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Language Immersion Abroad: Why is it an essential part of a student’s evolution? Why should parents bet on it?

Globalization has fuelled aspirations for international education. Parents leave no stone unturned when it comes to their children’s education. They don’t want their children to be just textbook literate but well-rounded, future-ready global citizens. As a result, more and more parents enrol their children in international curriculums such as the Cambridge IGCSE or International Baccalaureate (IB) since these systems are holistic, encompassing values such as international-mindedness and intercultural understanding. As mandated by international curriculums, students should learn at least one foreign language. But does merely learning a foreign language in a classroom makes them global citizens or culturally knowledgeable, sensitive, or ready to face global challenges? Unfortunately, no.

As parents, if you want to give your children a head start in their journey of becoming global leaders and give them memorable life experiences, you must consider sending them on a language immersion and culture trip.

 

So, what does “language immersion abroad” entail?

Ask any American, British, French or German parent what a language immersion program is. Most of them will tell you that it is an integral part of their children’s education. They think that they are duty-bound to ensure that their children learn at least two foreign languages in addition to their regular school curriculum. They believe that speaking at least three languages is paramount to imbibe essential life skills and ensure professional success. Every year, the UK, France, and Spain welcome over 200,000 young students worldwide for language immersion programs. A typical language immersion involves reinforcing foreign language skills, interaction with locals and other international students, sports coaching, cultural activities, excursions and skill-building sessions. For example, thousands of students from America, Asia and other European countries come to Spain to learn Spanish and surfing, football, flamenco, and experience local Spanish cuisine, art and history, etc. The concept of language immersion programs corresponds perfectly to the recommended methodology in Cambridge; the CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning). A language immersion program is nothing but language learning and life skills rolled into one if you think about it.

Beyond language skills: why should parents send their children for a language immersion program abroad?

As parents, you have already invested in an international curriculum to send your children abroad for higher education. However, you are aware that in addition to knowing a foreign language, your children also need to be equipped with crucial skills such as self-management, time management, critical thinking, interpersonal skills, goal-setting, self-discovery and mindfulness. A language immersion program encompasses all the above elements and is a prelude to higher education abroad.

Because sending your children for a language immersion program abroad has at least four additional benefits.  And, no! We are not talking about only language skills here!

Of course, being immersed in a foreign language environment boosts the knowledge of a language because of curiosity, need for adventure, lack of prejudices and fear, which accelerates language acquisition. Moreover, young students will absorb new words quickly and apply them immediately, thereby helping them integrate and assimilate promptly and seamlessly in their immediate environment abroad. But that’s not all. There are some other irrefutable benefits too.

And which are those everlasting life skills children cultivate in a language immersion program?

Besides improving their language skills, children who have the opportunity to immerse themselves in another culture and language will:

  • Develop their sense of independence and improve their ability to adapt

Children have an instinctive need to become more independent for their survival and their maturity. Being in a different environment and not monitored or protected by their parents make children tremendously responsible and independent by discovering their ability to navigate situations on their own. When facing the unknown at a young age, children naturally become mindful of different environments and recognize that these differences, though not necessarily unfriendly, are essential for survival in the long run.

  • Apprehend and appreciate the values of their own country and family environment and foster open-mindedness

Children who travel and interact with different cultures gain an advantage over those who don’t: they acquire comparative elements that help dispel preconceived notions or prejudices. When children interact with another environment, they encounter numerous new facets: the architecture on the streets, the local cuisine, the rituals around a foreign family dinner table, the roadside shops, the festivals, the law enforcement system, etc. In addition to recognizing how different the world can be, children will develop a valuable ability to positively judge, appreciate and value their own country, family, customs and even their own luck.

  • Developing intellect, sense of perception and building their memory treasure

Isn’t it amazing, even for us as adults, how perceptive we are when we travel? We remember the fragrance of that local flower, the vision of that magnificent building, the flavour of those fruits never-tasted before, the sound of a local song while strolling on a small street, and the conversations we had with locals and other tourists sharing our experiences, traditions and culture. The knowledge and learnings that we obtain while travelling is priceless. Travelling enables us to live all that we learned in our textbooks. Wouldn’t it be worthwhile to give your children such enriching life experiences and let them have their own treasure of memories?

  • Experience real-time human interactions in a world that is highly digitized

Technology has made us more connected than ever before, but ironically it has made us even more isolated. Even if the benefits of technology outweigh its drawbacks, it cannot replace human interactions and emotions. The Covid 19 pandemic proved that no matter how advanced technologies are, no app can replace teachers, friends and experiences. We still yearn for real-time interaction. Language immersion programs allow children to connect with peers from other countries who speak another language and exchange culture, traditions, art, sports and varied perspectives. Isn’t there anything more exciting and enriching than having a network of multicultural and multiracial friends from different parts of the world? Children who have the chance to learn another language and connect with foreigners will have a more comprehensive and surely wiser vision of the world, thereby contributing to a more tolerant and peaceful world.

 

And…the good bad news? There is one risk.

Giving your children the possibility of participating in a language immersion program abroad would make them addicted to gather more experiences, learn new things and make more friends worldwide. They might want to learn more languages and require more language learning trips.

 

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Frederic Parrilla

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