Research has shown that there are many benefits to learning another language, and how it can boost children’s ability to learn and grow. But helping children learn a foreign language, especially for parents who don’t speak another language, may be  stressful and overwhelming. So what can parents do to prepare their kids for their 1st year in an immersion program?


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From my Teaching Experience

I taught a Mandarin Music and Art class at an elementary school in Utah, U.S.A. two years ago. Even though I wasn’t a Chinese immersion teacher of a specific class of students, I had the wonderful opportunity of teaching ALL the students in the Chinese immersion program. I used some fun lessons and methods (e.g. music and art) to enhance their Chinese learning at school. I also was able to be a teacher without really having to worry about students’ academic performance and other issues. It was a dream job for me.

During teaching in the Chinese program, I was able to get to know all the Chinese immersion teachers and their English partner-teachers as well. I was able to help them, tutor their students, and also learned how they teach and manage their classes. It was amazing to see the differences and similarities in teaching skills and activities between the Chinese and English teachers. It opened my eyes.


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Teach your Kids?

No matter how smart and absorbent children are, learning another language is not easy for them. Without understanding how young children learn, and incorporating the right teaching methods and activities, children lose motivation and interest in learning languages.

For parents, we cannot control what’s going on in their immersion class at school, or how the language teachers teach our kids. But there are things that we can do to prepare and support our children. Learning another language is fun and enjoyable.

*I use Chinese immersion program as examples, I’m sure it applies to other languages’ immersion program.*


Below are some things Parents and Teachers (which are friends of mine) have said about Chinese Immersion Programs and their experiences.

*Names has been changed to protect identity.


Experienced Parents


“I would have loved to know how they were structuring their day and have a list of words they were working on. I was so clueless as to how to help. Our first teacher wasn’t great at communicating, so I really had no idea what was going on in the classroom and how to help at home.”


“My son was a voracious reader and hated reviewing things, we thought perhaps he’d get bored in the regular program and we knew it could open doors for him late in life. We were worried naturally about not being able to help him with his homework and also nervous about the extra work it would require. It was scary sending him into his first day of class because it felt like we were sending him to the wolves where he would not understand a word being said. I have to admit that I lingered around a lot longer than I should have and came back to get him before I should have but afterward, he said he understood what was going on and thought it was great!”


Summaries of the Challenges that Parents may Face

  1. Can’t communicate with the Native Immersion Teachers
  2. Lack of information about the program from schools
  3. No clue how to help and support
  4. Unfamiliar with the language


Chinese Immersion Teachers

Jennifer {a former Chinese Immersion Teacher in the U.S.}

“I’d say if the parents don’t know any Chinese, expose their kids to the Chinese culture and language – anything they can find, like on YouTube or maybe there’s some Chinese events or whatever nearby, so that their kids can start a love for the Chinese culture and want to learn the language. One of the hardest things I faced as a teacher is teaching kids who had no desire to learn the language. And of course, if the parents know Chinese, to speak as much to their kids as well :)”

Brianna (a current Chinese Immersion Teacher in the U.S.)

Just to have fun, not to be stressed. Make sure they get lots of sleep and a good breakfast so they will feel good. Also to let them know it’s OK to not understand. Look at the teacher’s body language and try to guess. Make it a game.

Tips to Prepare for Chinese (any) Immersion Program

  1. Educate yourself first: You don’t need to be a master of the Chinese language. If you are, that’s great. If not, that’s ok. You can start from today to study things about China. You don’t need to study only the language, but the culture, sites, people, food, or sports… For example, if you are passionate about Chinese food, you will love to know how to make dumplings, how to use chopsticks, and anything related to making Chinese dumplings. Then, you may able to learn one or two Chinese words as your experiences grow. Follow your passion, it will give you motivation and success.
  2. Share with your family: After you gain a love for Chinese food and maybe sites in China, show and tell your families and friends about it. Make your best dumplings with your kids, and tell them why do you like to eat dumpling. (Because it’s cheap to make, easy to make, delicious, you eat it in China…) As we share what we like, you will be surprised how comfortable you will feel with these unfamiliar things. I’m sure your children will become more familiar with foreign things that you share.
  3. Have fun in some cultural events: Try to look for some Chinese Festivals or Events that you can attend with your family. The first few time, you may feel awkward when you attend. Make goals to meet new friends during the events, you will be surprised how much will gain.
  4. Put cultural decorations in of your home: The Chinese posters or Chinese paintings you hang on the walls may be the only physical items that your children will see before they have a chance to visit China, so they are very important. Decoration, centerpieces, art, books, objects’ labels or even furniture can create a mini-China town in your home.
  5. Give positive feedback and encouragement to them: In most cases, parents choose to have their kids attend an immersion program. Their kids may not have any clue of how challenging it can be. They need a lot of positive feedback and encouragement from their parents. As parents, we need to prepare, as they will have lots of failure and disappointment, we can come up with some plans, reward systems, or one-on-one time with them. You will be amazed how much faster children can learn and grow in a home full of positive, loving, and understanding.

I’m sure you have more TIPS that can be added to my list. Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment, and share TIPS with everyone.


You Might Be Interested:

  1. Bilingual Parenting Tips (Miss Panda)
    There are 5 tips to improve personal language acquisition with your children.
  2. 8 Tips for a Bilingual Years (Miss Panda)
    There are 8 great tips on how you can prepare your daily immersion class.
  3. Full Language Immersion Programs in Public Schools (Public School Review)
    {Great tips and article about the Pros and Cons of attending the Immersion program. It also shows you the expectation and most children’s reaction during the first three months of any immersion program. It’s a great reference for you if you can’t decide whether or not to send your kids to an immersion program or not.}
  4. 4 Most Effective Ways to Empower Minority-Language Learning at Home (Fortune Cookie Mom)
    4 effective ways for you to easily support learning your native language at home.
  5. How to Utilize Classroom Labels to Facilitate Chinese Learning (Fortune Cookie Mom)
    Do you know putting up labels and vocab cards can help kids’ reading skills? This post shows you how.


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