The immersion method
The immersion method is considered the most successful teaching method for the acquisition of a second language. The children are immersed in a “language bath”: the language to be learnt is used consistently alongside the first language as an everyday language (in the childcare centre).
Bilingualism develops more easily, the earlier it is introduced. A child’s brain is attuned to language acquisition and speech development and is able to grasp, process and order different sounds, rhythms and structures accordingly. Children can therefore pick up a second language in the same way as the first. What they need are “talking role models”.
Therefore, we have native-speakers and staff with near-native skills working in educcare childcare centres. The professionals employed as near-native speakers convey the culture of the country with and in addition to the language. Only these educators speak to the children in the second language. This fulfils the basic principle of “one person – one language”. There is no mixing of languages; the children have clearly assigned persons for each language.
The successful acquisition of a foreign language depends on three main factors:
- contact intensity – the language is a means of communication and a language of encounter, a part of socialisation and encompasses as many areas of life as possible
- the duration of the “language bath” – it should be continuous over a longer period of time (6 to 7 years)n
- the nature of the teaching method
The immersion method has proven to be the most successful in all three areas.
Implementing the method
The immersion method only uses skills that the children already have anyway and explicitly distinguishes itself from school concepts or “artificial English lessons”. At nursery and kindergarten age, one of the main activities of children is to grasp and decode new sounds, words, sentences and phrases. At this age, the “window for languages” is wide open and the abundance of life in the childcare centre is an ideal prerequisite for language acquisition. Just like in the mother tongue, communication is supported by facial expressions, gestures and accompanying activities that provide the children with further meaningful information.
The children learn by listening, imitating and remembering. Long before they speak their first word in the second language, they understand context, know what is meant and react to the “other sounds” just as they do in their mother tongue.
The child’s language is not corrected while relaying important contents. Rather, by repeating the child’s utterance in simple, complete sentences, the child is shown that they are taken seriously and have been understood. At the same time, the child receives a correct linguistic example.
Immersion requires no special talent and is suitable for all children and all social backgrounds. It promotes the cognitive development of the children and is the language learning method that enables them to reach a significantly higher level in the foreign language than with conventional course-oriented teaching.
You can find further information on the subject of “immersion” on the website of the Association for Early Multilingualism fmks. [Verein für frühe Mehrsprachigkeit fmks – in German]
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