LINGUIST List 23.1100

Mon Mar 05 2012

Review: Applied Ling; Language Acquisition: Tedick, Christian & Fortune (2011)

Editor for this issue: Rajiv Rao <>

Date: 05-Mar-2012
From: Liss Kerstin Sylvén <>
Subject: Immersion Education
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Announced at
EDITORS: Diane J. Tedick, Donna M. Christian and Tara Williams FortuneTITLE: Immersion EducationSUBTITLE: Practices, Policies, PossibilitiesSERIES TITLE: Bilingual Education and BilingualismPUBLISHER: Multilingual MattersYEAR: 2011

Liss Kerstin Sylvén, University of Gothenburg, Sweden


‘Immersion Education’ is an edited volume dedicated to the memory of Wallace E.Lambert “for envisioning the promise of immersion education, and for hispioneering work in exposing its possibilities” (p. x). The volume is dividedinto four main sections, each consisting of three articles. The first sectionlooks at “Practices in Immersion Program Design”; in the second, “ProgramOutcomes and Implications for Practice” are explored; the third focuses on“Language Use and Assessment Practices in Immersion Programs”; and the finalsection looks into “Policy Practice in Immersion Education”.

In the foreword, Merrill Swain starts by summarizing the work of Wallace E.Lambert and continues by painting the scene of immersion education today with abroad brush. Looking forward, he concludes that the “articulation of programs isa significant challenge that will involve the cooperation and collaboration ofpolicy makers, school and university administrators, teachers and parents” (p.xix). All chapters in the book illustrate this challenge in one way or another.

In the introductory chapter, “The Future of Immersion Education: An Invitationto ‘Dwell in Possibility’”, the three editors of the book, Diane Tedick, DonnaChristian and Tara Williams Fortune give an overview of the book, intertwinedwith various challenges facing immersion education in different parts of the world.

Section One starts with a chapter by Siv Björklund and Karita Mård-Miettinencalled “Integrating Multiple Languages in Immersion: Swedish Immersion inFinland”. This is a well-chosen topic to start off the book, as the languagesituation in Finland is similar to that in Canada, the country of origin ofimmersion. Both countries have two official languages, in the case of Finland,Finnish and Swedish. This very illuminating chapter on various educationalaspects of immersion in Finland focuses on the multilingual orientation found inmany Finnish schools and goes into great detail regarding learning outcomes.

William H. Wilson and Kauanoe Kamanä give “Insights from Indigenous LanguageImmersion in Hawai’i” in Chapter 3. Indigenous language immersion is an areawhich has received increased attention from researchers in recent years, and forthose not very familiar with this type of immersion, this chapter gives insightsinto this vital area. The threat of English to Hawaiian is highlighted and theseimmersion programs strive, among other things, to reduce this threat, and,unlike other immersion programs, seek to revernacularize the immersion language.In other words, the goal is for Hawaiian to become students’ primary language,while still maintaining the dominant language, English, as an auxiliary language.

In the final chapter of Section One, Chapter 4 “Two-Way Immersion CharterSchools: An Analysis of Program Characteristics and Student Body Compositions”,Gary Zehrbach describes the US charter school movement, and in particular,two-way immersion charter schools (TWICS). There are a total of 45 such programsaround the US, according to the author, and all of them are Spanish/Englishprograms. As is the case with many other types of immersion teaching, there isno universal model of TWI, but rather locally organized varieties. Most TWICS,however, seem to use the 50:50 model, using each language during half the schoolday. This chapter reports positive findings from TWICS and sees a promisingfuture for them, not only for Latinos, but also for students of other ethnicbackgrounds. The chapter ends with impressive results from such schools, whereAfrican-Americans and other students of color attending TWICS have shown greatprogress.

The second section of the book concerns program outcomes and implications forpractice and contains three articles: the first is from a two-way immersion(TWI) program in Chinese in the US; the second deals with TWI at secondary USschools; and the third discusses tertiary French immersion in Canada. In herchapter “Student Outcomes in Chinese Two-Way Immersion Programs: LanguageProficiency, Academic Achievement and Student Attitudes”, Kathryn Lindholm-Learylooks at outcomes among students in grades 4-7 attending the increasinglypopular Chinese TWI programs in the US. Her findings indicate great progress inboth languages, along with an enhanced interest for Chinese culture. Regardingcontent proficiency, these students perform at or above grade level. Thus, thereis clear consistency in results between Chinese TWI programs and, for instance,similar programs in Spanish and English. Furthermore, it seems that regardlessof socioeconomic background, students fare well in these programs.

Ester De Jong and Carol Bearse focus on Spanish TWI at the high school level inthe US in Chapter 6, “The Same Outcomes for All? High-School Students Reflect onTheir Two-Way Immersion Program Experiences”. TWI programs normally start fromkindergarten and continue up through elementary school. However, as the authorspoint out, due to various reasons, such as a complex school organization, lackof qualified teachers, lack of motivation, etc., the number of TWI programs atthe secondary level is limited. In their chapter, the authors ask if these TWIstudents (native Spanish and native English speakers) in high school viewthemselves as bilingual and why they consider it important to continue in a TWIprogram. They also look into the ways in which these programs support desiredoutcomes. Their conclusions are that while these students do consider themselvesbilingual and bicultural, it is a difficult task for schools to keep up with thegoal of maintaining status equalization and learning opportunities for bothgroups of students in both languages.

The final chapter in the section on program outcomes concerns French immersionat the tertiary level and is called “French Immersion Studies at the Universityof Ottawa: Programme Evaluation and Pedagogical Challenges”. Sandra Burger,Alysse Weinberg, Carla Hall, Parvin Movassat and Amelia Kreitzer Hope report onthe French Immersion Studies academic stream at the bilingual University ofOttawa. Even though the conclusion of this chapter is that the program issuccessful - in offering it, the university attracts high-achieving students -the authors also point out several challenges facing the administration of sucha program. The first challenge is the collaboration between content and languageprofessors. At lower levels, content and language are both coveredsimultaneously, but at the university level the two are separated. This in turnleads to the second area of concern, assessment. Language professors cannot takecontent into account when making their assessment, while content teachers mustoverlook language (if that is at all possible). In spite of these and otherchallenges, the authors highlight this program as a model example.

The third section of the book concerns Language Use and Assessment Practices inImmersion Programs. Pádraig Ó Duibhir starts off this section with a chapter onIrish immersion entitled “‘I Thought That We Had Good Irish’: Irish ImmersionStudents’ Insights into Their Target Language Use”. Ó Duibhir’s study intends tofill a gap in the literature on Irish immersion and investigates students’opinions on their language use, whether or not they are aware of errors in theirspeech, and why they use non-target-like forms even though they have been taughtthe correct form. Two features in particular stand out as not having beenmastered by the grade 6 students taking part in this study: the use of copulaand verbal noun clauses. The author concludes by pointing out the importance offocus on form in the immersion classroom and the limitations of relying solelyon mere exposure to the language through content. Otherwise, she argues, theseincorrect forms risk becoming automatized in the students’ long-term memory,which thereby will lead to difficulty in adjusting at a later stage.

In Chapter 9, “Talking in the Fifth-Grade Classroom: Language Use in an Early,total Spanish Immersion Program”, Maggie Broner and Diane Tedick analyze thediscourse of three early, total one-way Spanish immersion students in fifthgrade. The focus is on what factors determine the use of the students’ L1 andL2, respectively, during Spanish instructional time, using audiotaped classroomactivities, field notes and interviews. Broner and Tedick found that thesestudents used the L2, Spanish, in all interactions with the teacher, but thattask type and language-related content tasks also triggered L2 use. All in all,it was likely that ‘on-task’ interaction entailed L2 usage, while students in an‘off-task’ interaction, which often was some sort of social interaction,preferred their L1.

Lizette Peter, Gloria Sly and Tracy Hirata-Edds contribute with a chapter on“Using Language Assessment to Inform Instruction in Indigenous LanguageImmersion”, where they focus on the Cherokee Nation immersion school. Morespecifically, the chapter presents how the development and administration oflanguage assessment has become one of the school’s most prominent features. Theoriginal vision of the immersion school was to ensure the survival of theCherokee language, and, starting with a preschool program in 2004, the idea wasto add one new class at the next grade level until the program extended frompreschool to sixth grade. A 10-year plan was established and crucial factorsidentified. Among them was assessment. The chapter describes three types ofassessment: the Cherokee Preschool Immersion Language Assessment (C-PILA),developed for very young children; the Cherokee Kindergarten Immersion LanguageAssessment (C-KILA), developed to tap into progress during the first years inschool; and the Cherokee Language Immersion Literacy Assessment (C-LILA), alsofor the first school years. Analyses of results from these assessments indicatethe need to focus on form along with the use of the language to teach content.The uniqueness of the Cherokee language necessitates the development of specificlanguage learning goals, which are often quite different from other languages.Along with such goals, assessment criteria are also of concern. The chapter endson a positive note, with the fact that although this is work in progress, itseems very promising.

The final section of the book is devoted to “Policy and Practice in ImmersionEducation”. In his chapter on “Context and Constraints: Immersion in Hong Kongand Mainland China”, Philip Hoare explains how different approaches to immersionhave emerged from two diverse educational contexts, namely those of Hong Kongand Xi’an. Hoare maintains that neither of these program’s implementations aresatisfactory. The main reason for this seems to be inadequate teacher training.This, in turn, according to Hoare, is a result of the pressure schools feel todeliver academically successful students. Schools are judged on theirsuccess-rate, and so are the schools’ teachers. Thus, teachers’ first priorityis to focus on content. In spite of these constraints on the implementation ofimmersion, Hoare seems optimistic about the future of immersion in Asia, notleast because of the great demand for proficient English speakers that mostprobably will continue for yet some time.

Lisa Dorner takes an interesting approach in her chapter on “US Immigrants andTwo-Way Immersion Policies: The Mismatch between District Design and FamilyExperiences”. Here, a very important group of stakeholders is at the center ofattention, namely, the minority language families whose engagement is criticalto the success of the two-way immersion programs. Families arriving to the USare well aware of the critical need for their children to learn English, and atthe same time, they are anxious for the children to maintain their L1. Dornerfollowed six immigrant families during a period of 18 months and analyzed howthey made sense of the municipality’s TWI policies. She concludes that it isvital to engage newcomers at an early stage in discussions about TWI and to beflexible in adapting information about the program to the habits and needs ofthe target group.

“Struggling Learners and the Language Immersion Classroom” are the focus of TaraWilliams Fortune’s chapter, where she poses the question “Is the immersionprogram intended for a specific type of student?” (p. 251). It is not uncommonthat “struggling students”, for various reasons, to opt for programs that do notinclude immersion. There is little research on the effects of immersion programson this group of students, but existing studies, together with Fortune’s ownfindings, are of the opinion that just as in any school environment, there willbe students in immersion settings that struggle due to language and/or learningdisabilities, with the great difference being that those in immersion programswill perform below grade level in all languages involved in the program, notjust one. The point Fortune wishes to make is that immersion education shouldcater to all types of students.

Fred Genesee concludes the book with his chapter “Reflecting on Possibilitiesfor Immersion”, where he discusses four areas he considers to be in need ofimmediate attention: advocacy, the role of parents, assessment andaccessibility. Regarding advocacy, Genesee argues in favor of forming groupsconsisting of representatives of the stakeholders involved, who at the levels ofindividual schools, districts and states, monitor policy implementation andpromote development of immersion programs. The role of parents is seen ascritical, and as such, ways of best achieving the active engagement of parentsneeds to be further investigated. The third point brought up by Genesee,assessment, is important in immersion programs from several points of view.First, summative assessment is needed for the evaluation of new forms ofimmersion programs as well as for the promotion of programs among stakeholders.Second, formative assessment is, of course, beneficial for the individualstudent, but also for the teacher, because it allows him/her to monitor andmodify instruction. Finally, Genesee touches upon the importance ofaccessibility and sees immersion as an educational arena for all groups ofstudents, whether they are at-risk or not.


“Immersion Education -- Practices, Policies, Possibilities” is a resource fullof interesting material for anybody interested in L2 acquisition. The bookoffers so many insights into various ways of implementing immersion, some ofwhich have received little attention elsewhere. I found the chapters onindigenous language immersion especially interesting (Chapters 3 “Insights fromIndigenous Language Immersion in Hawai’i” and 10 “Using Language Assessment toInform Instruction in Indigenous Language Immersion”), as they indeed illustratesome of the possibilities inherent in immersion. We are given examples of howimmersion can help endangered languages survive while, at the same time, theindigenous culture is incorporated into the school context. I was particularlyinspired by the description in Peter, Sly and Hirata-Edds of how the Cherokeeconcept “idigoliyahe nidaduhnahui” (meaning ‘let us take a look at what we aredoing’) has been adopted in the Cherokee Language Immersion program, leading tothe development of appropriate evaluation and assessment tools (p. 193). Thatconcept could serve well in many educational contexts.

A book can only comprise so many chapters, in this case, 12, plus theintroduction and the conclusion. I cannot fail but note, however, that nine ofthese chapters concern the North American continent, out of which eightoriginate in the US. While all of these chapters are highly interesting andworth reading, the book would definitely have benefitted from including examplesof Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), which is the European modelof immersion teaching (Coyle, 2008; Dalton-Puffer, 2007; Lasagabaster & Ruiz deZarobe, 2010; Marsh, 2001; Ruiz de Zarobe, 2010), as well as immersion models onthe African continent (e.g., Tucker, 1998). This would have added more relevanceto the topic, especially in light of the editors’ comment in theacknowledgements: “Since we began our work on this edited volume, the demand forimmersion education has grown, and new immersion programs have been launchedaround the world” (p. ix).

While most chapters report on progress being made by immersion students invarious contexts, I was somewhat surprised at the approach of Ó Duibhir’scontribution, where error analysis is at the center of attention. While I indeeddo appreciate the fact that there seems, in virtually all immersion contexts, tobe a need for more language-specific activities (among them, focus on form), itis questionable whether this is best achieved by focusing on students’linguistic shortcomings. In an earlier chapter in this volume, de Jong andBearse highlight the fact that a teacher’s “explicit disapproval of thestudents’ nonstandard Spanish language use and group work undermined thestudents’ motivation and opportunity to use Spanish” (p. 106).

In a book such as the present one, the use of acronyms is inevitable. Thereforeit is important that these are carefully explained the first time they appear.This is also the case in this volume, even though some cause confusion. Forinstance, in Lindholm-Leary’s chapter, the acronyms NCS and ENS are introducedon p. 83, respectively, as ‘native Chinese speaking’ and ‘native Englishspeaking’. The reader is left wondering why the N for ‘native’ comes first inone and second in the other. Moreover, later on in the chapter, another acronymis introduced, CNS, meaning ‘Chinese native speakers’. Whether or not these arethe same individuals encompassed by the acronym NCS is not clarified. Overall,the use of acronyms in this volume at times seems excessive, and a list ofabbreviations at the outset of the book would have facilitated reading each chapter.

Despite these minor remarks, this is a highly recommended book for anyoneinterested in the immersion approach to language learning. It opens up newperspectives, and indeed “dwells in possibility” for the future implementationof immersion programs in various shapes.


Coyle, D. (2008). CLIL - A pedagogical approach from the European Perspective.In N. Van Dusen-Scholl & N. H. Hornberger (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Language andEducation (pp. 97-111): Springer Science+Business Media LLc.

Dalton-Puffer, C. (2007). Discourse in content and language integrated learning(CLIL) classrooms. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Lasagabaster, D., & Ruiz de Zarobe, Y. (Eds.). (2010). CLIL in Spain:Implementation, Results and Teacher Training. Newcastle upon Tyne: CambridgeScholars Publishing.

Marsh, D. (2001). The CLIL Compendium. Retrieved from index.html

Ruiz de Zarobe, Y. (2010). Written production and CLIL. An empirical study. InC. Dalton-Puffer, T. Nikula & U. Smit (Eds.), Language Use and Language Learningin CLIL Classrooms (Vol. 7). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Tucker, G. R. (1998). A Global Perspective on Multilingualism and MultilingualEducation. In J. Cenoz & F. Genesee (Eds.), Beyong Bilingualism: multilingualismand multilingual education. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.


Liss Kerstin Sylvén is an assistant professor of English at the University of Gothenburg. Her main research interests include second language acquisition, young language learners and content and language integrated learning (CLIL). She currently leads a 4-year research project, funded by the Swedish Research Council, focusing on the effects of CLIL on upper secondary students' development of academic language skills.

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