Stanford Spanish Immersion Research Project

Dear parents,

In the mid-80s, I was a student in one of the first Spanish Immersion programs in the country, in Davis, CA. My interest in bilingual education is long-standing and deep, and now I’m a PhD candidate in developmental psychology at Stanford, studying how adults and children learn a second language. My collaborators and I are now beginning a research project to compare the benefits of children’s experience in a language immersion program with other language-learning contexts — for example, a typical language class in school, or interactions with family in the first years of life. For help with this research, we are turning to families with native English-speaking children who are enrolled in grades 1-6 of Spanish Immersion. 6th-grade Spanish Immersion teacher Catherine Enos has been very kind in helping to get this project started. We would be very grateful for your participation!

Although language-immersion programs are growing in popularity in California and elsewhere, there has been very little high-quality research exploring the benefits of such programs at the elementary school level. Thus this is a very timely topic, and our research findings will have implications for families, educators, and policy makers committed to bilingual education.

The time commitment required for participation is minimal. We would ask you to visit our lab on the Stanford campus (located in Building 460, facing the Oval) for one session, lasting about 90 min. We can schedule a time that works for you, and appointments are available any day after school or during the summer.

Our research methods focus on how children interpret speech as they hear it from moment to moment. During the visit, your child would simply look at pictures while listening to speech in Spanish or English referring to the pictures. There is no speaking or writing involved, placing no pressure at all on your child, and you would always be present throughout the observation session.

Our research program is funded by the National Institutes of Health and meets the same high standards required of all studies conducted at Stanford. Although our laboratory is called the Center for Infant Studies (because many studies focus on very early language learning), our recent research also includes older children and adults learning a second language. As a thank-you for participation, we will give you a $20 gift certificate and a Spanish book appropriate for your child’s grade level.

If you are willing to participate, please contact me by email ( or phone (650-723-1257). And please don’t hesitate to ask me any questions.

Once our research is completed, we will tell you about our findings, both on a website and at a SIPAPA meeting. Thank you for your interest!

Casey Lew-Williams, PhD candidate
Anne Fernald, Professor of Psychology

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