addalingua continues to develop the 9-12 portion of the Spanish immersion program in partnership with Zeeland Public Schools in order to ensure students are able to reach academic standards in ENGLISH while building high proficiency in SPANISH. Although many parents consider their middle school students highly proficient in Spanish after leaving 8th grade, research demonstrates otherwise. Language proficiency is closely linked to COGNITIVE ABILITY, and because students’ brains are NOT fully developed upon leaving 8th grade, their Spanish language proficiency isn’t either. Think about the difference between the Englishlanguage use of a sixth grade student with the sulks and a high school senior who has matured into an almost adult. Their ability to communicate is vastly different. The same convergence of cognitive aptitude and linguistic growth happens in Spanish as well.
We have heard many parents and educators exclaim that adolescents seem to leave their brains on “pause” as their bodies use that energy to physically mature. In the world of dual language immersion education, this “pause” often impacts student attitude toward the immersion language…what was once “normal” (or even exciting) – school and learning through a different language – becomes, in the words of these not fully matured minds, well…”not worth it.”
National trends, over twenty combined years of experience in the field, and Second Language Acquisition research contend that this attitude is TEMPORARY. At times, faced with eye rolls and “meant to be funny” comments, adults might wish there were an actual “pause” button they could push when dealing with an argumentative middle school student. However, without fail, it happens: the discourse characterizing adolescent attitudes begins to transform into the eloquent speech patterns of impassioned high school juniors and seniors arguing their position on a new found cause. For immersion students who stay the course, the cause may well become, “why immersion education is invaluable….”