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Columbia Missourian

FROM READERS: Language immersion schools help students excel

By KARI GINGRICH/MISSOURIAN READER
February 12, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST

Kari Gingrich has a son at The Language Tree and is a believer in the language immersion concept. She has two other children and is an accounting instructor at MU.

It is undeniable we are living in a world that is becoming more “global,” but how do we, as residents, employees, neighbors and parents, fit into such a world? And how do we bring a piece of this immense and beautiful world we live in back to our quaint Columbia, Missouri?

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One answer is immersion — language immersion, that is. And The Language Tree Immersion School, Columbia’s only multi-language immersion preschool, is sharing this unique gift with young students right here in our town.

Language immersion schools are the fastest growing type of school in the United States, and they offer parents a unique way to achieve the goals of 1) exposing children to various cultures, 2) giving the gift of fluency in another language without accent, 3) enhancing children’s cognitive abilities in all areas of learning.

Research from the Center for Applied Linguistics found immersion requires students to think harder during the learning process because lessons are in another language, thus giving bilingual students a better understanding of what they are being taught.  Additionally, students who know multiple languages have a better grasp of their native language, thus excelling in reading and writing, rather than lagging behind, as commonly feared.

Not only are schools like The Language Tree the most efficient way to give the gift of dual language, such schools tap into areas of the brain that would otherwise not be utilized. The end result? According to the National Networks for Early Language Learning, students in immersion schools possess the same or better critical thinking skills than their non-immersion peers, all with the added bonus of another language!

These benefits are most realized when the child is in the prime age for language absorption, the toddler and preschool years.

What’s more amazing is these benefits carry over even if the child’s parents cannot participate in teaching the target language at home.

The Language Tree began operations in the Fall of 2012 with a  French immersion preschool program.  After a successful year, the school is expanding to add a Spanish preschool program, taking one more step to shrink down this vast world and make it a place in which our children feel comfortable and prepared to thrive.

The Language Tree has an Open House on Saturday, February 23rd, from 2-4 p.m.  Please find more information at languagetreeimmersion.com.

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor Joy Mayer.