I’ve always been enthralled by the French language and culture. The sound of the language in a fluent speaker is beautiful and automatically makes me smile. Culturally, the art and history of the French is something to be marveled at.
Then, I moved to Lafayette in 2000 and was introduced to a whole new aspect of French language and culture-Cajun French!
It is for sure different. The language, not so melodic, but quirky and full of life. The culture, not so steeped in ancient history, but full of color and spice!
As a high school student, I took a few years of French and then a few more as a college student. But, I can say little more than “Je m’appelle Amanda.” To be fair, I do understand much more in conversation than I can speak and I can read a little more than that. But, that’s the extent. The idea of being bilingual from the time of childhood without being an actual immigrant seemed impossible. Also, I thought that all “immersion schools” were way out of my price range, something for the independently wealthy-a private school option only.
When looking at school options for my little boy, I was shocked to see that French immersion, along with 2 other language options, are free public school options throughout the School of Choice option in Lafayette Parish.
The idea of choosing an alternative learning environment seemed daunting, at first. But, once I did the research (and talked to my most trusted source, local moms) I felt comfortable making the jump. So, here is the why and how of choosing Immersion Education in Lafayette Parish!
The Why – Immersion Works!
It’s good for the brain!
There is much research that has been done and is in the process of being done supporting a positive relationship between both verbal and nonverbal problem-solving skills and abstract thinking. Check out “What the Research Says About Immersion” for a summary and links to scholarly articles about Immersion Education.
At my son’s French Immersion Program, some teachers and aids are native French speakers from all around the world. In an article featuring one of our wonderful teachers, Moussa Sadou, he indicated that there are 15 different nationalities represented at Myrtle Place Elementary (an elementary school site for French Immersion). My 5-year-old is meeting individuals from places I could only dream of traveling. Expanding his world view and understanding that there is a whole world outside of Lafayette is a giant step towards developing a mindset that allows for differences as a normal part of life. I’m talking empathy development on a major scale people! And, who couldn’t use more of that in today’s world!
It’s easier to learn a second language as a child.
Research shows that our ability to acquire a second language declines after puberty. So, if we are hopeful that our children will become citizens of the world or, for example, be active participants in preserving the French language and culture that is common here in South Louisiana, they need to begin this language acquisition early! Check out this video below!
For even more information on the benefits related to Learning a Foreign language as a child, check out this article from Panda Tree “15 Reasons for Kids to Learn a Foreign Language.”
So, now you know the benefits, but how do you access the program?
A great place to start is the Lafayette Parish School System Magnet Academies’s World Language Immersion Page.
In Lafayette Parish, we have a ton of options for immersion including French, Mandarin Chinese, and Spanish. (Nearby Iberia Parish and St. Martin Parish also have French Immersion programs available. Contact your local school board for their exact admissions policies.)
To gain admission to the World Language Pathways in Lafayette Parish, you must utilize the Schools of Choice admission process. Admissions policies can be found on the Lafayette School of Choice Website. Pay close attention to academic and age-grade guidelines as well as deadlines for the Lottery. Admission to the World Language Academies is based on a Lottery system.
There are 2 phases to admission:
Phase 1- Application for the Lottery opened on October 12th of 2019 and closes on January 15th, 2020 at 11:30 pm. You can apply online by creating an account (https://apply.lafayettechoice.com/login). Per the Lafayette Parish School System’s website, the lottery will be drawn on February 18th, 2020.
Phase 2- Open Enrollment. Online applications will reopen on February 28th, 2020 for any remaining seats.
If you are offered a seat at your preferred Language Academy, make sure that you accept it within the deadlines set. If you don’t, you are in danger of losing your seat.
There can be a small charge based on income for the Pre-K 4 programs (nowhere near what I was paying for daycare, just saying), but once in Kindergarten or above, the Immersion schools are FREE FREE FREE, just like regular public school.
Also, there is a bus service. Even if you live outside of the school’s normal bus stops, there are satellite bus stops throughout Lafayette Parish.
The children are still receiving ELA (English Language Acquisition) Instruction. Does this mean that there is extra work? Well, yes! If you want to learn an extra skill, there will always be extra work! But, since beginning in this fashion since Pre-K, this mode of learning is natural for my 5-year-old!
So, there you have it! The why and the how of choosing language immersion in Lafayette Parish! We have had a wonderful experience thus far and are learning more and more every day.
What are your questions regarding Immersion programs and the process for access? Leave them in the comments and I’d be happy to help to the best of my ability!