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Spanish dual language immersion from the viewpoint of a student

Gina Vander Zwaag is a 6th grade student in Spanish immersion at Zeeland Christian School. We were able to catch up Gina’s parents just before school year began, and learned a little about her experience growing up in the immersion program and her nerves as she headed into middle school. So it’s a special treat to welcome Gina to our blog, as she shares about her immersion experience, and how things are going in 6th grade.

Can you tell us what you like best about your Spanish immersion experience?

One of the things that I like about Spanish immersion are the teachers. I like the teachers because so many come from different places and they all have different stories. Another thing about Spanish immersion is knowing that I can speak a different language that some others can’t speak. Sometimes knowing Spanish comes in handy because if we go to a school to visit and some of the kids there speak Spanish I can talk to them.  It’s fun communicating with them in Spanish. Another reason why I like Spanish is to talk to my brother and sister without my parents knowing what we’re saying! We don’t really do that very much though.  Our parents do not know Spanish.  

Now that I’m in 6th grade, half of my day is in Spanish and the other half is in English. I do really like that because it gives me a chance to not only get good at Spanish but also at my English skills. Another thing I like about Spanish immersion are the amazing teachers that teach us. Both Spanish and English teachers are amazing in the way the teach us.  Sometime it’s a little hard to tell what the teacher is saying if they have an accent but usually I can tell what they’re saying.gina

What has been the most challenging part of Spanish immersion?

One thing that I don’t like about Spanish immersion is not mixing the English and Spanish classes at school. The reason I don’t like that is because some of my best friends are in English and I hardly even knew them before 6th grade. Another thing that isn’t so great about Spanish immersion has been to say my Bible verse in Spanish. But now that I’m in 6th grade it’s in English which I like better.  Spanish immersion is really good and I like being in it. My friends and I have a really good time in Spanish.

Tell us a little about learning to read in English—how did that come about?

When I was in third grade I sort of just started reading chapter books in English. I don’t know how it happened – I was just able to read in English. I hadn’t even had English classes before. I don’t know how that happened. One struggle I had was reading in Spanish because I wasn’t familiar with it. The words don’t just sound out like English but I learned after a while. To write in Spanish was hard too because I tried to write like I knew how to in English – sounding it out. I learned how to do that too but it took a while.  It was harder because my parents weren’t able to help me with my Spanish.  My mom learned the alphabet and blend sounds in Spanish when I did!

What advice or encouragement do you have for younger immersion students?

If someone asked me if they should send their kids to Spanish immersion I would say yes.  When I get older I think it will open up different opportunities for me that I might not have had without knowing a second language.  I’m glad my parents made that choice for me.  

When you think ahead about what being bilingual could mean for your future, what things come to mind?

When I think of my future and being bilingual I think that It could mean a lot. Like I could help people in Spanish. I think It would be fun to go to Mexico or some other Spanish speaking country and learn more of the language and the culture of Spanish.

Tell us about a time when you were able to use your Spanish outside of school. How did it make you feel? How do you think it made the other person feel?

So my mom mentors through our church at grand rapids public schools and most of the kids there actually speak Spanish. So when we went there to visit my Mom’s mentoring student her parents didn’t know English so It was a pretty cool feeling speaking to someone I don’t know and out of school.

What would you tell a group of parents who are thinking about this for their child? What would you say to parents who just aren’t sure if their kids could do it!?

I would tell them to put there Kids in Spanish because it’s fun knowing that you are learning another language and what you can do with your Spanish is cool to. Spanish is a fun language to learn and I think we need more Spanish speaking people in our community.


To read about the experiences of other immersion families at our partner schools, check out any of the posts in our #dliparent blogger series.

And be sure to join our community of informed immersion parents by signing up for our  informed parent guide.

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