Overview of Bilingual Education
Is a second language a necessity in our world today? Should parents push for their child to learn two languages in elementary school? If we live in multicultural neighborhoods, trade with the global marketplace, and want to use all technology resources available, it is necessary to know two languages. Multilingual people and communities seem to have an edge over monolingual competition. This provides people of all ages an incentive to learn a second language (Genesee, 1998). In this research paper English and Spanish will be the languages referred to for bilingual education, although others are offered. The purpose of this paper is to compare the benefits and pitfalls of language immersion programs to the traditional classroom setting and the outcomes they produce.
Bilingual education originating in Canada
Language immersion programs now offered in the United States originated in Canada; they wanted English-speaking citizens to know French. Canadians realized English-speaking students were not acquiring enough French to attain satisfactory grades in school and to find jobs in French speaking parts of Canada. Around 1975 Canada’s first French immersion programs arose, and by the 1980’s such programs began in the United States (Martineau, 2002). Canadian programs are now facing problems with increased amounts of children with backgrounds other than English, which means they need to develop more specialty programs. Language immersion programs have grown in popularity since developing thirty years ago in Canada, but in the past 25 years they have increased rapidly in the United States. This development is due mainly to the melting pot effect in the United States; people from many different backgrounds are moving to the U.S. and desperately wanting to learn English (Walker, 2000).
Bilingual Education Program in Western Australia
“It’s good to be bilingual. It’s a plus. Learning the first language at the same time as learning English is having a positive effect on both languages. At home the parents feel that they can communicate with their children,” (p. 664) says a Khmer-speaking teacher in Australia (Barrot-Pugh & Rohl, 2001). Khmer is spoken in all Australian homes and is practically required for children to learn. This program is not only for increasing cognitive skills, but also for students to communicate fully in their community and within their families. One in every four children in Australia speaks a language other than English. Australian children are encouraged and greatly supported by the community to learn a second language, which is why these numbers are so high. If the United States had the same motivation for their children, it would produce many more bilingual children. All children in the Khmer-English program show parallel development in the two languages. Many kids accomplish this by using information from one language to assist the development of the other...