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Educational Models that Promote Additive Bilingualism

Bilingual education has the potential of being a transformative school practice, able to educate all children in ways that stimulate and expand their intellect and imagination, as they gain ways of expression and access different ways of being in the world.

—Ofelia Garda (2009: 12)


In this chapter, I describe program options for educating children in more than one language. Aside from learning another language through informal interaction in the family and community, children can significantly expand their bilingual capacities by being schooled in two or more languages. This chapter is about the institutional practices that facilitate the acquisition of two or more languages. To most people, bilingual education simply means teaching students in two languages. In reality, there is a wide range of program options with various goals, target students, and amount of time spent in instruction in each language (Baker, 2006; Cummins, 1996; Garda & Baker, 2007; Hornberger, 1991). Programs may also differ in terms of teaching methodologies and how the two languages are perceived in the wider community. What often makes conversations about bilingual education confusing is that the same terms can be used to describe programs with very different goals and outcomes.

Take for example the term immersion, which can have different outcomes for different populations. People who have lived in other countries often attest to the usefulness of being immersed in another language. An American college student who had spent a year abroad in Mexico once told me that living with a Mexican family with whom she spoke in Spanish all the time was far more effective than taking four years of high school Spanish. She was certain that the best way to learn a second language was through total immersion. This sentiment is echoed in public opinions about Canadian French immersion programs, which for several decades have produced functional bilinguals in French and English. Canadian students in French immersion programs learn to speak, read, and write both French and English while making good academic progress (more on Canadian French immersion programs later in this chapter). Their success is often cited by English-only advocates in the U.S. for placing immigrant students in Structured English Immersion (SEI). “If Canadian students who are immersed in French learn French well,” they argue, “then immigrant children should be immersed in English to learn English well.”

However, there are crucial differences between students in French immersion programs and immigrant children in American schools. Students in French immersion programs are mostly English-speaking Canadians from middle-class backgrounds who are taught through the medium of French. Canadian parents who enroll their children in these programs do so because they believe that having proficiency in Canada’s two official languages will be beneficial for their children. What makes these programs a positive experience for students is that children who enter the program in kindergarten are often allowed to use their home language for up to one and a half years for classroom communication, and there is no pressure to speak the school language in the playground or cafeteria (Baker, 2006). The child’s home language is valued and not looked down upon.

In contrast, ELs in American schools are by definition native speakers of minority languages. When they enter American schools, many are placed in SEI, whose primary goal is to teach students English. With little or no support provided in the students’ native languages, the effective outcome of such program is submersion, or, sink or swim in English (Baker 2006: 216-217; see also Chapter 7). Home languages are seen to have no place in the school curriculum and many students lose them in the process of learning English.

In classifying bilingual education programs, it is useful to refer to Cummins’s (1996) distinction between the means and the goals of a particular program. When defined in terms of the means, bilingual education simply refers to the use of two (or more) languages to varying degrees in instructional contexts. Proficiency in two languages is not necessarily a desired outcome. For example, transitional (or early-exit) bilingual education programs provide native language instruction to immigrant students only as a temporary bridge to learning English (see Table 1.2, p. 18). Snow & Hakuta (1992: 390) comment that the effect of transitional bilingual education programs in the U.S. is mono- lingualism in English: “What it fosters is monolingualism; bilingual classrooms are efficient revolving doors between home-language monolingualism and English monolingualism.” Transitional bilingual education is an example of a weak form of bilingual education and often results in subtractive bilingualism, where students’ native languages are replaced with the majority language (Baker, 2006, 2007).

When defined in terms of goals, bilingual education may actually be delivered in only one language for a period of time. For instance, immigrant students may be taught almost exclusively in their native language, say from kindergarten to grade 1 or 2, so that they can learn to read and write in the language they already speak. This is done to help students establish a strong foundation in the minority language, which is weaker and lower in status than the majority language. After the initial grades, these programs maintain close to 50% of instruction in the minority language throughout elementary school. These programs promote additive bilingualism, where a second language is acquired with the expectation that the mother tongue will continue to be learned and used (Baker, 2007). Developmental (or late-exit) bilingual education in the U.S. (see Table 1.2, p. 18) is an example of such a strong form of bilingual education (Baker, 2006). Research overwhelmingly supports strong forms of bilingual education in developing bilingual skills.

There are mainly two types of strong forms of bilingual education: (1) enrichment bilingual education, and (2) maintenance bilingual education (Hornberger, 1991). The main difference between enrichment and maintenance programs is the first language of the students in the program. Enrichment models are most often associated with relatively privileged majority language speakers learning through a second, third, or even a fourth language. I will describe two such programs in this chapter: Canadian French immersion and the European Schools. Maintenance models, on the other hand, are most often associated with minority language speakers who have varying degrees of proficiency in their native language and wish to maintain it while learning a second language. I will discuss two such programs: Indigenous language immersion and Developmental bilingual education. I will then describe two-way (dual) immersion, which incorporates elements from both enrichment and maintenance programs. In two-way immersion, language majority and language minority children help each other in learning both languages in the same classroom. Both groups of students become proficient in the other group’s language while making good progress in academic subjects.

One of the biggest challenges facing bilingual education is the public’s lack of interest in such programs. Despite well-documented effectiveness, education in two or more languages is actually taken up by only a small portion of the population in the U.S. (Crawford, 2004). Even in officially bilingual Canada, only about 7% of the eligible students participated in French immersion programs in 2002 (Canadian Council on Learning, 2007). But as Ofelia

Garda (2009) argues in her book, Bilingual education in the 21st century: A global perspective, modern societies cannot afford to educate students in only one language. She contends that bilingual education is the right choice for everyone, and that it is the most appropriate form of education for preparing children to live and succeed in a globalized world. In line with Garda’s arguments, this chapter attempts to stimulate conversations about the role of bilingual education in expanding the language capacities of individuals and societies.

I first turn to Canadian French immersion programs.

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