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2004 Immersion Conference: Pathways to Bilingualism

Featured Speaker


Merrill Swain
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of
The University of Toronto

In 1997 Swain and Johnson defined immersion education as one category within bilingual education, providing examples and discussion from multiple international perspectives. In this paper, I will review the core features of immersion programs identified by Swain and Johnson, and discuss how current socio-political realities and new research on second language learning serve to update and refresh the discussion of these features. For example, one feature identified by Swain and Johnson is that “the classroom culture is that of the local L1 community.” The dramatic increase in ethnic diversity in Canada’s urban centres calls into question the notion of a monolithic culture in the school community. A second example: While a central feature of immersion education is the use of the L2 as medium of instruction, new research suggests that allowing a judicious use of the L1 on the part of learners may be warranted. Research which explores these and other features intended to develop the bilingualism of immersion students will be discussed.


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Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA) • 140 University International Center • 331 - 17th Ave SE • Minneapolis, MN 55414