English when needed or total immersion?I am not currently teaching Spanish this year, but it has been hinted that they might request that I teach a class or two next year.  My question is on...

English when needed or total immersion?

I am not currently teaching Spanish this year, but it has been hinted that they might request that I teach a class or two next year.  My question is on average do you see more teachers teaching with total immersion or English when needed?  Does anyone have experience as to what is more effective?  In my teacher courses in college they taught total immersion was the best, but while I was interviewing for teaching positions I found that many schools frown upon total immersion opting for English when needed (or more English than anything else...) 

Asked on by higgins221

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

One of my college professors spoke entirely in French whenever discussing a reading assignment; however, he repeated each sentence 3 or 4 times so that most of us were able to comprehend enough to respond.  Besides, he was rather lenient with accepting responses that were weak.  Then, whenever he explained structure/grammar, he always spoke in English.  His methods seemed effective as the majority of the class did well.

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ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted on

Total immersion is a great concept in theory. However, for me, it seems rather like telling a student who asks how a word is spelled to look it up in the dictionary. How is this possible if they don't know how to spell it. My response when students ask this, is "How would you spell it?" Sometimes they're right. Sometimes they're not. However, they've tried, and then if they're wrong, I validate them for trying, and then I assist them.

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Research of course in the area of affect show that as long as the affective filter is low, the student is able to absorb more foreign language. English when neccesary is OK. Billions will argue that you NEED to do the whole immersion, but I disagree if it is going to elevate the student's anxiety. The Foreign Language in the Elementary School program starts at a 80-20 format (Spanish to English) and moves to 90-10, ending with 100. This is the reason why, to lower anxiety level, establish patterns

jessecreations's profile pic

jessecreations | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

For Spanish, I think a lot depends on the level you teach.  When I taught Spanish I, I started out with 90%/10% English/Spanish.  Then I worked my way up to using more and more English as the course progressed.  I think you have to give them some Spanish right away so they can be glad they learned how to say something in Spanish, but you can't bombard them with it right away.

If you are teaching a higher level, I think you would naturally use more Spanish.  Most of the teachers I work with say that at the Spanish III level they start out with 90% Spanish, and it's pretty well total immersion in Spanish IV and AP Spanish.  I learned so much the year I was a Spanish IV student in high school and my teacher only used Spanish; however, I would have been completely overwhelmed in the same type of environment as a level 2 or 3 student.

In my last job teaching Spanish, we emphasized the communicative method, which involves teaching the kids to communicate before worrying about grammar, etc.  So we would teach vocabulary and let them practice using it before we taught them to conjugate verbs.  If you think about it, most of us learn to speak our first language before we learn to write it and analyze its grammar structures, so that was the rationale for this method.  I can't say it worked 100% well, but it was an interesting idea.

I think the other thing to consider is what level you teach and what the other teachers at your school do.  If you teach level 3, you build upon what the kids learned in level 2, etc. You don't want to jump ahead too much, or lag behind too much.  Try to fit yourself into a vertical teaming hierarchy that way, and you will be fine.

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

I'm teaching French this year. I minored in French in college with the intention of teaching, but I went into publishing instead. It has been almost 30 years since I graduated from college, and I've done nothing with French since then. I was not prepared to teach in the total immersion style, and I really question whether it is the most effective way to teach. I can understand that the objective is to get students so "immersed" in the language that they don't stop to translate in their heads before speaking, but it seems as if that is the only benefit of total immersion. My students understand the French when I speak it, but they have trouble when it comes to reading. I think reading fluency suffers.

engtchr5's profile pic

engtchr5 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted on

Allow me to answer this as a student rather than a teacher. While I was in high school and college, I studied French. My high school teacher used English as necessary in combination with her curriculum. I learned a little from French 1 and 2, but when I got to college, I discovered that the prof. used total immersion. She was a firm believer in the Pierre Capretz method (which used NO English), and I learned nothing because I felt so overwhelmed. Not a word of English was ever used, and as a result, my limited French education from a rural high school did me little to no good.

As a former foreign languages student, I would recommend a happy-medium between immersion and English as needed. The implementation of such a curriculum can be left up to the teacher.

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jrowland22 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

I am a college student with a French major, currently taking a Methods of Teaching a Foreign Language class. As an assignment, I observed a local 3rd grade French class. Those students' proficiency was very impressive, and the teacher used a curriculum that provided English translations for the French vocabulary/phrases they were supposed to use in class. That way, they could communicate meaningfully right away with the English available to them. However, the teacher and the students never spoke in English. That seemed to be a sort of compromise, and as they processed and learned what they were saying they no longer read the English version - it was really just a transitional tool.

lmclark3's profile pic

lmclark3 | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

I teach Spanish I and II in a rural high school in SC. My class sizes average 30 students - this semester I even have a Span II class with 37 students.  My experience has been that the students who are high acheivers are very eager to hear the language and try to understand it, however total immersion in this environment is definitely done at the expense of the low performing students.  For that reason our department uses the gradual approach that many of the other posters are recommending. In Spanish I I use Spanish and then translate into English except for the phrases that I use on a regular basis, which I continually increase as their vocabulary increases. By the semester's end I am usually using 50% Spanish. In Spanish II I start there and my goal is for 90% Spanish by the end of the semester. Spanish III students are then in a 90/10 environment which is ideal for them. These are the students who have shown an interest an aptitude for the language. In Spanish I many students are just there for the credit.

Hope this helps.

profe's profile pic

profe | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

Total immersion is a "sink or swim" approach.  Most often students will feel like they are sinking and will eventually give up if they do not understand.  Definitely use English, but try to use as much of the target language as possible.  The key is providing comprehensible input.  Students need to understand what they read and hear in order to respond.  I recommend you look into TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling) for best results.

ciael's profile pic

ciael | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

I'm teaching French this year. I minored in French in college with the intention of teaching, but I went into publishing instead. It has been almost 30 years since I graduated from college, and I've done nothing with French since then. I was not prepared to teach in the total immersion style, and I really question whether it is the most effective way to teach. I can understand that the objective is to get students so "immersed" in the language that they don't stop to translate in their heads before speaking, but it seems as if that is the only benefit of total immersion. My students understand the French when I speak it, but they have trouble when it comes to reading. I think reading fluency suffers.

Reading aloud and even memorizing and reciting parts of the reading help with fluency and understanding.

Plays and poems work well in this context.

When I learned French in a total immersion class, the light bulb would go on whenever I could associate the teacher's words with the action it evoked in the students. It was the old cause and effect routine. This bypassed the need to translate into English and worked at the more fundamental level of the association of sound and meaning.

     Ciael Hills     September 25, 2009

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