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Abbygail Parker
Mr. Mills
English IV
24 October 2016
Full Immersion is the Most Effective Way to Learn a Language.

Learning a language and engaging in a culture that is not native to a person

offers benefits beyond that of bilingualism or multilingualism. As scholar Tara Williams
Fortune said in her paper, What the Research Says About Immersion, Over nearly half
a century, research on language immersion education has heralded benefits such as
academic achievement, language and literacy development in two or more languages,
and cognitive skills (1). Apart from the obvious goal of being able to communicate in a
new way, cultural integration has a line of additional benefits such as: improved
education skills, Alzheimers prevention, workforce opportunities, and knowledge of a
new culture. Becoming bilingual is not an easy task and while there are a multitude of
ways to learn a new language, the best way is practice, practice, and more practice. As
with most ambitions, there are challenges that accompany this goal of enlarging ones
knowledge and culture, but these likewise have their solutions. However, fully putting
oneself in a foreign culture, while intense and frustrating at times is indeed the best and
most effective way to learn a language and to understand the culture that surrounds and
is a part of that language.
As an article from the Huffington Post appropriately titled 17 Reasons Every
American Should Learn Spanish tells readers, By 2050, the US will be the largest
Spanish speaking country. ( Humberto Lopez Morales, general secretary of the

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Association of Spanish Language Academics) Sooner rather than later, it will not be an
option anymore just to speak one language. It is an unavoidable future in which, if a
person wishes to survive by even the basic means of buying food, they will need to be
able to communicate through several different means. Mrs. Fortune from the Center for
Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA) notes that while there were
concerns initially for the English speakers who were enrolled in immersion programs
(that some believed would be hindered by crowded knowledge of another language)
worries were put to rest. TWI (two-way immersion) classes are examples of these
immersion programs; and they usually deal with students whose first language is other
than English (Fortune 1) English-proficient immersion students who achieved relatively
high levels of second-language proficiency also acquired higher levels of English
language skills and metalinguistic awareness (2). Student were not hindered by
learning another language, on the contrary their awareness of their own language was
boosted as multiple parts of their minds were activated to deal with and understand the
new information.
Students are able to think about how words fit together from different languages
and this in turn makes understanding their native language more simple. Huffington
Post tells readers that Spanish is derived from Latin, like many words in English. Due
to this relation, the two languages are closely connected and end up with more than a
few shared words that differ only in pronunciation. This lends help to those attempting to
learn one or more of these languages. As evidenced from immersion setting, English
proficient immersion students are capable of achieving as well as, and in some cases
better than, non-immersion peers on standardized measures of reading and math

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(Fortune 1). For those who stay in the programs longer, Fully proficient bilinguals
outperform monolinguals in the areas of divergent thinking, pattern recognition, and
problem solving (3). In addition those who are bilingual show a higher ability to pick up
on another language than monolinguals.
Along with the benefits in education, acquiring knowledge of other languages
works the brain which can prevent Alzheimer's, a condition of the mind and a common
form of Dementia (What is Alzheimers?). Knowing at least two languages reduces the
risk of Alzheimers (Why Learn Spanish?). Accompanying this disease are memory
lapses, confusion, emotional instability, and progressive loss of mental ability
(Alzheimers disease). Although the direct cause of Alzheimers has yet to be
discovered, scientists believe the cause to range anywhere from age, to genetics, to
lifestyle. It has been discovered however, that those who actively use their minds are
more apt to maintain them longer (alzheimers association). One of the most effective
ways of using ones mind daily, is by gaining knowledge and solving complex problems.
For those who are bilingual, they must constantly use both languages or risk forgetting
one of them. Just as the best state for a body to be in is one that is fit and healthy, the
best state for the mind is for it to be used and worked out.
Fortune believes that Increasingly, proficiency in a second language and
intercultural competency skills open up employment opportunities (Fortune 4). The
Huffington Post agrees, Its necessary to be bilingual in a global world (Why Learn
Spanish? 1). And according to Wendi Colby (director of human resources) who said in
an interview, Bilingualism is not an absolute requirement, but it is desirable (How being
Bilingual Can Boost Your Career). Data from Rosetta Stone shows that the average

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annual household income of people who speak at least one foreign language is $10,000
higher than the household income of families who are monolinguistic (How Being
Bilingual Can Boost Your Career 1). She went on to state that when dealing with
advancement positions, The individual that spoke more languages would have a better
chance for managerial roles, whatever the next level would be (1).
Every year obtaining a job becomes more and more competitive even in the
lower income jobs of fast food and mall retail. People used to get a job with just a high
school degree, now high school grads compete with college degree adults for the best
paying position at McDonalds. Mrs. Tovar, one of the ESL (English second language)
teachers at West Buncombe Elementary school explains that learning a second
language is important in the business world as it and the culture give a whole new
needed perspective. As a first world country who actively is involved in business of
other countries, it is essential for America to be able to communicate with its associates.
And this means to do so effectively and without insulting them.
This leads to the final main benefit of knowing more than one language which is
that it opens the mind to other cultures. Becoming bilingual leads to new ways of
conceptualizing yourself and others. It expands your worldview, so that you not only
know more, you know differently (Fortune 4). Many cultures share words, themes,
ideas, likes, and dislikes but the feelings and emotions behind these similar things
varies. The denotation, the dictionary definition, of the world culture means the
behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group
(Culture). But the connotation (undertone of the word) is much more broad. In her article
Understanding Culture and Diversity in Building Communities Marya Axner states that

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Culture refers to a group or community which shares common experiences that
shape the way its members understand the world (1). It includes groups that we are
born into, such as race, national origin, gender, class, or religion (1).
There are challenges that come with attempting to integrate people into cultures
that are figuratively and literally foreign to them. However, each individual falls into
several different categories, as above mentioned, at minimum and are therefore already
part of many cultures (1). A youth pastor at the Rock Church in Asheville taught students
in his book that A Voice Not an Echo If you stand for nothing, you will fall for
everything While it is important to understand ones background and have a sense of
ones morals and values, it is also important to have a sense of other peoples beliefs
and lifestyles. Mrs. Tovar explains why this is key you have to stay modern.
In the mere sense of travel language is significant; Youll need Spanish when
you travel to the Western Hemisphere...Spanish is the second most commonly spoken
language in the world (1). Axner tells readers in her article that The United States is
becoming increasingly diverse. By the turn of the century one out of every three
Americans will be a person of color (3). The world is becoming ever more integrated
and therefore the need to be able to interact with neighbors is more than critical. Solving
problems of the near future and building communities with one another will require
people to appreciate the differences and similarities that everyone shares (3). A popular
argument in todays society, it that against sexism and for the promotion of womens
rights. However, An appreciation of cultural diversity goes hand-in-hand with a just and
equitable society (4). Likewise Axner further encourages the study of culture by saying
that if we ignore how much cultures have impacted history and the way it is told, which

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is the way in which we believe it, then we are missing out on an accurate view of our
society and our communities (4).
As was mentioned earlier, there are a multitude of ways to learn a new tongue.
While individuals vary in the way that they learn best, undeniably the most effective way
is to immerse oneself in the culture of that language. For example, if one desired to
learn Spanish they could move to a country in South America such as Ecuador and
learn there. They would be forced to communicate if they had any hopes of eating,
obtaining a job, and socializing and this drive alone is enough to spur ones minds to
grasp a new language. In the reverse situation, for those who wind up in the United
States where the most common but not national language is English, ESL are the best
options. These classes are usually targeted at children ranging from elementary school
to high school. Newcomers into the states may have children who do not speak English
and through their child's learning at school, the parents are able to pick up on the
language too.
Listening is likely how many begin the process of comprehending a new tongue.
Language is a set of habits explains Walter Pauk author of Studying Foreign
Languages. Children learn how to speak their native tongue not from thinking about
grammar and strategies but rather by memorizing; young people imitate those they are
around (generally their parents) and this is how they learn (Pauk 3). While many find
listening to be challenging due to the rapid pace at which they hear a language that they
do not understand, this is a misconception. Pauk tells readers that Studies of recorded
speech have shown, however, that speakers of most languages tend to utter very nearly

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the same number of syllables per minute when they speak at a normal rate (Pauk). It is
not the people speaking fast but the listener's inability to recognize what is being said.
There are a tools that assist those whose goal is to become fluent in a new
language. Rosetta Stone, Duolingo, Babbel are just a few examples of the popular
outlets that are frequented. These softwares teach through repetition, imagery, sound,
tests/quizzes, and games. Reading and writing are skills used to delve further into the
education of literacy. Motor memory is the memory of what you do with your muscles
(Pauk 4). Practicing a language out loud works the mind and allows the learner to better
grasp what theyve been studying. Another way to put motor memory to work for you is
to write out what you are trying to memorize (Pauk 4). There is no one way to teach or
to learn; they key is finding a balance of what works for a person as an individual and go
from there. It is not rocket science; one does not solely learn from formulas and rules,
they learn by doing.
Just as learning a language is a skill of habit this very aspect is what makes it
challenging to become bilingual or multilingual (1). The best way to overcome this
obstacle is through repetition and throwing yourself into daily practice in a setting where
that is your only option proves most effective. Research once labeled young people as
sponge-like and therefore at the peak age to be taught a new language and for it to
stick. Tovar disagrees saying I took Spanish in high school but it wasnt until I moved to
Mexico that I began to really use the language in my day to day life. Tovar went on to
explain that it took her a good six to eight years to become completely fluent but she
has to use her knowledge often or speaking in Spanish will cease to be an easy task, it
will become quite challenging. Pauk also acknowledges this belief but dismisses it by

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saying that You have some rational skills that you didnt have when you were a child
(Pauk 2). Children are able to pick up on several languages at once if that is what they
are surrounded and exposed to. The same can happen for anyone at any age if they
are in the same circumstances (Pauk 1-3). Recent studies have shown that it is false
that babies and young children are like sponges and are therefore the ones who pick up
on a second language the quickest. It all depends on what a person is exposed to and
how those they are around shape their learning (Tovar).
Struggles also arise as people can often be too stubborn to accept cultures other
than their own and anything as truth other than their opinions. This coldness leads to
racism and stereotypes that prevent cultures from integrating. Tovar notes that
Americans, because they are a part of a first world country, often feel no need to
educate themselves on other cultures but rather they believe other cultures must
educate themselves on the American lifestyle and background. In addition, Pressing
challenges include staffing, curriculum development and program articulation (Fortune
4). Schools focus on classes such as math and science and english and do not pay as
much attention to foreign language classes. In Clyde A. Erwin High School located in
western North Carolina, students are only required to take two foreign languages
compared to having to take four english, four math, and three sciences.
Finding high quality teachers is a challenge and Inadequate teacher preparation
for immersion programs remain a challenge in this field (4). Although as evidenced
from West Buncombe Elementary School, it does not take a teacher who is bilingual to
be a top educator. In fact that is one of the biggest misconceptions surrounding ESL
teachers. Gregory explains that it is simply not realistic to assume that an ESL teacher

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is multilingual or even bilingual. Children from around the world are enrolled in these
classes; Gregory and Tovar experience teaching Moldovans, Russians, Hispanics,
Ukrainians, Mexicans, etc. It is a definite benefit to be able to communicate with
newcomers who know little to no English however, it is not a requirement (Tovar).
Teacher and pupils have their ways of connecting and it isnt necessarily always through
If one desires to pursue a language then they have to get down to the nitty gritty.
As Henry David Thoreau once said, As a single footstep will not make a path on earth,
so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path,
we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the
kinds of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives. Obtaining knowledge is a struggle, but
with determination, practice, and full immersion into that which one wishes to
understand, anything is possible.

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Works Cited
"What Is Alzheimer's?" Alzheimer's Disease & Dementia | Alzheimer's Association.
Alzheimer's Association, 2016. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.
Andruss, Paula. "How Being Bilingual Can Boost Your Career." CAREERwise
Education. N.p., Mar. 2008. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.
Axner, Marya. "Chapter 27: Section 1. Understanding Culture and Diversity in Building
Communities." Community Tool Box. Community Tool Box, 2016. Web. 17 Nov.
Fortune, Tara. "What the Research Says About Immersion." What the Research Says
About Immersion. Asia Society, n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.
Pauk, Walter. "Studying Foreign Languages." How to Study in Various Disciplines,
Academic Skills Center, UW-Eau Claire. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.
Planas, Roque. "17 Reasons Every American Should Learn Spanish." The Huffington
Post., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.
Tovar, Tsianina, and Karie Gregory. "Elementary ESL Instructors." Personal
interview. Nov. 2016.