English Immersion Today Prepares Palestinian Children to be Tomorrow’s Leaders

Jade greets her students on the first day of Core AM English Language acquisition begins in the womb. Linguistic studies indicate that childhood is the optimal period to learn a new language for a variety of reasons, and immersion programs are becoming the foremost model for language learning on a global level. At Tomorrow’s Youth Organization, the International Internship Program seeks to create fun, safe spaces for young students to engage with the English language through activity and to equip the next generation of youth in Palestine with the linguistic skills necessary to succeed in an increasingly globalized world.

In conversations I have had with university students in Nablus, many of them have expressed a need for English language programs in Palestine. Most feel that English is a skill critical to successfully navigating the job market and beginning their careers and that in order for Palestine to meet this demand, it must commit to stronger models of language teaching through immersion.

Learning a new language takes time, and adhering to a model of immersion significantly increases and student’s exposure to a second language, therefore increasing their level of acquisition and capacity for successful communication. While challenging at first, students are able to learn through expressive teaching, contextual clues, and continued practice in using the language.

At TYO, International Interns use many strategies and activities to get students excited about speaking English and increasing their desire to learn more. In my morning ESL class, I have found that my students respond extremely well to movement, and that by incorporating some gesture or dance to associate with a word or phrase increases their retention and strengthens their confidence in English. For example, when students were learning appropriate responses to “How are you?” using a thumbs-up for “I’m good!” provided a type of kinetic reinforcement for their learning. These types of gains are invaluable, and give me great hope in their continued success in the language.

Children may not fully understand that English language skills they acquire today can benefit them in university and the job market, but the concept of play is universal. By engaging students in enjoyable English-language activities we are broadening their capacities for cross-cultural communication and preparing Palestinian children to be global citizens.

-Jade is a Fall 2014 International Intern at TYO

This program is funded by the Abdel Hameed Shoman Foundation (AHSF).