Genitori Info Eltern 2001

Periodico in rete: Direttore  Enrico Hell


University of Vasa (FI)

What is Language Immersion?

Language immersion is a quite well-established concept, because it has been studied very broadly both in Canada, its country of origin, and in the european language immersion countries Spain and Finland. Even if language immersion teaching is a well-established concept, the term language immersion is used specially in Finland in multiple contexts to describe teaching, where instructions are given trough the medium of some other than the pupils first language.

Language immersion teaching started in Canada in the 1960s and it is in given in different forms that can be distinquised by the starting age (early, mediate, late) and the instruction time (total, partial). The basic principles are however the same in all these forms of language immersion. (Baker 1995, Swain & Lapkin 1982).

In Finland early total Swedish language immersion, according to the canadian modell, has been given and studied since 1987. It starts in kindergarten (for children of the age of 3­6) and continues throughout the comprehensive school. The instruction time given through the immersion language (second language) is at least 50 % during all the school years. Language immersion in Finland is therefore an enrichment programme, where the pupils first language is concidered.

The immersion project at the University of Vaasa defines Swedish language immersion as a programme, where all the acquired languages (first, second, third, forth language) are used as a medium of teaching and all the teachers have only one linguistic role towards the immersion pupils. In language immersion the attending pupils, who come from the linguistic majority population, will besides the language also acquire the cultural aspects belonging to the language and become functionally multilingual, which means that they can communicate in several languages in everyday situations and in more specific contexts too. Characteristic for the language immersion teaching is that the communicative and pupil-centered teaching methods (playing and learning centres and working with themes) are planned with a specific goal in mind. With these kinds of methods the pupils are given as rich possibilities as possible to use the new language (Laurén 1991, 1992, 1994).

(Written by Karita Mĺrd and Martina Buss - CENTRE FOR LANGUAGE IMMERSION AND MULTILINGUALISM  University of Vasa - FI)