In today’s global society, the ability to speak more than one language is a valuable asset. Americans fluent in languages other than English enhance our economic competitiveness abroad, improve global communication, help to maintain our political and security interests, and promote tolerance and intercultural awareness. (Pratt, 2002; Sollors, 2002 in Working Together to Build a Multilingual Society: brochure prepared by the Center for Applied Linguistics). Bilingualism
Research has found a positive link between proficiency in more than one language and cognitive and academic skills (Armstrong & Rogers, 1997; Bialystock & Hakuta, 1994: Cummins, 1992; Hakuta, 1986). Some studies indicate that individuals who learn a second language are more creative and better at solving complex problems than those who do not (Bamford & Mizokawa, 1991; Cummins, 1992). • Standardized test results show that students who have focused on foreign language studies routinely achieve among the highest scores in all subjects tested (The SAT College Board, 2002).
Definition of the term: • The state of a linguistic community in which two languages are in contact with the result that two codes can be used in the same interaction (Hamers and Blanc, 2000) • The native-like control of two languages (Bloomfield, 1935) • The ability to use more than one language (Mackey, 1962) • The individual’s capacity to speak a second language while following the concepts and structures of that language rather than paraphrasing his or her mother tongue (Titone, 1972)
Other terms associated to bilingualism: • Submersion: the situation encountered by some children wherein they must make a home-school language switch, while others can already function in the school language (Cummins, 1986) • Immersion: situation in which children from the same linguistic and cultural background who have had no prior contact with the school language are put together in a classroom setting in which the second language is used as the medium of instruction (Cummins, 1986)
As given by The Washington Post: Total Immersion: For the first few years, preferably starting in kindergarten, students learn all subjects in the non-English language. They might have a small amount of additional English development as well. By about third grade, the program transitions, and students learn about half of their lessons in English and the other half in the partner language.
Partial Immersion: Starting from the first year, students cover about half of the curriculum in English and half in another language. As is the case with total immersion, lessons are not repeated in both languages, but material in a unit can be taught in either.
Two-Way Immersion: This typically describes the demographics of a class in which about half of the students are native English speakers and half are native speakers of the partner language. Two-way programs can be total or partial.
Characteristics of immersion education: • Additive bilingualism with sustained and enriched instruction through the minority language and the majority language is promoted • Subject area instruction through the minority language occurs for at least 50% of the school day during the elementary school years • Teachers are fully proficient in the language(s) they use for instruction • Support for the majority language is strong and present in the community at large • Clear and sustained separation of languages during instructional time (CARLA: The Center for Advanced Research In Language Acquisition)
What we do at East Elementary Our population: • English and Spanish native speakers. The language of instruction: Kindergarten: Spanish (90%), English (10%) 1st grade -5th grade: Spanish (50%), English (50%)
We follow the principles of immersion education to provide the same academic content that is provided in a regular English program. • In kindergarten, the subject area instruction is provided in Spanish by a proficient speaker of the language (a native speaker). The students receive 10 % of the instruction in English during their enhancements: music, PE, technology, among others. • In the grades 1st through 5th the instruction occurs in Spanish and English alternatively. 100% of the instruction is given in Spanish on a day A, and 100% of the instruction is given in English on a day B, by native speakers in both cases.
What are the most important things for parents or early childhood educators to know about early childhood bilingualism? There are number of important things to keep in mind: • Bilingual acquisition is a common and normal childhood experience • All children are capable of learning two languages in childhood • Knowing the language of one's parents is an important and essential component of children's cultural identity and sense of belonging • Bilingual acquisition is facilitated if children have sustained, rich, and varied experiences in both languages • Proficiency in both languages is more likely if children have sustained exposure in the home to the language that is used less extensively in the community; the language that is used more widely will get support outside the home • Parents can facilitate bilingual proficiency by using the language they know best and by using it in varied and extensive ways Genesee, 2001
Interesting facts: • The Spanish-speaking population is the fastest growing language group in the United States. In 2007, 45.5 million Latinos lived in this country, constituting 15.1% of the U.S. population (U.S. Census Bureau, 2008) CAL • Over 32 million people in the United States speak Spanish at home (Pew Hispanic Center, 2006; U.S. Census Bureau, 2005). Hispanics/Latinos accounted for 49% of the country’s growth from 2004 to 2005; 70% of that growth is in children younger than five (U.S. Census Bureau, 2005). In Los Angeles, nearly 40% of residents older than 5 speak Spanish at home. CAL
The number of Spanish language radio stations, television programs, and newspapers has grown significantly, with over 600 Spanish radio stations and 500 Spanish language newspapers. (CAL) • The Center for Applied Linguistics keeps a database of programs in the United States that includes 310 foreign language immersion programs in 263 schools across 33 states and 83 school districts.
In 2010, there were 50.5 million Hispanics in the United States, composing 16 percent of the total population. Between 2000 and 2010, the Hispanic population grew by 43 percent—rising from 35.3 million in 2000, when this group made up 13 percent of the total population. • The Hispanic population increased by 15.2 million between 2000 and 2010, accounting for over half of the 27.3 million increase in the total population of the United States.
“Nearly every sector of our increasingly global economy and culturally diverse workforce needs multilingual, cross-culturally aware workers.” Maria Carreira & Regla Armengol, Heritage Languages in America: Preserving a National Resource
Bibliography • http://www.cal.org/sns/ • http://www.carla.umn.edu/immersion/faqs.html • http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-02.pdf • Carreira, M., & Armengol, R. (2001). Professional opportunities for heritage language speakers in Working Together to Build a Multilingual Society-brochure by the Center for Applied Linguistics • Genesee, Fred. Bilingual Acquisition (2001) http://www.earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychildhood/article_view.aspx?ArticleID=38 • Hamers, Josiane F. & Blanc, Michel H. A. Bilinguality and Bilingualism (2000) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. • Pratt, M.L. (2002). What’s foreign and what’s familiar? in Working Together to Build a Multilingual Society-brochure by the Center for Applied Linguistics.