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What is Spanish Immersion?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2016
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Spanish immersion is a form of Spanish language instruction where students communicate only in Spanish and the teacher does not allow use of a native or third language. In some cases, students may travel to Spanish-speaking countries for Spanish immersion classes so they spend all day in class and then have to put their skills to use in the community afterward. This approach to language instruction is used in teaching facilities all over the world for students from Peace Corps volunteers getting ready for deployment to high school students interested in developing their language skills.

In Spanish immersion, the teacher starts class in Spanish, communicating with students with the assistance of tools like visually demonstrating concepts. The teacher encourages students to try constructing sentences to communicate, expand their vocabulary, and learn grammar. As students talk, the teacher provides corrections, modeling correct grammar and pronunciation and providing vocabulary lessons along the way.

Homework in a Spanish immersion class can include translation, spelling and grammar exercises, voice exercises with other students, and reading Spanish-language media. Students may also listen to Spanish television and radio broadcasts. The exposure to many different writers and speakers allows students to learn more about regional variations in Spanish, as well as the diverse ways Spanish speakers can communicate information. Different words may be more popular in varying regions, as are specific sentence structures and habits.

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The learning curve with Spanish immersion can be steep. Students often feel disoriented and frustrated at first as they struggle to understand the teacher and puzzle over how to communicate. Over time, students can start to acquire Spanish language skills very rapidly once they have mastered the basic hurdles.

Some students benefit from immersion and regular practice, as opposed to other techniques for language instruction, like endlessly repeating drills and worksheets. One advantage to Spanish immersion is that students are constantly forced to adapt and practice real language skills like asking to use the bathroom or requesting clarification on an assignment. Some students find this more valuable than completing exercises based on hypothetical scenarios like needing to order a warm bath at precisely 3:00 in the afternoon.

There are a number of varieties of Spanish, including versions spoken in Spain and Latin America, as well as versions like Judaeo-Spanish or Ladino, an archaic form of the language based on the Spanish once spoken by the Jewish community in Spain. Each of these forms has a distinct vocabulary, along with its own spelling, grammar, and pronunciation rules and trends. While speakers of one form can often understand and communicate in another, being aware of the differences in Spanish can be important for students in communication and translation activities.

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