, attitudes and values. Such language learning is a very effective motivation for us to further improve. If we combine the teaching of a foreign language together with the content, the child develops effectively both socially and cognitively at that moment. To put it briefly and clearly, it is not about teaching a language, but about teaching in a language.

The success of immersion education is also closely related to the expression of support for children. Parents should be fully convinced of the effectiveness of immersion education if they want to enroll their child in such education. In society, they may very often encounter a certain amount of disapproval and the opinion that they are exposing their child to disproportionate challenges. Of course, it is a great benefit if the parents themselves learn the given language and are able to use it in practice, at least to a limited extent. Otherwise, a foreign language can be just another compulsory thing for a child to learn, which is not desirable.

Parents can contribute to successful language immersion by allowing their child to use it outside of school – for example, in extracurricular activities or on family vacations.