Key issues in bilingualism and bilingual education

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Bilingual education is common throughout the world and involves hundreds of languages. In the United States bilingualism is assumed to mean English and another language, often Spanish. More than languages are spoken in the United States. In New York City schools, classroom instruction is given in different languages. Bilingual education includes all teaching methods that are designed to meet the needs of English-language learners ELLs , also referred to as "limited English proficient" LEP students.

There are numerous approaches to bilingual education, although all include English as a second language ESL. ESL is English language instruction that includes little or no use of a child's native language. ESL classes often include students with many different primary languages. Some school districts use a variety of approaches to bilingual education, designing individual programs based on the needs of each child.

A common approach is transitional bilingual education TBE. TBE programs include ESL; however, some or all academic classes are conducted in children's primary languages until they are well-prepared for English-only classes. Even children who converse well in English may not be ready to learn academic subjects in English.

Often these children spend part of the school day in an intensive ESL program and the remainder of the day receiving instruction in their primary language. Bilingual teachers may help students improve their primary language skills. Studies have shown that children who receive several years of instruction in their native language learn English faster and have higher overall academic achievement levels that those who do not.

Two-way bilingual or dual-language programs use both English and a second language in classrooms made up of both ELLs and native English speakers. The goal is for both groups to become bilingual. Children in twoway bilingual education programs have been found to outperform their peers academically. Many educators—and a segment of the public—believe in the English immersion approach, even if ELLs do not understand very much in the classroom.

In this approach nearly all instruction is in English, and there is little or no use of other languages. If the teacher is bilingual, students may be allowed to ask questions in their native language, but the teacher answers them in English. Some schools employ structured English immersion or sheltered English, in which teachers use pictures, simple reading words, and other techniques to teach ELLs both English and academic subjects. This legislation led to the development of appropriate teaching and learning materials and training for teachers of bilingual students. In the U. Supreme Court ruled that the San Francisco school system had violated the Civil Rights Act of by not providing English-language instruction for Chinese-speaking students.

10 Issues that Fuel the Bilingual Education Debate

All school districts were directed to serve ELLs adequately, and bilingual education quickly spread throughout the United States. In the s a group called Asian Americans United filed a class-action lawsuit charging that Asian Americans were not being provided with an equitable education because they were not offered bilingual classes. Bush's major education initiative—reauthorized the ESEA. It also imposed penalties on schools that did not raise the achievement levels of ELLs for at least two consecutive years.

Although most research indicates that it often takes seven years for ELLs to attain full English fluency, the new federal law allows these children only three years before they must take standardized tests in English. Schools with large numbers of children speaking many different languages are particularly disadvantaged under the law.

A survey by the National Education Association found that 22, schools in 44 states failed to make the required yearly progress on standardized tests, primarily because of low test scores by ELLs and disabled students. Some communities have developed early-intervention programs for Spanish-speaking parents and preschoolers to help children develop their Spanish language skills in preparation for entering English-only schools.

In May of , the U. As of American public schools include about 11 million children of immigrants. Approximately 5. Spanish speakers account for 80 percent of these children. About one-third of children enrolled in urban schools speak a primary language other than English in their homes.

Between and , 19 states reported increases of 50 to percent in Spanish-speaking students. ELLs are the fastest-growing public school population in kindergarten through twelfth grade. Between and , nationwide ELL enrollment increased 27 percent. About 25 percent of California public school children are ELLs. Although 41 percent of U. The majority of these teachers report that they are not well-prepared for teaching ELLs.

About 75 percent of ELLs are in poverty schools, where student turnover is high and many teachers have only emergency credentials. In voters in Dade County, Florida, made English their official language. In California Senator S. Hayakawa introduced a constitutional amendment to make English the country's official language. In Hayakawa founded U. English, Inc. English argues the following premises:. In California voters passed Proposition 63 that made English the state's official language.

Other states did the same. In California voters passed Proposition 63 that made English the state's official language. Other states did the same. In Californians passed Proposition , a referendum that attempted to eliminate bilingual education by allowing only one year of structured English immersion, followed by mainstreaming. Similar initiatives have appeared on other state ballots. However, only 9 percent of the California children attained English proficiency in one year, and most remained in the immersion programs for a second year. Prior to the new law only 29 percent of California ELLs were in bilingual programs, in part because of a shortage of qualified teachers.

Key Issues in Bilingualism and Bilingual Education by Baker -ExLibrary | eBay

Since the law allowed parents to apply for waivers, 12 percent of the ELLs were allowed to remain in bilingual classes. In January of , as part of a lawsuit settlement, the California State Board of Education was forced to radically revise the implementation of their "Reading First" program. Language and learning difficulties occur with the same frequency in monolingual and bilingual children. However, as the number of bilingual children in the United States increases, it becomes increasingly important for parents and pediatricians to understand the normal patterns of bilingual language development in order to recognize abnormal language development in a bilingual child.

If a bilingual child has a speech or language problem, it should be apparent in both languages. However detecting language delays or abnormalities in bilingual children can be difficult. Signs of possible language delay in bilingual children include the following:. ELLs in English-only programs often fall behind academically. Many ELLs who are assessed using traditional methods are referred for special education. Such children often become school drop-outs.

Parents in bilingual households can help their children by taking the following steps:.

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English as a second language ESL —English language instruction for English language learners ELLs that includes little or no use of a child's native language; a component of all bilingual education programs. Immersion —A language education approach in which English is the only language used.

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Metalinguistic skills —The ability to analyze language and control internal language processing; important for reading development in children. Bush's major education initiative.

Sequential bilingualism —Acquiring first one language and then a second language before the age of three. Sheltered English —Structured English immersion; English instruction for ELLs that focuses on content and skills rather than the language itself; uses simplified language, visual aids, physical activity, and the physical environment to teach academic subjects.

Simultaneous bilingualism —Acquiring two languages simultaneously before the age of three. Structured English immersion —Sheltered English; English-only instruction for ELLs that uses simplified language, visual aids, physical activity, and the physical environment to teach academic subjects.

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Transitional bilingual education TBE —Bilingual education that includes ESL and academic classes conducted in a child's primary language. Two-way bilingual education —Dual language programs in which English and a second language are both used in classes consisting of ELLs and native-English speakers.

See also Language development. Bhatia, Tej K. Ritchie, eds.