Posts Tagged dual language

Planning for between-language transfer

I don’t think that transfer (between languages) just happens. I think you have to plan for it. So, what kind of things transfer? How can we use what we know about language transfer to maximize transfer between two languages? Last time I talked a little about a study we had recently published in Seminars in Speech and Language s (I encourage you to read the whole issue btw, it’s a very nice set of papers). We saw improvement in both languages in semantics and narratives. Some kids demonstrated gains in morphosyntax but others did not. Read the rest of this entry »

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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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Unfortunately, Lots of People Pay Attention to Ignorant Comments

I was getting ready to close up my computer for the night, but this letter to the editor  in my personalized google news page caught my eye. This was published in the Boston Globe. The writer rants about having to hear announcements in two languages and asserts that dual language holds back Spanish speakers (I do wonder if they specifically meant Spanish speakers or any speaker of another language). But, we know that knowing two languages does not in fact hold people back. I’ve written about this issue before here, here, and here. Some researchers have noted advantages of bilingualism with respect to cognitive control. We need to deal with facts and findings and not simply with unsupported opinion when dealing with bilingualism. But, it doesn’t always turn out that way. Just had to rant a bit.

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