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Topic: Bilingual Education
Message: Posted by: Magnus Eisengrim (Jun 26, 2009 04:03PM)
Is this a big deal for you or your community?

In my city, the public school system offers French Immersion (all instruction in French) or bilingual education (1/2 English and 1/2 target language) in 7 languages--Arabic, Hebrew, German, Spanish, Ukrainian, Mandarin or ASL. They're popular, but of course English-only is still the most popular.

Anybody have experiences with bilingual education? Opinions one way or the other?

John
Message: Posted by: MagicSanta (Jun 26, 2009 04:17PM)
There has always been second language classes offered here and in some states taking second language classes are required to get into college.
Message: Posted by: Magnus Eisengrim (Jun 26, 2009 04:47PM)
I'm referring to something more robust than second language instruction, where the second language is simply another course to be taken.

In a true bilingual setting, the students will study some of their academic subjects--say, math and science--in the second language. They don't end up speaking like natives, but they do acquire an awful lot of the language this way.

John (who didn't benefit from bilingual education, so his French is still pretty weak)
Message: Posted by: MagicSanta (Jun 26, 2009 04:55PM)
There are schools in the bay area where the entire thing is in another language, even dead ones like French. In the bay area they have classes taught in Spanish, Chinese, and Vietmanese but I don't know if non native speakers take them.

I knew a lovely Dutch woman who moved to San Francisco with her daughter who was five at the time. When registering for kindergarten the paper asked if the childs first language was English, it wasn't so the mom checked 'no', the child spoke flawless English by the way. I have a meeting with the mom and she asked me what the language in the US was, I told her there wasn't an official one but it is English. She was confused because the school had put the daughter into a Spanish speaking class! The poor kid sat there confused because they didn't speak Dutch or English....the mom got her moved to another class. My old neighbor was Mexican and she got called into school because her sons Spanish wasn't good enough even though they never asked him to be put into Spanish only classes. They did it because of his last name.
Message: Posted by: tommy (Jun 26, 2009 07:10PM)
Worm: "If you want to see this next card then you will stop speaking ****in Sputnik."
Message: Posted by: LobowolfXXX (Jun 26, 2009 07:22PM)
[quote]
On 2009-06-26 17:47, Magnus Eisengrim wrote:
I'm referring to something more robust than second language instruction, where the second language is simply another course to be taken.

In a true bilingual setting, the students will study some of their academic subjects--say, math and science--in the second language. They don't end up speaking like natives, but they do acquire an awful lot of the language this way.

John (who didn't benefit from bilingual education, so his French is still pretty weak)
[/quote]

I have some second-hand experience in this field, through my mom, who has been a teacher, an administrator, a language specialist, a program specialist, and a consultant to school districts where English is not the first language in a fairly large percentage of homes.

My opinion is that bilingual education hinders the language acquisition, but helps in the courses in which you're being taught in your native language. So it's a trade-off. If I went to school in Italy, I'd learn math better and faster if it were taught in English. But I'd learn Italian better and faster if all of my classes were taught in Italian.

On balance, I think the loss in language acquisition is more important than the gain in other fields. The language is more important, and kids are especially adept at learning new languages when immersed in them. To some extent, you're going to have an uphill battle being thrown into classes or schools where you don't speak a language that most everybody else does. The upside is, once you're up to speed, you have an advantage in being bilingual. On balance, though, I prefer total immersion.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Jun 26, 2009 07:37PM)
There a Frank Herbert story in 'Eye' titled 'Try to Remember'.
Or we could look at a more recent story by Peter Watts, 'Blindsight' for an update.
Language can be looked at as a tool used to conceal meaning.
Without congruence - there is just hypocrisy.
Does it really matter what language you ask your audience to pick a card?
Or whether they prefer coke or pepsi?
Message: Posted by: stoneunhinged (Jun 27, 2009 03:49AM)
Jonathan: huh? While language might be looked at as a tool used to conceal meaning, that has never been its primary purpose for anyone other than philosophers. (And the latter statement would probably only be accepted by Straussians.)

As for bilingual education: it has been on the increase here. More and more schools are offering a sort of 50/50, German/English education. Some kindergartens are evening doing it. But there are less than a handful of native English speakers in the entire public school system in Germany, so this means that Germans are teaching children in English.

Which causes me to take pause. The vast majority of people I talk to whose English learning has been restricted to school English (i.e., no long vacations or exchange school years or university level courses) have great difficulty understanding me at first, though I am accustomed--by both education and habit of living many years abroad--to speaking very clearly and in complete sentences. Still, people have difficulty. They have very limited experience listening to native speakers.

I did, however, recently run into a young woman who was currently in one of those bilingual programs at a local [i]gymnasium[/i]. This was in the context of an open house for the school for parents and children to decide whether or not to enroll there. She was in a room which had been set up to explain the bilingual program, and had apparently been chosen by the school to help advertise the program.

As I entered the room I was speaking to my son (in English) and she overheard so she approached me and asked, "May I help you?" We then proceeded to have a five minute conversation about the details of the program, entirely in English. She only struggled for a word once--and it wasn't an easy word. I was [i]very[/i] impressed. Obviously the program is working well for her.

So I think excellent (or maybe even gifted) pupils can do well in such programs. But would I recommend that some kid struggling in math or science receive his instruction in a foreign language? Spoken by someone who shares his own native language? I don't think so. Seems a bit pretentious, to boot.

One last thought: people from Holland and countries north of here generally speak excellent English--generally, much better than most Germans I've heard. Why is that? Not sure. Part of it is the emphasis put on other languages in school. But part of it is that they don't dub films and television, so they grow watching all those American TV shows (Dallas and Baywatch: our proud cultural contribution to the rest of the world) in English. Maybe that has something to do with it. But as far as I know, all those Dutch and Swedish people who speak nearly accent-free English did NOT go to a bilingual school. It would be very interesting to hear from someone from Holland or Scandinavia.

Sorry for the length of my post. I'm trying to keep my post count low. That means saying more when I actually decide to post, since I'm such a verbose person
Message: Posted by: abc (Jun 27, 2009 07:40AM)
There are so many variables in play here that many people form opinions based on very small sample sizes or are purely talking out of opinion. You have to consider the age of the students, the cognitive development of the students, the true language ability of the teacher and many more factors. Would a native speaker of English who is very competent in the students first language get better results than a teacher with the same native language of the students who is competent in the target language. When research is done it doesn't measure the teachers. It takes a group of students from immersion programs accross a selected area and a group of students from bilingual programs over a selected area and they take for example a reading test and the scores are measured. In recent tests the students from bilingual programs have (mostly) outperformed those from immersion programs. These studies claim that using the native language of the students to aid in acquiring the target language is more effective. I agree with this mostly (also form personal experience) but I question the long term effects. I am also not sure how long students should remain in bilingual programs before they are ready to move to immersion programs since the main idea really should be on living in the target language.
Bilingual programs are more costly than immersion programs and policy makers have to look at more than just the results.
The main problem I have with the research and the way people read and quote the findings is the disregard for individual students or age groups. I read in a recent study that young children who are in grade 1, 2 or 3 should be taught in bilingual programs because the amount of things they will not understand far outweigh their language acquisition gains. Children in high school who move to the USA should really be in immersion programs and can attend additional ESL classes because their emotional and cognitive development is sufficient.
I have had young students who left Taiwan and went to the US or Canada for a few years to study and they did fine in immersion programs. I also have a high school student who moved to the US a year ago and when he returned for summer vacation, he attended some classes with his old classmates. While his speaking ability is miles ahead of the other students, his reading comprehension and essay writing ability has not improved. While I may now say that he would have been better of in a bilingual program or in an ESL school seems likely, but again from experience I know that it takes more than one year to adjust and get used to reading and writing in an immersion program.
I guess I shouldn't have had a few beers before writing this but it is Saturday and I have just finished the semester but in general there are so many good argument for and against that it is really hard to choose. My opinion (for what it is worth) would be this. A good teacher with proper methodology that is a native speaker of the target language but has the ability to use the students first language in a bilingual program would almost always get better results than any other combination, so if you can find native English speaking teachers who can speak Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin etc. then have bilingual programs. If not just have immersion programs with good teachers.

Disclaimer: If I go back on things I said in this post after many errors are pointed out, it is because of the Al2CO2H2OL that I have consumed.
Message: Posted by: magicalaurie (Jun 27, 2009 08:57AM)
[quote]
On 2009-06-27 04:49, stoneunhinged wrote:
But would I recommend that some kid struggling in math or science receive his instruction in a foreign language? Spoken by someone who shares his own native language? I don't think so...Sorry for the length of my post. I'm trying to keep my post count low. [/quote]

I'd agree that taking a subject that might be challenging in one's native language doesn't go over very well in a foreign one. I took French immersion in grades 7 and 8. In grade 8, Math was taught in French, by a teacher whose primary language, actually, was French, but he wasn't great with English, really, so we didn't even have that to fall back on when we got into deep water. ;) Similar story with the subject of History. By your definition, John, it would have been bilingual education- not all subjects were taught in French, though they called it French immersion and, I think, still do.

Whereas in high school, I took an advanced French class in grade 13, I believe it was, though there's no grade 13 here anymore, and acquired much more of the language, I'd say. We read a French novel, :readingbook: and French books for supplementary reading and the teacher was strict about speaking French only. Got to the point I began [i] thinking [/i] in French. That impressed me.

Jeff, posts don't count in this forum, remember? :bwink:
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Jun 27, 2009 09:11AM)
How's it going with that Frank Herbert story "try to remember" ?
Message: Posted by: Magnus Eisengrim (Jun 27, 2009 01:40PM)
Thanks for the responses. If more comes to mind, please let me know.

Truth be told, I have a professional interest in the issue; if you're curious, send me a PM.

John
Message: Posted by: MagicSanta (Jun 27, 2009 02:51PM)
I'll tell you this, in the bay area the parents who send their children to the French school or Chinese school (the honkified one not the ones for the Chinese kids who don't welcome outsiders) usually are very snotty about it. Stone is correct, I worked with a lot of Dutch (they are big into logistics) and many spoke flawless English, in South America a lot of people speak English but a more British version and forget slang.
Message: Posted by: magicalaurie (Jun 29, 2009 03:54PM)
John,

I was discussing this with my boss' daughter, who by all accounts is brilliant, today.

She just graduated from grade 8 and has been taking French immersion since grade 5. For her, Science, Art, History, Geography, and, I believe, Phys. Ed, were in French this year. Math was taught in English. They began the subject of Health in French, then reverted back to English. She said the teachers' primary language was French, but they spoke English well, too.

She had problems in the subjects of History and Geography, and did not find the teacher(s) helpful when she was struggling. Part of the problem was that the texts they were using for History and Geography were geared toward students who have been in French immersion since Kindergarten.

She had difficulty, as did I, with French grammar, as well. They've got a lot of forms/ tenses. English grammar is complicated enough. ;)

She won't be continuing French immersion in High School- will be taking academic French instead. Hope this info, though second-hand, is helpful. I must say I am curious about your professional interest in the issue.
Message: Posted by: Skip Way (Jun 30, 2009 07:41AM)
The Air Force put me through total immersion language programs for Italian and Greek. We literally lived the languages 24/7. This particular immersion experience focused more on communication and spontaneous interaction. While we learned the grammar as we went along, we were more motivated to pick up vocabulary and the less formal idiomatic nature of the languages. We were less focused on the grammatical and syntax perfection that is the usual focus of most structured language courses.

When teaching Italian or Greek to friends in country, I always advised them to leave the radio or television running on a local channel in the background. Familiarity with a language's rhythm and accents is nearly as important as vocabulary and grammar. Reading local newspaper and novels aloud also helped to enhance these skills.

Immersion does work. Whether it's a good idea to combine it with other academic subjects early on - I have no real experience. I did study the technical vocabulary and skills associated with interrogation, crime scene investigation and such in these languages, but that's about it. I'm sure (One hopes) that the educators are smart enough to ease into difficult subjects and to present the language induction to these classes in a free, fun and flowing manner.
Message: Posted by: Patrick Differ (Jun 30, 2009 10:10AM)
Most kids usually start talking when they're right around two years old. My first daughter didn't start talking until she was two and a half... a full six months later than most kids. Two languages, English and Spanish, are spoken fluently in my house, and her "delay" was due to the fact that she was assimilating both languages. When she started speaking, she spoke in complete sentences in both languages and never confused the two. She had to figure it out for herself how to manage the two languages, and when she did, she never looked back.

I've taught English, Health, Biology, and Computer Science, all in English, in a bilingual Junior High school for going on five years. (Teaching English in English?? lol) I've noticed that the students who have studied bilingually since pre-school are better than those who started later. And of those better students, those WHOSE PARENTS ALSO SPEAK ENGLISH, are the best of them all. With that, I'll say that if any parents who put their kids in a bilingual school so they'll learn another language expect any kind of results, they themselves HAD BETTER KNOW OR BE WILLING TO LEARN the language themselves. It they don't, they'll find themselves wasting their tuition money, or worse, living vicariously through their children.

Being bilingual is not just a hobby or something a student studies in school to earn a grade. Being bilingual is a road that a person travels. (The Road Less Traveled) Sometimes the road is confusing and difficult and full of chuck holes. Sometimes it makes all the difference.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Jun 30, 2009 12:09PM)
I met a family that spoke French, Polish and English. There are very bright people who came over from Poland about twenty years ago. This had more to do with them wanting to fit in where they lived and they are also a close knit family.

Let's get back to the basics on language skills here - without congruence and context there is not so much to communicate - and children are pretty quick to pick up on where idiom implies one thing and the speaker is attempting to convey something else.

now about that frank herbert story...
Message: Posted by: Magnus Eisengrim (Jun 30, 2009 12:17PM)
[quote]
On 2009-06-30 13:09, Jonathan Townsend wrote:

Let's get back to the basics on language skills here - without congruence and context there is not so much to communicate - and children are pretty quick to pick up on where idiom implies one thing and the speaker is attempting to convey something else.

[/quote]

This is very much the point of immersion and bilingual education. By studying literature, or history, or science or whatever in the target language, the language as a context in use that it does not get in a standard second language setting.

John
Message: Posted by: abc (Jun 30, 2009 12:33PM)
[quote]
On 2009-06-30 08:41, Skip Way wrote:
The Air Force put me through total immersion language programs for Italian and Greek. We literally lived the languages 24/7. This particular immersion experience focused more on communication and spontaneous interaction. While we learned the grammar as we went along, we were more motivated to pick up vocabulary and the less formal idiomatic nature of the languages. We were less focused on the grammatical and syntax perfection that is the usual focus of most structured language courses.

When teaching Italian or Greek to friends in country, I always advised them to leave the radio or television running on a local channel in the background. Familiarity with a language's rhythm and accents is nearly as important as vocabulary and grammar. Reading local newspaper and novels aloud also helped to enhance these skills.

Immersion does work. Whether it's a good idea to combine it with other academic subjects early on - I have no real experience. I did study the technical vocabulary and skills associated with interrogation, crime scene investigation and such in these languages, but that's about it. I'm sure (One hopes) that the educators are smart enough to ease into difficult subjects and to present the language induction to these classes in a free, fun and flowing manner.
[/quote]
Sounds very much like Audio-lingual to me. Now tell that to many ESL teachers and they will rip it apart without ever having used it or understanding why it works.
Message: Posted by: Patrick Differ (Jul 1, 2009 08:28AM)
[quote]How's it going with that Frank Herbert story "try to remember"?[/quote]

This looks like a helluva good story. Thanks.
Message: Posted by: Patrick Differ (Jul 1, 2009 01:38PM)
"Try to Remember" is a short story... about 65 pages short.

Jon... I believe you speak of the difference between speaking a foreign language and communicating using a language that may at first seem "foreign" to you. Yet the underlying concept of congruence of intent remains the same for all of us, regardless the path or method we choose to merely verbalize our mental images.

Most mental images are beyond words, ergo most communication is beyond words. It's like just teaching what a hammer is for instead of how to use it correctly. And for the purposes of this thread, this website, and the magic tricks we do, the same holds true.
Message: Posted by: MagicSanta (Jul 1, 2009 02:57PM)
My wife taught lil' kids and often she would have parents roll in with a kid who spoke nothing but Chinese and the parents would say "teach english". It is amazing how quickly the lil' kid would learn English and I think for the most part they already understood a lot of it but just never had the opportunity to use it until getting around the English speaking kids. What was funny was the school was mostly Indian with the rest Asian and a few 'other' kids. All my wifes kids at the end of the year are running around with a Boston accent and the other teacher at the same grade levels kids all had Indian accents like the teacher. Since the Indian parents prefered my wife it was the little 'other' kids with the Indian accents! One of the most interesting kids was a little blond haired blue eyed girl who only spoke Japanese. Her mom was Japanese and her dad a honkified mo fo and the little girl looked just like dad but mom only spoke Japanese to her and so did the father. It confused the kids because to them she looked like she should speak English.