Posts tagged language
Posts tagged language
When learning a second language, research increasingly shows that immersion offers the greatest benefits. Students subjected to the immersion method tend to retain more of the creative, cognitive, and linguistic gains that learning a second language offers. Immersion students also acheive a greater comfort and fluency in speaking, developing a higher level of bilingualism that employers highly value. When given the choice of methods, immersion is the way to go!
In the following article, Asia Society’s Tara Williams Fortune lays out the compelling argument for the immersion method of language learning.
What research tells us about immersion
1 September 2012 by Tara Williams Fortune| Asia Society
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. This research also exposes some of the challenges that accompany the immersion model, with its multilayered agenda of language, literacy and intercultural skills development during subject matter learning.
Benefits of Language Immersion
Academic and Educational
Without question, the issue investigated most often in research on language immersion education is students’ ability to perform academically on standardized tests administered in English. This question emerges again and again in direct response to stakeholder concerns that development of a language other than English may jeopardize basic schooling goals, high levels of oral and written communication skills in English, and grade-appropriate academic achievement. The research response to this question is longstanding and consistent: 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.
This finding applies to students from a range of socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, as well as diverse cognitive and linguistic abilities. Moreover, academic achievement on tests administered in English occurs regardless of the second language being learned. In other words, whether learning through alphabetic languages (Spanish, Hawaiian, French, etc.) or character-based languages (Mandarin, Japanese, Cantonese), English-proficient students will keep pace academically with peers in English-medium programs.
It is important to acknowledge that early studies carried out in one-way total immersion programs, where English may not be introduced until grades 2–5, show evidence of a temporary lag in specific English language skills such as spelling, capitalization, punctuation, word knowledge, and word discrimination. That said, these studies also find that within a year or two after instruction in English language arts begins, the lag disappears. There were no long-term negative repercussions to English language or literacy development.
Does this same finding apply to students in two-way immersion (TWI) settings whose first language is other than English? In the past fifteen to twenty years, U.S. researchers found that English learners’ academic achievement also attained the programs’ goals. By the upper elementary, or in some cases early secondary grades, English learners from different ethnicities, language backgrounds, socioeconomic levels, and developmental profiles perform at least as well as same background peers being schooled in English only. Most English learners in TWI come from Latino families whose home language is Spanish. As an ethnic minority in the United States, Latinos are both the fastest-growing student population and the group with the highest rate of school failure. Research in Spanish/English TWI contexts points to higher grade point averages and increased enrollment in post-secondary education for this student group, compared to Latino peers participating in other types of educational programs such as transitional bilingual education and various forms of English-medium education.
Although the vast majority of TWI research has been carried out in Spanish/English settings, Kathryn Lindholm-Leary recently reported results from a study of two Chinese/English TWI programs. Students in grades 4–8 whose home language was Chinese tested at or above their grade level, and the same as or well above peers with similar demographic profiles participating in non-TWI programs. Leary’s findings align with those of other TWI programs.
Language and Literacy
The immersion approach first gained traction in North America because educators believed in its potential to move students further towards bilingualism and biliteracy. Immersion language programs took root in areas such as St. Lambert, Canada, and Miami, Florida, where educators felt that more than one language was necessary for children’s future economic and social prosperity. Program designers wagered that making the second language the sole medium for teaching core subject content, instead of teaching the second language separately, would result in more students reaching higher levels of proficiency. These early immersion programs started by committing half or more of the school day for teachers and students to work only in the second language. Students were socialized to adopt the new language for all classroom communication and subject learning.
This approach to second-language and literacy development has proven itself to be the most successful school-based language program model available. English-proficient immersion students typically achieve higher levels of minority (non-English) language proficiency when compared with students in other types of language programs. Immersion students who begin the program as English speakers consistently develop native-like levels of comprehension, such as listening and reading skills, in their second language. They also display fluency and confidence when using it. Further, the more time spent learning through the non-English language, the higher the level of proficiency attained.
Initial concerns about the possible detriment to English language and literacy development were eventually laid to rest. English-proficient immersion students who achieved relatively high levels of second-language proficiency also acquired higher levels of English language skills and metalinguistic awareness—that is, the ability to think about how various parts of a language function. Researchers posit that metalinguistic skills positively impact learning to read in alphabetic languages, because they facilitate the development of critical literacy sub-skills such as phonological awareness and knowledge of letter-sound correspondences for word decoding. The important relationship between phonological awareness and successful reading abilities is clearly established. However, we now also have evidence that instructional time invested in developing important decoding sub-skills in an immersion student’s second language can transfer and benefit decoding sub-skills in their first language.
Research about the relationship between character-based and English literacy sub-skills continues to grow. To date, evidence points to the transfer of phonological processing skills for children whose first language is Chinese and are learning to read in English as a second language. Studies also indicate a relationship between visual-orthographic skills in Chinese, the ability to visually distinguish basic orthographic patterns such as correct positioning of semantic radicals in compound characters, and English reading and spelling. Much remains to be learned in these areas, however, when it comes to English-proficient children in Mandarin immersion programs who are acquiring literacy in Chinese and English.
In TWI programs, research illuminates what Lindholm-Leary and E. R. Howard referred to as a “native-speaker effect.” In a nutshell, the “native-speaker effect” describes the tendency of native speakers of a language to outperform second language learners of the same language on standardized measures administered in the native speakers’ language. For example, if Spanish proficients and Spanish learners are evaluated using standardized Spanish-medium tools, Spanish proficients outperform Spanish learners. Similar outcomes occurred when tests were given in English and Mandarin.
In general, research finds that immersion students whose first language is not English become more bal¬anced bilinguals and develop higher levels of bilingualism and biliteracy when compared with English-proficient students or home language peers participating in other educational programming. For example, Kim Potowski found that the oral and written language skills of English learners in TWI were only slightly behind those of recent Spanish-speaking arrivals and significantly better than their English-proficient peers. English learners’ higher bilingual proficiency levels are also linked to higher levels of reading achievement in English, increased academic language proficiency, and successful schooling experiences in general.
Cognitive Skill Development
There’s a well-established positive relationship between basic thinking skills and being a fully proficient bilingual who maintains regular use of both languages. Fully proficient bilinguals outperform monolinguals in the areas of divergent thinking, pattern recognition, and problem solving.
Bilingual children develop the ability to solve problems that contain conflicting or misleading cues at an earlier age, and they can decipher them more quickly than mono¬linguals. When doing so, they demonstrate an advantage with selective attention and greater executive or inhibitory control. Fully proficient bilingual children have also been found to exhibit enhanced sensitivity to verbal and non-verbal cues and to show greater attention to their listeners’ needs relative to monolingual children. Further, bilingual students display greater facility in learning additional languages when compared with monolinguals.
While much evidence supports the benefits associated with full and active bilingualism, the relationship between language immersion education and long-term cognitive benefits is less well-understood. Some research does indicate greater cognitive flexibility and better nonverbal problem-solving abilities among English-proficient language immersion students.
Decades ago, Dr. Jim Cummins cautioned about the need for a certain threshold level of second language proficiency before cognitive skills might be positively impacted. Accordingly, children who develop “partial bilingualism” in a second language may or may not experience cognitive benefits. While some studies report positive cognitive effects for partial or emerging bilinguals, Dr. Ellen Bialystock concurs that it is bilingual children with a more balanced and competent mastery of both languages who will predictably exhibit the positive cognitive consequences of bilingualism.
Economic and Sociocultural
Increasingly, proficiency in a second language and intercultural competency skills open up employment possibilities. Many sectors require increasing involvement in the global economy, from international businesses and tourism to communications and the diplomatic corps. High-level, high-paying employment will demand competence in more than one language. In the United States, world language abilities are increasingly important to national security, economic competitiveness, delivery of health care, and law enforcement.
Beyond economics are the countless advantages that bi-and multilingual individuals enjoy by being able to com¬municate with a much wider range of people from many different linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Knowledge of other languages enriches travel experiences and allows people to experience other societies and cultures more meaningfully. Besides access to foreign media, literature, and the arts, bi- and multilingual people can simply connect and converse more freely. 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.
Challenges Faced by Language Immersion
Designing, implementing, and providing ongoing support for language immersion education is no easy task. Pressing challenges include staffing, curriculum development and program articulation. Program administrators struggle to find high-quality, licensed teachers who can demonstrate advanced levels of oral and written proficiency in the chosen language. Once teachers are hired, the search begins for developmentally appropriate curriculum, materials, and resources that meet local district and state standards. Elementary-level challenges are met with additional secondary-level issues such as scheduling and balancing students’ educational priorities as the program moves up and through the middle and high school years.
Inadequate teacher preparation for immersion programs remains a challenge in this field. Teachers need specialized professional development support to meet the complex task of concurrently addressing content, language, and literacy development in an integrated, subject-matter-driven language program. However, teacher educators and immersion specialists who can provide useful and relevant professional learning experiences for the immersion staff are in short supply. In addition to professional development related to curriculum design and pedagogical techniques, both native and non-native teachers report the need for ongoing support for their own proficiency in the immersion language.
Chinese teachers whose educational experiences took place in more traditional, teacher-centered classrooms
are aware of significant cultural differences and participant expectations. For example, US schools place a strong emphasis on social skills and language for communicative purposes. Children expect learner-centered activities with real-life tasks. Chinese teachers often hold a different set of expectations for students and thus, they frequently need support for classroom management strategies and techniques.
Immersion teachers face significant hurdles in the sheer range of learner differences. The impact of students’ variations in language proficiency, literacy development, learning support available at home, achievement abilities, learning styles, and special needs grows exponentially when teaching and learning occur in two languages. Educators and parents struggle to identify and implement research-based policies and practices for learners who have language, literacy, and learning difficulties. Many immersion programs lack the necessary resources and bilingual specialists to provide appropriate instructional support, assessment, and interventions.
Promoting student understanding of more abstract and complex concepts becomes increasingly difficult in the upper elementary grades and beyond. Some upper-elementary immersion teachers, in particular those who teach in partial or fifty-fifty programs, report difficulties in teaching advanced-level subject matter because students’ cognitive development is at a higher level than their proficiency in the second language. This challenge becomes more pronounced in programs where the immersion language is character-based, since literacy development is more time-consuming and demanding.
One of the greatest challenges for immersion teachers is to keep their students using the second language, especially when working and talking amongst themselves. This challenge is particularly pronounced once the children have moved beyond the primary grades. For instance, studies in both one-way and two-way immersion classes point to fifth-grade students using English more frequently than their non-English language. Facilitating student use of the immersion language in ways that promote ongoing language development is an uphill battle for teachers.
Finally, outcome-oriented research reveals that immersion students, especially those who begin the program as native English speakers, don’t quite achieve native-like levels of speaking and writing skills. Studies consistently find that English-speaking immersion students’ oral language lacks grammatical accuracy, lexical specificity, native pronunciation, and is less complex and sociolinguistically appropriate when compared with the language native speakers of the second language produce. Further, students’ use of the immersion language appears to become increasingly anglicized over time, and can be marked by a more formal academic discourse style. Even in high-performing immersion programs, advancing students’ second language proficiency beyond the intermediate levels remains a sought-after goal.
Read full article here.
From airlines to retail and real estate, CLI has covered many recent news stories about the innumerable ways in which learning Chinese can open doors to success in the competitive world of employment. China is without doubt the most important market in just about every contemporary industry, and tourism is one of the fastest growing. According to the Huffington Post, “More than a million Chinese visited the U.S. in 2011, contributing more than $5.7 billion to the U.S. economy. That’s up 36 percent from 2010…. By 2016, that figure is expected to reach 2.6 million Chinese.”
A combination of Chinese speaking ability and knowledge of Chinese culture is invaluable in this new global context. Rich Harrill, director of the Sloan Foundation Travel & Tourism Industry Center at the University of South Carolina, said it best: “We’re not as ready as we should be. We don’t have the language skills. We have an opportunity to be on the ground floor of something that could be very, very big.”
CLI’s bottom line? It’s never too late to enroll in a Chinese language program to get that competitive edge.
At US hotels, Chinese treated to comforts of home
June 21, 2012 by Meghan Barr | Huffington Post
NEW YORK — Major hotel brands are bending over backward to cater to the needs of the world’s most sought-after traveler: the Chinese tourist.
Now arriving on American shores in unprecedented numbers thanks to a streamlined visa process and a rising Chinese middle class, Chinese tourists are being treated to the comforts of home when they check in at the front desk. That means hot tea in their rooms, congee for breakfast and Mandarin-speaking hotel employees at their disposal.
Chinese “welcome programs” at reputable chains like Marriott and Hilton even address delicate cultural differences: No Chinese tour group should be placed on a floor containing the number four, which sounds like the word for death in Mandarin.
“They’re very relieved, like finally somebody’s doing these things that make sense,” said Robert Armstrong, a sales manager who handles all bookings for incoming Chinese travelers at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. “Finally somebody’s catering to them.”
More than a million Chinese visited the U.S. in 2011, contributing more than $5.7 billion to the U.S. economy. That’s up 36 percent from 2010, according to the Department of Commerce. By 2016, that figure is expected to reach 2.6 million Chinese.
In a striking departure from the traditional Chinese business traveler, a growing number of them are simply coming to America for fun – with lots of cash on hand. (The average Chinese visitor spends more than $6,000 per trip.)
And so hotels are openly competing to win the hearts of the Chinese, who generally travel in large groups and stick to a tight itinerary, often packing multiple cities into a two-week American tour. What they’re looking for is a hotel that makes them feel at ease with their surroundings, said Roy Graff, a travel consultant who educates hotels in proper Chinese culture and hospitality.
That may take the form of slippers and a tea kettle in the hotel room or a Mandarin-speaking employee at the front desk – or all of the above.
“They drink tea. Eastern style, everything cold,” explained Charlie Shao, president of Galaxy Tours, a New York City-based Chinese tour agency, who used to frequently request special amenities for his clients. “They don’t walk inside the room with bare feet.”
It’s rare that Shao has to ask hotels for anything anymore. Marriott International, for example, now offers not one but several Chinese breakfasts, depending upon which region of China the traveler hails from: there are salted duck eggs and pickled vegetables for eastern Chinese, for example, and dim sum and sliced pig’s liver for the southerners.
Major chains are also training employees to avoid cultural missteps that would offend a Chinese visitor. Superstition is a big one: Red is considered a lucky color, along with the number eight, which signifies wealth. The color white, meanwhile, is frowned upon, not to mention the cursed number four.
Failing to respect the pecking order in a Chinese group is another common blunder by hotels that have limited knowledge of Chinese culture.
“We try to make sure nobody’s on a higher floor than their boss,” Armstrong said. “Even if the boss is on a beautiful suite on the eighth floor, if the assistant is in a standard room on the 38th floor, it doesn’t translate.”
As hotels fine-tune Chinese outreach stateside, the race is on to build loyalty within China’s borders.
Last year, Starwood Hotels – which has a Chinese “specialist” at each American hotel – relocated its entire senior leadership team to China for a month. The Ritz-Carlton rotates general managers and other hotel staff into its Chinese hotels for three-year stints at a time. And both chains are banking on the success of their customer rewards programs, which have been a big hit in China.
“It’s important for our leaders to understand what’s going on there at a more personal level than just the statistics,” said Clayton Ruebensaal, vice president of marketing for the Ritz. “Everybody’s going after this market because of the sheer volume of luxury customers. At the same time, it’s a very crowded landscape.”
In response to the surge in Chinese visitors, the State Department decided earlier this year to spend $22 million on new facilities in several Chinese cities and add about 50 officers to process visa applications. And in February, the U.S. government announced that Chinese visitors who had obtained an American visa within the last four years did not have to reapply in person but could apply via courier instead.
As a result, visa interview wait times in China are currently just under a week – compared to last year’s average of more than a month.
But some experts say the U.S. still lags far behind other countries, especially in Europe, when it comes to attracting Chinese tourists. Despite President Barack Obama’s recent push to promote tourism, America is woefully ill-prepared to welcome China at an industry-wide level, especially at restaurants and major attractions, said Rich Harrill, director of the Sloan Foundation Travel & Tourism Industry Center at the University of South Carolina.
“We’re not as ready as we should be,” Harrill said. “We don’t have the language skills. We have an opportunity to be on the ground floor of something that could be very, very big.”
Read full article here.
This weeks’s CLI Perspectives story is brought to you by Elia Sommerlad, a true citizen of the world, having lived in Africa, Latin America, Canada, The United States, and several countries in Europe. With fluency in five latin-based languages already under her belt, Elia’s most recent goal is to step outside of the familiar and tackle the world’s most spoken language – Chinese. Having built a basic foundation in Mandarin at the university level, Elia decided to take her language learning to the next level with CLI’s Immersion Program. How is she approaching the challenge? Read on for Elia’s insider thoughts on studying Chinese in China.
The Key to Cracking the Puzzle
By Elia Sommerlad, CLI Immersion Program Student
The classroom of life is where I learn best, where I can interconnect with the world around me by both contributing, learning and respecting it. At the age of 14, in 2006, I traveled for the first time to China. How different, I thought to myself. Although the streets were almost equally chaotic and active as those in my hometown of Florence, an entirely different, more vigorous and determined energy populated these streets. Now, at the age of 20, I realize how far China has advanced since then. Truly, the development is vast. Intrigued by a world so different from my own, I made it my goal to study Chinese.
Last week, CLI was delighted to roll out the red carpet for two college-level study tour groups hailing from four different universities. With a completely full house – and overflow into some beautiful Guilin apartments! – the dynamism of the ever lively CLI community has been pushed to new heights. The air is buzzing with voices, thoughts, questions, and an energy to learn and discover that comes only with studying abroad in China.
So far, CLI’s Chinese classes have paid off, with students having already used their Mandarin to visit the nearby city of Yangshuo; to find their way to the top of Chuan Mountain; to explore Guilin’s bustling downtown and myriad of restaurants (some of the best places to practice speaking Chinese!); to chat with Chinese youth at Sunny International School; and, yes, even to purchase some comfort food at the local Western supermarket.
With plenty of time left in this study tour, CLI is anxiously looking forward to more sites to see, more good food to eat, and more Chinese to learn! 加油 !
This week’s CLI Perspectives blog entry is written by CLI Immersion Program student Cory Donovan. Cory moved to China in January 2012 without any background in Chinese at all. But Cory’s CLI teachers agree that he is learning Chinese at an astounding speed. What’s his secret? Read on to find out!
The Sport of Linguistics
By Cory Donovan, Immersion Program Student
Graduating from college can be a scary time. Finding a “real” job, moving back home to your parents’ house, and an end to worry-free days are no longer a fear, but reality. Having been out of college for just over a year, I decided I wanted to acquire a new skill. I wanted a skill that would allow me to grow as a person and become more marketable to future employers.
I think it is safe to say that everyone is aware that our world is becoming more interconnected every day. Knowing this, I made it a goal of mine to learn a foreign language. Already having a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, I figured learning Mandarin Chinese was the way to go. So two months ago, without any previous knowledge of the language, I set off to the Far East in hopes of accomplishing this goal.
Since one of the more popular sports in China is basketball, I would like to describe my experience so far through a basketball analogy. I may lose those who are not familiar with the game and perhaps confuse most. But, I encourage you to read on because in the end the message is clear and valuable for those wondering what learning Mandarin in China is like.
Like with most things in life, if you don’t use it, you lose it. Remember 11th grade Algebra or Trigonometry? Yeah me neither, because if you are not using those complicated formulas on a day-to-day basis, your brain hits the permanently delete button. Imagine trying to learn how to play basketball without the opportunity to play in a real 5-on-5 game. Learning Chinese in a classroom is like practicing free-throws or lay-ups. It can be boring at times and definitely needs to be done, but what’s the greatest fun and where one improves their skills the most is actually playing the game.
Living in China, there is always an opportunity to get in the game. Although Chinese people are very friendly and eager to help foreigners practice their Chinese, some places are better than others. One of the best places I found to do this is where people cannot physically leave when you are trying to talk to them. A favorite place of mine is in a taxi.
Of course, being new to the game, my skills are somewhat lacking. Often my attempts of communicating in Chinese are met with blank stares and mass confusion. The first time I tried to communicate with my taxi driver I was taken to the wrong place. He shoots… and… air ball.
However, this did not deter me. In fact, I practiced harder, and more important, kept playing the game. During my next taxi ride, I decided to throw up another shot. Without much hope for a response, I asked the taxi driver, Ni jiating you ji ge ren? (“How many people are in your family?”) To my surprise he responded without hesitation, San ge, wo you yi ge nü er (“Three, and I have one daughter”). And just as important, I understood him. Swish, nothing but net.
Some days my “game” is better than others which is to be expected, but the more I practice and get in the game, the better my Chinese gets. I can feel myself starting to get into a groove — hitting a few open shots and even making a slam dunk or two. I guess one could say learning Chinese is a lot of hard work, but if you take the perspective of playing a game, it can also be a lot of fun. I think tomorrow I’ll join a “pick-up game” at a local Guilin mi fen (Guilin rice noodle) restaurant.
With no end in sight to the expansion of the Chinese economy – and the concomitant economic stagnation of the developed world – Western countries have looked increasingly to China for lucrative business opportunities. The extent to which this is true can be measured in part by the demonstrated desire of Western countries to learn Chinese. As the below article highlights, “English is not widely spoken in China, which means having even a little Chinese is a serious advantage when trying to crack the market.” Western countries are recognizing the fact that encouraging their citizens to learn Chinese gives them a competitive advantage in the shifting global economy. In light of this, many countries are scrapping their Spanish and French options in favor of Mandarin programs. Details below.
Irish students get a chance to learn Chinese
May 8, 2012 by Clifford Coonan | The Irish Times
Irish students will be able to take Chinese as a Leaving Certificate exam subject, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn said this week, a key step in efforts to boost Ireland’s marketability in the world’s fastest growing major economy
Not having Chinese as a subject on the Leaving Cert means Ireland trails its European partners in producing fluent Chinese speakers who can represent the country’s interests in many parts of Asia.
Mandarin Chinese is spoken in mainland China, Taiwan and Singapore, and is widely understood in Hong Kong, where it bears similarities to Cantonese, though it is a separate language.
Crucially, English is not widely spoken in China, which means having even a little Chinese is a serious advantage when trying to crack the market.
There is a growing awareness elsewhere in Europe that learning Chinese will give students an edge in the job market of the future. Northern European countries in particular are ditching French and Spanish in favour of Chinese.
In Portlaoise last week, Quinn announced a transition-year course on Chinese language and culture, jointly developed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment and the UCD Confucius Institute. The launch was attended by students representing some 22 secondary schools already studying Chinese language and culture as part of their curriculums.
The Minister also announced an optional short course on Chinese language and culture which will be made available as part of the new Junior Cert cycle programme from 2014. It’s a great idea, although frustratingly, there is still no time- line for when Irish students will take Mandarin in the Leaving Cert.
The figures seem to show that Ireland is in serious danger of being left behind. In Britain, for example, one in six schools offer some form of Chinese tuition, and more than 3,200 students took Chinese A-Level exams last year.
The Swedes want every school to offer Chinese as an option. Other European countries such as Belgium have been aggressively pushing Mandarin classes in schools.
In the United States, rich parents are trying to find Chinese nannies for their children to make sure they learn the language, and there is a burgeoning business in teaching Chinese, which is the fastest-growing language in US schools.
Looking ahead, a problem is going to be finding teachers to teach in Irish schools. Competition for Chinese teachers is hotting up.
Read full article here.