how to build cross-cultural competency in immersion students

August 23, 2016

Authentic cultural experiences are critical to achieving the three-fold goal of immersion education.  In order to build cross-cultural competency, cross-cultural experiences are a must. Of course, it takes some leg-work on the part of parents and teachers to identify and incorporate these events and experiences into busy family and school calendars. But it’s worth it.

One not-to-be-missed event happening this month in west Michigan is the 2016 Hispanic Festival. The annual (free) event will be held on Calder
Plaza in downtown Grand Rapids and runs from Friday August 26, through Sunday August 28.

The festival includes performances by a variety of musical groups including children’s musician and Latin Grammy nominee 123 Andrés, numerous food vendors, and a market. There are also a few remaining age-appropriate opportunities to volunteer.


At this festival, and others like it, dual language immersion students find opportunities to explore their language learning and cultural awareness in a variety of ways. Whether they decide to order arroz y habichuelas, pollo a la plancha y tostones in the immersion language at one of the many kiosks, or dare themselves to dance the salsa, merengue, o bachata with a friend near the stage, they’re sure to have a meaningful experience.

Immersion students know that language learning is about actually using it both in and out of the classroom. Students we’ve talked with at festivals describe how it just “feels right” to use Spanish at the festival…because it’s part of who they are…and because it connects them even more to their identity as learners of the Spanish language.

Maybe a trip to Grand Rapids isn’t a possibility for you this month, but we’d encourage you to be on the lookout for opportunities in your community to get involved and experience the immersion culture and feel free to share them with us via social media.


*all images courtesy of Hispanic Center.

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