When Should My Child
Begin Spanish Immersion?
At NorthPointe Christian Schools, our Spanish Immersion program provides a unique, immersive language experience to students ages 3 through high school. However, the key to a student’s success in Spanish Immersion is the age at which they begin.
Our encouragement to parents? Enroll your child in Spanish Immersion as early as possible, as it will benefit your child in four key ways: building on existing cognitive flexibility, improving neurological processing, enhanced academic abilities, and strengthened cultural awareness.
1. Building on Existing Cognitive Flexibility
Neuroscience research demonstrates that young children have the highest levels of cognitive flexibility and neuroplasticity that they will experience in their lifetime1. By kindergarten, a child’s mind has established how to learn – sight, taste, smell, sound, touch, and doing / acting – and they spend the rest of their lives building on those learning pathways2. The neuroplasticity of a young child’s mind allows the creation of new neural connections and pathways that aid in language learning and acquisition3. The younger the child, the more capable their mind is of learning a new language and retaining that information, such as pronunciations, sounds, grammar, and words.
2. Improved Neurological Processing
Bilingual individuals have “increased activation in the brain region associated with cognitive skills”, such as concentration and inhibition, which is “the mind’s ability to tune out stimuli that are irrelevant to the task or process at hand”45. Bilingual individuals are more likely to be better listeners, understand conversations in noisy environments, and pay greater attention to detail. In addition, learning and speaking a second language requires the learner to think quickly in the moment to form sentences that have correct grammar, vocabulary and conjugation, and participate in conversations. Regular conversations and instruction in a second language help language learners improve their neurological processing over time.
3. Enhanced Academic Abilities
In addition to enhanced cognitive flexibility and neurological processing, students who participate in language immersion programs benefit from enhanced academic abilities over the course of their education. Besides attention to detail, children who learn a second language at a young age improve their skills in problem solving, critical thinking, and performing demanding tasks, which aid their long-term academic success6. Other research studies demonstrate that language study at an early age influences achievement in other disciplines, particularly in reading and math7.
4. Strengthened Cultural Awareness
Another key benefit of language immersion programs is the cultural awareness it brings to even the youngest of students. Teachers in NorthPointe’s Spanish Immersion program regularly teach about Spanish-speaking countries, host culture festivals, and facilitate other activities that promote cultural awareness8. In addition, students who learn Spanish are able to bond and connect with diverse people groups that they may not be able to communicate with otherwise! Since our Spanish Immersion program began, our students (and sometimes their families!) have had opportunities to engage with Spanish-speaking individuals both in the Grand Rapids area and across the globe. In recent years, our Spanish Immersion families, students, and teachers have taken service trips to Guatemala, where even the youngest of students are able to converse in Spanish with locals. Acquiring a second language is one of the best ways to strengthen a child’s cultural awareness not only at a young age, but for a lifetime.
Interested in our Spanish Immersion program for your son or daughter? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a tour, ask questions, and learn more about this incredible program!