When I was in elementary school in Fairfax County Virginia a decision was made to pull a few of us out of class and sit us in front of a TV to learn French. The program only lasted for half a year but today the only French I even remotely know came from sitting in front of that TV.
Today in Fairfax County parents have the option of enrolling their elementary schools students in a half day language immersion program. Unlike when I was in school or even when my kids were in Fairfax County Schools students are not taught just the language at their chosen school but are actually taught all of the regular academic subjects in a second language. Currently the language immersion program is offered twelve different elementary schools throughout the county with a choice of four languages.
Research has proven that early exposure to a second language leads to a much better chance that the language will be retained and used later in life. When I lived in Japan the neighborhood children where I lived used to stop by after school so that we could all practice our language skills. It was an amusing sight to see, me trying to learn Japanese and the kids practicing English. I guarantee that they now speak much better English due to their young age than I ever did Japanese.
The programs offered in Fairfax County elementary schools today include German, Spanish, Japanese and French. When a student finishes sixth grade they have the option to continue studying their chosen language in a more traditional format in intermediate and high school. In addition to the partial immersion elementary school program the county also is offering a Two Way Kindergarten Immersion Program. Different from the half day program this program features a 50/50 split of students sharing and learning new language skills. Half of the students in the class are native Spanish speakers and half of the students are native English speakers. Instruction and interaction is in both languages to develop bi-lingual skills in both groups of native speakers.
REGISTRATION FOR THE 2009-2010 SCHOOL YEAR IMMERSION PROGRAMS IS UNDERWAY. FIRST GRADE PARTIAL IMMERSION REGISTRATION OPENS JANUARY 5th AND RUNS THROUGH FEB 17th.
REGISTRATION FOR TWO WAY (ENGLISH & SPANISH) KINDERGARTEN REGISTRATION OPENS JANUARY 5th AND CLOSES MAY 11th.
For more information on these Fairfax County School programs you can check out the Fairfax County School website. It is up to each parent to decide whether these programs are right for their children. It is just one of the reasons that Fairfax County Schools are always given high ratings and Virginia Schools have been rated # 5 in the nation.