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Bilingual Educatio

In: English and Literature

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Bilingual language is beneficial for the child’s first language and English development
“Language constitutes us, it gives us meaning and allows us to make meaning, and it develops and abolishes spaces.” (Benjamin, 2002). Critiques of bilingual education continually claim that children can only learn one language at a time after which they are taught a second language (Krashen, 2000). They assert that bilingual education cause confusion among children and limit their intelligence capabilities; they argue that real bilinguals cannot combine their language. Advocates of bilingual education present arguments on its benefits, they suggest that, for many children the process of being literate and studying a new language simultaneously is overwhelming and that the bilingual process assist them to develop their native language first which results to a smooth transition to English.
The main aim of the bilingual program was to promote the prominent language to issue instructions and at the same time enhance the development of the second language. Some define it in aspects of its capability to enhance cognitive and effective development while others view that it should focus on cultural enrichment and linguistic development. However, in some bilingual programs, instructions are issued through the use of the second language especially in cases where the first language erodes over time. (Baez, 2002) As the child proficiency in English increases he or she loses grasp of the native language, this is a form of subtractive bilingual system. Factors that influence subtractive bilingualism include; failure to value home language, early exposure to English speaking environments and loss of interest in speaking native language. Proponents suggest that, focus should be on a bilingual model that additive rather than subtractive.
The bilingual education is categorized into two; dual bilingualism and immersion bilingualism. Immersion bilingual education system is developed to add another language to the first language. Immersion simply means that the children learn everything in English. It enriches a child’s language proficiency by using the second language as a means of communication (Baker, 2006). Instructors who use the immersion program are conversant with delivering instructions in simple and easy to understand language which allows the children to grasp English while experiencing learning opportunities in early childhood education.
This model promotes a child’s understanding of rules and regulations which eventually leads to non-use of the first language. Continuous use of this language makes children forget the first language as they can read and write using the second language, (Baez, 2002). Critiques of the immersion model argue that it does not contribute to the development of the second language (English). Cognitive and linguistic skills are not transferred from the native language to the second language thus the immersion model does not support the development of the first language. Children are exposed to erosion of cultural and national identities; they also lose confidence in the grasp of native language. This contributes to lack of conceptual development and language proficiency which can now not be used in learning the second language.
Dual language bilingual education model refers to a system where children are exposed equally to the first and second language. It enhances the development of the native language as well as promoting proficiency in English. This model generally begins in kindergarten, where kids are aged between 5-7 years old. It is aimed at ensuring children are able to speak fluently in the first and second language and also read and write in both languages. In this model, children are able to transfer cognitive and linguistic skills from the native language to the second language (Krashen, 2000). Literacy developed in the first language transfers easily to the second language because children learn to read through reading and making sense of what they read, it becomes easier for them to read in a language they understand, once they read in a particular language they can read in general (Smith, 1994).
The use of the first language helps in a big way to develop the second language. When the native language is used to teach and give instructions to children, they gain knowledge and are able to hear, read and write. A child, who has the understanding of a subject in her or his primary language, will understand the subject even better when English is used than a child who has knowledge in English only. Dual bilingual education helps children maintain their native language. The child’s first language is crucial as it helps the child value his or her culture, a positive contributor to self-expression. Children are able to maintain link with family and community members, this prepares them for interaction with distance relatives with their native language. Dual bilingual helps children to develop their native language.
Children accrue benefits through bilingualism; advantages of bilingual education include;
Cognitive advantages, bilingualism is an important factor of cognitive development (Peal and Lambert, 1962), “bilingual children are more responsive at concept formation and posses great mental flexibility.” Research has shown that children with bilingual education have cognitive advantages. The children that had knowledge in the first and second language had greater linguistic awareness and flexibility. Exposure to the two languages enabled children to express a particular thought in different languages (Vygotsky, 1962). Early bilingual experiences have shown to influence early literacy development.
Metalinguistic awareness, this is the capability to express language as an object of thought. It describes a form of word awareness, awareness of pronunciation and word order. Bilinguals respond to meaning and are able to recognize and appreciate the nature of meaning. Bilingual education enables children to understand the structure of language resulting to positive academic achievement.
Ability to learn multiple languages, bilinguals show improved ability to understand a third language known as language apprenticeship. Divergent thinking, bilingual children have different ways of describing the world and thus have flexible perception and interpretations. This is also referred to as creative thinking.
Social advantages, they include; maximum global and local interactions, cultural awareness and socio-economic benefits. Bilingualism can be conceptualized as a form of capital. English proficiency has higher earnings than French speakers. The benefits of proficiency in English are known throughout the world e.g. in German-speaking, Switzerland English speakers earn more than English non-speakers while in French-speaking Switzerland, German speakers earn more than English speakers. Individuals who are fluent in English and another language have better employment opportunities in their country and overseas.
Cultural awareness, children who are bilingual are able to understand the origin of their culture. Knowledge of one’s language history, tradition and institutions creates cultural competences. They can connect with their people in different aspects because they have an identity. Identity developed through engagement in various societal networks gives children the potential of developing broadly because they draw from many perspectives. A child’s identity constitutes one’s gender, ethnic group, race, nationality, tribe and social class. If one lacks bilingual ability some of the identities may not be constructed.
Dual bilingual education model is more effective than immersion system. Knowledge attained through learning of first language help in a big way in the development of English as a second language. (Krashen, 1996) concludes that when the bilingual system has; subject matter teaching in the native language, literacy development in the primary language and comprehensive input from the second language (English) they succeed very well. Reference
Baez, B. (2002), Learning to forget, reflections of identity and language.
Baker, C. (2006), Foundations of bilingualism and bilingual education.
Krashen, S. (1996), under attack: Case against bilingual education.
Krashen S. (2000), Bilingual education, acquisition of English and the retention and loss of Spanish.
Smith F, (1994), Understanding reading. Fifth edition.
Wong-Fillmore, L. (1991), when learning a second language means losing the first- Early Childhood Research Quarterly.

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