Why do people react so negatively to the idea of dual-language programs?

In Austin, the school district is looking to start a dual-language program. If you read the comments in reaction to this you see a lot of mixed reactions. It seems that many people don’t (or don’t want to) understand the purpose of dual-language education. Or is it that they’re afraid of people who speak other languages?

What I find so surprising is that people would be threatened by the idea of using state and federal money to educate children in two languages (English and another language). The negative comments seem to indicate that some people believe that teaching in two languages will cause children to not learn English. But, that is simply not true. People all over the world speak two languages. English is a very common language all over the world. I don’t think there is any way that the language is threatened.

Dual-language programs do work. Children can and will become bilingual given input and opportunity to use the two languages. Knowing two languages can be a benefit educationally. Culturally, knowing more than one language can help you connect with people from other backgrounds and cultures. I think that knowing two languages can help children understand that there can be other ways of constructing words and sentences. Even one’s vocabulary can be enhanced by learning vocabulary in another language and translating to your own.

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  1. #1 by Ana Lilian on December 28, 2009 - 11:49 pm

    There are so many examples around the world to prove that a dual language education is effective. Even as close as our Canadian neighbors who have been using this model for over 30 years, with much success.
    I can´t help but feel that the controversy and the negativity is based on fear and misinformation.
    I´m glad there´s a growing community of us who are actively promoting the benefits of a bilingual upbringing. Such a gift!

  2. #2 by locavorismo on December 29, 2009 - 1:17 am

    You know, I remember hostility towards bilingual education from living in Austin years ago – not that it’s limited to Austin.

    I think that the size of this country, and the landlocked nature of so many of our states, supports avoidance of other cultures. Unless someone lives in a big city, the pressure (and often the opportunity) just isn’t there to be multilingual.

    Plus, there is a fear-factor for adults in new languages. We’re used to knowing what’s “right,” and it’s off-putting to suddenly have to search for words and improvise your way through a conversation that you could have slept through in English.

    Kids don’t have that problem so much though, and multilingual exposure early on benefits them for their whole life.

  3. #3 by Nidhi Mahendra on January 9, 2010 - 8:18 am

    I agree completely with you. And to the list of people who react negatively to dual-language programs, I am often surprised in class, when students have strong convictions about this from the get-go without knowing the data or having been out there. It is always a humble reminder to me about just how much effort we need to make as instructors and researchers to continue to educate our students and other speech language pathologists. A student who recently graduated and went to work in a school district talked with me extensively about the misalignment between what we (okay I) teach in class as best practices to support dual language learners and actual practices of clinical supervisors, teachers, fellow SLPs. In California, of course, students often ask why did Prop 227 (English for Children Act) get passed if English-only instruction is such a bad idea? Another reminder of how wonderful research dramatically changes the way scholars think about something, yet taking this research out to students, practitioners, political powers-that-be, and consumers is a lifelong endeavor.

  4. #4 by Reyes Trevino on November 25, 2014 - 7:20 am

    It is not a matter of which is better, dual language or English only, it is a matter of what the parents want for their children. With this being said parent rights should be respected instead of trying to sell a program to parents. School administrators badger parents into the dual language with one thing in mind and that is money. The dual language program is not a one size fits all program one has to consider the children’s educational needs instead of trying to force a program unto people.

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