While foreign language immersion programs have been increasing in number and popularity throughout the United States, their growth in the state of Utah has been particularly dramatic. Utah contains more foreign language immersion programs than any other state and is home to one-fourth of the nation's elementary school Chinese immersion programs. This descriptive study explored the reasons why parents of children enrolled in Utah's Long Hill Elementary School Chinese Immersion program chose to enroll their child. Long Hill Elementary's Chinese Immersion program is 4 years old, with over 200 children enrolled across 4 grade levels. A household survey was developed, distributed, and collected to gather data on parents' demographic and background characteristics, reasons for enrollment, and attitudes towards several statements about language learning. The survey had a 45% return rate, and more mothers than fathers filled out the survey. Survey responses revealed that the parents of children in Long Hill's Chinese program are pre-dominantly Caucasian, bilingual, holders of undergraduate or advanced university degrees, and have high incomes. When asked to explain their reasons for enrollment, parents listed factors that were Chinese-specific, including future career and educational opportunities, the growing importance of China, and the desire to preserve a heritage language. They also expressed many non-Chinese specific factors, such as the cognitive benefits of learning a second language, the desire for a challenging academic experience, as well as the belief that learning a second language would make their child more multicultural. A closer look at the differences between parents of different ethnicities, income levels, and language backgrounds suggests that this Chinese immersion program serves different purposes to different subgroups of parents. It acts as a magnet to parents outside of the school boundaries who have a specific interest in the Chinese language. However, parents inside the school boundaries more frequently (p ≤ .05) cited non-Chinese specific factors, viewing immersion as providing a more rigorous academic experience and cognitive benefits that would transfer to other school subjects. Findings from this study can inform efforts to establish successful immersion programs around the country.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Teacher Education



Date Submitted


Document Type





immersion programs, parent attitudes, enrollment, Chinese