Cuban-American Elisa Batista knew she wanted to send her children to a school in which classes were taught in a language besides English, but when she first explored what is known as 'immersion schools' five years ago, she was concerned. She toured campuses in Northern California where only a few classes were conducted in Spanish, by teachers speaking with poor grammar and heavy accents.
She found a private school that was different. At Escuela Bilingüe Internacional, half the student body is Latino, the teachers come from Spain and Latin America and the entire school speaks Spanish exclusively.
“Their [Spanish] vocabulary is better than mine and my husband’s” Batista said of her two children. “They know how to say mathematical terms and names of animals that we never learned. I’ll say things wrong and they correct me.”
Language immersion schools in the U.S. have come a long way since Batista first toured them. They have grown in numbers and scope in a relatively short period of time. In 2007, there were a little more than 250 schools in the country. By 2011, they more than doubled to about 530 in 22 different languages, according a survey conducted by the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition at the University of Minnesota.