Bilingual Education

By Leslie Melgar

What is Bilingual Education?

Bilingual Education consists of teaching non-English speaking children in their native tongue as they learn the English language. This form of teaching is most commonly seen in schools for the Spanish and English languages.

Why Bilingual Education?

Opinions are often divided on the importance and need for Bilingual Education in schools. Many schools have a greater need for the implementation of this teaching practice due to their diversity.

Bilingual education gives children with very little English speaking background an opportunity to transition into the English language without sacrificing their academic success. Many of the children enrolled in Bilingual Education classrooms come from households where English is not spoken. This makes it difficult not only for their parents to communicate with them and assist them in their assignments but also for them to practice the English language material they learn at school. A traditional English only education would put these children at an automatic disadvantage. They would not only have to learn the subject matter but a different language as well. Their performance in non language focused areas such as science and mathematics would suffer as they would not understand the directions. The teachers who would not be trained in bilingual teaching practices or understand the native language of the students would find themselves struggling to help the student succeed and finding they lack the resources. Bilingual Education is an opportunity for these students and their teachers to see progress and growth throughout the school year of not only the English language but also of the subject matter being covered.

Journal Entry:

My teacher spoke to the class and everyone stood and lined up against the wall. I don't know what she asked us to do but I followed the other children. The teacher would call out instructions and the children would run across the room pick up a piece if paper with a word on it and put it in a box. All of the children were laughing and having fun and I was too until it was my turn. I felt very nervous as the teacher called my name. I did not know what word she wanted me to pick up or which of the boxes to put it in. I picked one up and she shook her head and i picked up a different one. I put the word in a box and she shook her head again and said no and then said something else. I chose a different box. This time she looked worried. She shook her head no and gave me another turn. It was quiet and I got it wrong again she signaled for me to go back to the line and I did. The other kids kept playing and having fun. I did not think this game was very fun. I hope the teacher isn't upset with me.

Analysis

The journal entry demonstrates how a fun vocabulary game can become something more complex for a non-English speaker. The game is not about the material anymore, it becomes a game about social cues. The student may learn the rules of the game with time but the actual material the student is supposed to be learning is put on hold due to the social learning process. This slows the students entire learning process and by default puts them behind other students. In a Bilingual Education classroom these students have a similar starting point to the other students in their classroom. They learn at a similar pace and begin with their native language so as to become familiar with the academic curriculum and classroom procedure first. Parents and teachers also have a stronger communication if the teacher is bilingual. The teacher facilitates parent involvement in the students' homework and study of the English Language. Bilingual Education is a great transitional and learning experience for non-English speakers. It puts the focus on the academic curriculum and gradually introduces them to the English language when they are equipped to study it.