Posts Tagged host language

Contradictions

What’s really interesting in development (or not) of bilingualism in the U.S. is who should be educated in dual language programs, what purpose they serve, and when should they begin/end. A number of studies demonstrate that children in dual language programs do well in these programs, they don’t fall behind children who are placed in immersion programs, and they even show some advantages on some testing. An added benefit I’ve read about (but, I don’t have data at hand) is that students who were ELLs are less likely to drop out of school if they attended a dual-language program. That’s a great benefit to our society as a whole.

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English as an L2 in U.S. Schools

There’s a very nice opinion piece in the NY Times on how to teach children who don’t speak English as a first language. Various perspectives are represented and these are based on available data. While I found the different viewpoint interesting and fact-based, the comments were less so. Comments for the most part were based on people’s own experiences and arm-chair analysis. Not that ones own experiences don’t count. But, an experience is only an n of one. We need facts and careful study based on larger numbers in order to develop policy and guidelines. For children in the process of learning a second language there are a number of factors that impact school success so that a one-size-fits all is probably not feasible. So, what is it we do know?

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How proficient is proficient enough?

The Des Moines Register had an article yesterday about a high school senior who refused to take the English language fluency test required for students who learned English as a second language. Her argument was that she was fluent in English and that this was evidenced by the fact that she has nearly a straight A average in courses that are taught exclusively in English. Her parents are immigrants from Laos but she was born in the U.S. While she learned Lao at home, she has likely been exposed to English her entire school career.

So, how long do you need, and when can yearly proficiency testing stop?

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Can my child become bilingual?

Yes, of course your child can become bilingual. Everyday demand or need to use different languages usually will push children toward bilingualism. That’s the easy answer.  The more complicated answer has to do with how to create an environment at home in which children CAN become bilingual.

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