Bilingual Education: Building Bridges Essay

2151 words - 9 pages

Bilingual education, as an educational program, was initially promoted by educators in the seventies (Hunger of Memory 26) and since then has been a topic of many debates in America. Some argue that bilingual education only serves as a detriment to American culture. Others argue that bilingual education is beneficial to those who come to live in America and want to become a part of the culture, but lack proficiency in the English language. Two authors, who have each taken opposite sides of the debate on bilingual education in America, are: Richard Rodriguez and Ariel Dorfman. Richard Rodriguez believes that bilingual education creates a feeling of separateness between foreign language speakers and American society; therefore, bilingual education delays the formation of a public identity. In contrast, Ariel Dorfman argues that bilingualism in America will be a bridge to better understanding other cultures. I assume the position of being neither, against or entirely in favor of bilingual education. I am in favor of bilingual education because it can be an effective segue to learning the English language and I believe it is very important to remain connected with our family’s language and culture. However, I also recognize the negative feeling of separateness from the larger public that bilingual education can have on foreign language speaking families, which hinders my ability to fully embrace bilingual education.

Ariel Dorfman is an Argentinian author who struggled throughout his life to find a balance between the Spanish and English languages. As a result of Dorfman’s “bilingual journey” (Heading South 25), he argues that bilingual education is beneficial to American society. Dorfman believes that bilingualism will serve as a channel to better understanding the multitude of cultures that are present in America. Dorfman, in his essay “If Only We All Spoke Two Languages”, states, “The bilingual method, in spite of what its detractors claim, does not imprison a child in his or her original language. Rather, it keeps it alive in order to build bridges to English.” (1). One language does not have to be sacrificed in order to acquire a new language. Both languages (original and new) can be seen as complimentary and not as substitutes for one another, therefore creating a stronger bond between languages. Also arguing against the immersion method, which Richard Rodriguez is in favor of, Dorfman states that, “The immersion method…wants youngsters to cut their ties to the syllables of their past culture. Both methods can work. I should know. I have endured them both. But my experience was unquestionably better with bilingual education.” (“If Only” 1). Recognizing the importance of remaining connected with one’s culture, the immersion method seems rather futile as a method of education for foreign language speaking children, as it results in the removal of their original culture. Ariel Dorfman makes a strong case for Americans to accept bilingual...

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