Language Immersion

 Chinese and Spanish Language Immersion


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Minnetonka offers the state's premier Language Immersion program offered at every school in Minnetonka. Beginning in Kindergarten, students are acquiring second language fluency through immersion. Families may elect enrollment in Chinese, English or Spanish Immersion.

Chinese is offered at Excelsior and Scenic Heights Elementary Schools.

Spanish is offered at Clear Springs, Deephaven, Groveland and Minnewashta Elementary Schools.

Minnetonka Middle School East and West offer immersion continuation (6-8) in both Chinese and Spanish. 

Minnetonka High School accepted its first class of Language Immersion students in fall 2015. Students who have been enrolled in Immersion since Kindergarten and first grade enroll in Advanced Placement Chinese or Spanish Language and Culture exam during their freshman year of high school. Advanced literature and other courses are being developed to continue language fluency development through high school. Students who continue in the program through grade 12 will have the option of taking the *HSK (Chinese) or *DELE (Spanish) international proficiency exams, apply for a Minnesota bilingual diploma, and/or complete the International Baccalaureate Bilingual Diploma. 

*HSK administered by the Ministry of Education in China. DELE administered by the Ministry of Education in Spain.

Contact our enrollment office at 952-401-5000 for registration instructions or complete our online form


 Minnetonka's Kindergarten Options Videos


 Immersion Introduction


Why begin a second language in Kindergarten?

The young child's brain is developmentally ready to learn language. A child has twice as many synapses (connections) in the brain as an adult. The young brain must use these connections or lose them. There is a window of opportunity in which a child learns a first language normally. After this period, the brain becomes slowly less receptive.  Young children can learn as many spoken languages as you can allow them to hear systematically and regularly at the same time. Children just have this capacity.  When children wait until high school to start studying a foreign language, the job is much harder.

What is Immersion?

Language Immersion is an approach to second language instruction in which the usual learning activities are conducted in a second language. This means that the new language is the medium of instruction as well as the object of instruction. Immersion classes follow the same curricula, and in some instances, use the same materials (translated into the target language) as those used in the non-immersion schools of their district. The goal of the language immersion classroom is language acquisition.

In the early years, immersion teachers realize that students will not understand everything they say.  Teachers use body language, visuals, manipulatives, exaggerated facial expressions, and expressive intonation to communicate meaning.  In kindergarten, it is common for students to speak English with each other and when responding to their teacher.  As the years progress, students naturally use more of the immersion language. (Fortune and Tedick, 2003)

Why immersion?

According to the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA), at the University of Minnesota, immersion programs are the most effective type of foreign language program. Students can be expected to reach higher levels of a second language proficiency than students in other school-based language programs.

A great deal of research has centered on second language acquisition in various school settings. Over the past thirty years, due in large part to the success of immersion programs, there has been a shift away from teaching language in isolation and toward integrating language and content. This shift is based on four principles:

  • Language is acquired most effectively when it is learned in a meaningful social context. For young learners, the school curriculum provides a natural basis for second language learning, offering them the opportunity to communicate about what they know and what they want to know, as well as about their feelings and attitudes.
  • Important and interesting content provides a motivating context for learning the communicative functions of the new language. Young children are not interested in learning language that serves no meaningful function.
  • First language acquisition, cognition and social awareness go hand in hand in young children. By integrating language and content, second language learning, too, becomes an integral part of a child's social and cognitive development.
  • Formal and functional characteristics of language change from one context to another. An integrated language and content model in an elementary school setting provides a wide variety of contexts in which to use the second language.

 Effects of Immersion Education?


A growing body of research on immersion education has shown that immersion students consistently meet or exceed academic expectations in the following areas:
  • Second language skills: Immersion students by far outperform students in traditional foreign language classes. They are functionally proficient in the immersion language and are able to communicate according to their age and grade level.
  • English language skills: In the early years of English instruction (K-2), there may be a lag in English reading and writing skills. By 5th grade, however, immersion students do as well or better than students in English-only classes.
  • Content areas: Immersion students achieve in academic areas as well as students in English-only programs.
  • Cultural sensitivity: Immersion students are more aware of and show positive attitudes towards other cultures.

Immersion in Minnetonka

The Minnetonka Language Immersion Model is unique in Minnesota, as a school-within-a-school option in each of the District’s elementary schools. The program began in 2007 with kindergarten and grade 1. Today, our immersion students have successfully progressed into middle school and the District is committed to supporting world language growth through graduation.

Families who enroll their children in kindergarten are asked to make at least a six-year commitment to the immersion program.

At grade 6, students move to a middle school where students transition to an immersion continuation model. Students have an 87-minute block of instruction in the second language will covers the social studies and world language curriculum. This model was carefully designed to ensure continued development of the immersion language, and also allowing full access to honors and elective courses for all students.

At grade 9 students will have a very strong foundation in the second language class and will be prepared to enroll in AP Language and Culture in their Immersion language, with more advanced language and literature courses being developed for grades 10-12.

Key Components of the Elementary Program

  • The second language is the language of instruction for all classroom instruction in kindergarten through grade 2.
  • The curriculum parallels the District's English curriculum in all subjects. Students will be taught to read, speak and learn in the second language.
  • Direct instruction in English begins in the 3rd grade for reading, writing and language arts in English.
  • Students will continue to be taught the other subjects in the second language through 5th grade.
  • After two or three years in an immersion program, students demonstrate fluency and their comprehension skills are comparable to those of native speakers the same age.
  • Research, however, has found that immersion students’ second language lacks the same grammatical accuracy, variety and complexity produced by native speakers. Attainment of that skill level is a long-term process. Native-like proficiency in every skill area is unlikely.
  • Minnetonka's model is uniquely successful in terms of student achievement. Many immersion schools report that English test scores may dip from grades 2 - 4 and rebound by grade five to be equal to, or higher than, the non-immersion classes. However, in Minnetonka Schools this has not occurred. Our Immersion students perform on par with their English program peers at all grade levels. A strong commitment by parents to read with children in English at home every night complements Minnetonka's exceptional instruction in English in grades 3 - 5, resulting in outstanding achievement levels by all of our students. By the end of fifth grade, most Minnetonka students are reading in English at the 11th grade level (according to NWEA Measures of Academic Progress).


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