Monday, December 7, 2009

Bilingual Education in the United States

What do we know about bilingual education?

There are two different approaches to bilingual education.

Subtractive Bilingualism: This approach is when the target language is taught to the detriment of the first language development or maintenance.

Additive Bilingualism: In this approach, the first and second languages are given equal status in development and maintenance.

In the United States, the subtractive approach gives preference to English over other languages, whereas in the International communities, the additive approach prevails since language diversity is considered to be a way of economic development and prosperity.

Let’s take a look at what this means…

Studies have shown that students who are instructed in their first language can later transfer the same knowledge to their secondary language. In fact, a study investigating the English proficiency skills between 534 English immersion students and bilingual transition students in Texas showed that bilingual students had only a slightly lower growth rate of 8.1% compared to their English immersion peers of 8.9% at the same grade levels (Tong et. al., 2008).

Cognitive benefits: Raised creativity, speed, and flexibility in thinking

Social benefits: Improved ability to access different languages and cultures in multiple situations

Employment benefits: Increased job choices in advanced fields

Cultural advantages: Enhanced access and awareness to cultural knowledge and increased tolerance for different beliefs and customs

True bilingualism gives equal weight in developing language to both languages, and provides a number of benefits in the quality of life, work, and cultural diversity.

Interesting links:

For Bilingual Education

National Association for Bilingual Education

Rethink Schools Online

California Association For Bilingual Education

Against Bilingual Education

Teach Our Children English

The Case Against Bilingual Education

What it all means…

Bilingualism and biculturalism does not lead to the identity loss. Appropriate support from educational institutions and family members is necessary to maintain and foster dual language and cultural heritage.