How to Learn to Swim

von Simone Meier

Living in such a small country with four languages, a great variety of dialects and the overwhelming presence of English, the Swiss are well aware of the importance of bilingualism or even multilingualism. We are surrounded by different lingoes and hence hear friendly allegras while listening to the news with a glass of Milch – Lait – Latte. And yet we rarely get the chance to dip into the vast pool of the languages around us.

This is where our immersive classes come into play. Immersive students immerse, that is dive in or are even dunked in either French or English. The immersive language pool is filled with history, maths and biology or chemistry lessons held in the respective language. So instead of just having two or three hours of English or French a week, immersed students have an additional eight lessons to hone their foreign language skills.

Besides the fact that immersive students are exposed to a greater share of French or English, their curriculum also differs to a small extent. In English immersive history, for example, the focus lies on the British and American past, whereas French immersive history turns the students’ attention to the French-speaking world. Immersive biology, chemistry and maths courses are mostly in line with the regular curriculum but are distinct from their German equivalents in terms of methodology and teaching material.

Working with English or French coursebooks in such a variety of subjects not only enables students to acquire a new vocabulary but also prepares them for their academic career. Students who are interested in the study of natural sciences or IT will have to do a great amount of reading in English and will probably also pen their papers in English. Those who strive for a profession in international relations, foreign aid or diplomacy, will have to command French fluently – speaking and writing.

Immersive classes are special in the sense that they are made up of students who have different majors. To visualize the diversity of those classes, we can transcribe our current E-classes as 1ISW (1Ea), 1ABL (1Eb), 2ILMWZ (2E) and 3LMSWZ (3E). The composition of immersive classes is not fixed since it depends on the number of applications, the majors chosen as well as the availability of the teachers.

After three years of immersive learning, students have the opportunity to test their acquired language skills in an English or French speaking environment during their study trip. Visiting places like the Lake District, Dublin, the Côte d’Azur or Corsica can thus become a great way to get in touch with native speakers and to explore the area’s linguistic diversity, culture or nature.

Finally, after four years, the students will emerge from the immersive pool having earned a bilingual matura and will be ready to immerse themselves in the real world.