Immersion Schools: A Dangerous Proposition

A cute mother's day note I got from Oliver. I have no idea what it says.
A cute mother’s day note I got from Oliver. I have no idea what it says.

There are plenty of risks to immersing your kid in water or sand, but no one talks about the dangers of immersing your kid in a foreign language!

Sure, sure, we hear all of the benefits. It makes them mentally flexible and more sensitive, and there’s also the less known benefit that one day they’ll be able to take you around Paris and order crêpes for you. Oh, and your soups will be so smooth and creamy. Hang on – that’s an immersion blender. (Also a very good idea.)

But what about the drawbacks? Surely there are negatives to having your kids in a school where English isn’t the primary language, right? Well, after spending over four years as a parent of children in a French school, I’m here to give it to you straight.

I have no idea what my kids are saying.

While there is nothing cuter than hearing a bunch of kids jabber away in French in the car on the way home from school, for all I know they’re talking about “le farts” and “une Power Ranger rouge.”

I probably should have committed to learning French once we decided to send the boys to school there, but I never did. And now my brain is old and calcified and nothing like the sponges that are apparently in their tiny little heads.

Also, apparently when I enrolled them in their school, I neglected to remember that I have triplets? Forget the secret languages that multiples make up – I just gave them one on a silver platter.

They learned how to dance. IN FRENCH.
They learned how to dance. IN FRENCH.

My kids make me feel like a complete moron.

“No mommy, it’s not “rouge”, it’s “[insert throat-clearing sound]ouge.” Eye rolls shortly follow, and desperate pleas never to attempt to read them a French storybook again.

While I took many, many years of Spanish in middle school, high school, and college, I didn’t progress beyond using the present tense and basic vocabulary. (However, in my defense, I was able to successfully eat food and get around Barcelona without too much humiliation, so I guess it wasn’t a total waste.) (I have no idea what I ate or where I was going, but I had a great time.)

My children’s teachers are extremely chic.

It’s bad enough that I work from home and my work wardrobe consists of WordPress t-shirts and cropped sweatpants. Their teachers wear stilettos and skinny jeans and little scarves and always look impeccable, even after spending eight hours with a bunch of paste-eating five year-olds.

I can’t help them with their homework.

I polled some other parents, and they saw this as a drawback. I don’t know who these people are, because I consider this a definite benefit. I just sit at the kitchen table, sipping wine (you know, like French people do) and watch them do it themselves.

But don’t be too envious – I still have to help with their English homework, which I save until after I’ve finished the bottle glass.

On the bright side, they can help each other with their homework, since I can’t. Hopefully, they know what they’re doing.

On the whole, I’d definitely recommend sending your kids to an immersion school. Just don’t assume it’s all soleil et roses. (Thank you Google translate!)

Have you considered language immersion for your children?

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My name is Pam, and I live in Algiers Point with my husband George and my identical triplets Linus, Oliver, and Miles. I work from home as a Happiness Engineer for Automattic. I enjoy reading and photography and sewing (and blogging!)

20 COMMENTS

  1. Your article was interesting.Relating to the issue, I am in the process of transferring my daughter out of a Spanish immersion school. For reasons other than what you have written about. I agree that helping with homework was an obstacle in the beginning. There are also more serious issues that need to be addressed academically as well.

  2. My daughter started an immersion school this year. We are in week two and I about had a stroke when we went for the meet and greet. How am I supposed to help her? How do I communicate with the teachers? How do I know that what she is saying is right?

    Well, I don’t remember any of the french I took in High School, but it turns out I don’t need to help her as much as I thought. After two weeks I was highly impressed that my daughter who does not know one word other than Bonjour in french was understanding some of what the teacher was saying. I am glad that I put her in an English speaking school for Prek and Kindergarten. Mostly because she can read and write in English, and now is learning French.

    I am truly thankful for Google Translate, because without it I’d be lost. The humor in this made me feel so much better about how having her in this school. That first week had me second guessing my decision.

    All in all I think if I had to do it again I would put her in starting at 1st grade like I did. I do not think I would have put her in for Kindergarten or younger.

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