Bilingualism And Dual Language Instruction Immersion Schools English Language Essay


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According to the definition in David Crystal's Linguistic Dictionary, bilingual/ism is "A person who can speak two languages" (Crystal 42). He goes on to say that "…definitions of bilingualism reflect assumptions about the degree of proficiency people must achieve before they qualify as bilingual" (Crystal 42). There are many distinctions of bilingualism relative to who is doing the distinction. As one delves into the subject quite a few questions arise. How does the speaker view the two languages he/she speaks? Are they equivalent or not in his eyes? Other questions have to do with the learning of the languages. Were both languages acquired simultaneously during the formative years or was L2 acquired through formal education? There are also several concerns with this whole issue of bilingualism which involve the socio-economic status of each language in question. If one of the languages has more power than the other, the first language (or even dialect) might be replaced by the language of power. This sometimes happens in the case of indigenous, minority dialects where the power language eventually takes over. Another situation might be, as in the case of English speaking Canadians, where the acquisition of a second language (in this case French) does not really pose a threat to the original language since it is acquired for business or social reasons and both languages have equal status (Crystal 42).

Warhaugh states that in many parts of the world, where more than one language is necessary, individuals acquire these languages "naturally and unselfconsciously, and the shifts from one to the other are made without hesitation" (Wardhaugh 93). Sridhar seems to disagree that totally, equivalent multilingualism can exist since he has stated "multilingualism involving balanced, nativelike command of all the languages in the repertoire is rather uncommon" (Sridhar 50).

One can very easily see the many concerns that might arise with the issue of bilingualism, especially in the planning of bilingual education sponsored by a government. In the article by Nero we learn about the effects of globalization of the English language and how the ripples affect individuals who after having grown up with Caribbean Creole English and are ready to go on to university studies are faced with an unwelcome surprise. Far too many times these students are placed in ESL classes since their language appears substandard. The students are extremely surprised to learn that their English is not considered Standard English and yet that is the only English they know. "The question of who should be considered a native speaker (NS) presents a problem for English language teachers who must make important decisions about placement, assessment and instruction of immigrant students" (Nero 484). In the academic world of linguistics it is generally understood that there are quite a few varieties of English spoken worldwide, but the speakers of said varieties may very well assume that they are speaking English and should therefore be understood by other speakers of English. As I was reading on this subject I found the term native speaker used in various employment applications, surveys and questionnaires to ascertain the fluency of a language spoken by an individual. The question still remains as to who may be considered a native speaker.

I thought Kachru's study on World Englishes (note the use of plural) was quite apropos and I tend to agree with his suggestion that the native speakers of English are those that belong to the "inner circle" (Kachru 356). One may find in these countries the "cultural and linguistic bases of English" (Kachru 356). This author puts forth the premise that English usage in the world may well be viewed as three circles of domain. The Inner Circle, where most of the English native speakers may be found, is made up of USA, UK, Canada, and in lesser degree Australia and New Zealand. The Outer Circle represents NNS (Non-native speakers). Most of these countries have undergone decades and more of colonization. Among this group I will name the four greatest in terms of English usage: India, Nigeria, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The last group is in the Expanding Circle where English usage is restricted and lacks official status. Some of the countries represented in this group are China, USSR (at the time of this writing), Indonesia, Japan etc. (Kachru 356-357). I would point out that Kachru uses the term "users" instead of "speakers" to encompass the usage of all the many varieties of English (357).

In the USA, with the influx of immigrants and their ensuing progeny, the need to include bilingual education in the public school system seems to be an at all time high. Nevertheless, there seems to be some controversy about bilingual education in the USA. In this paper I will only address the issue of English/Spanish bilingual education since it seems to be at the crux of the research in this country and in the educational policies being put forth. Through the years, as Spanish becomes widespread throughout the nation, bilingual education policies have been made, implemented, discarded and remade trying to find the correct and most practical pattern. The linguistically diverse student population is still in need of bilingual education, and educators and school administrators have come up with many programs, but the proper implementation is still unclear.

In an article by Rebecca Freeman one can see how a middle school in the Philadelphia ISD has developed a dual-language program too addrerss the needs of their predominantly Puerto Rican population (Freeman 202).

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