The debate surrounding bilingual education and programs to assist non-English speakers is confusing for educators and people in the American community. There are linguistic issues, cultural issues, and academic program issues in bilingual education. The truth is statistics show that LEP (Limited English Proficient) students will be approximately 25% of student population in 2025. Moreover, laws and government policies are concerned to react from different opinions regarding the optimal approach to facilitate LEP students.
These lines present values, beliefs, experiences, and goals that are part of the bilingual philosophy. We live in a multicultural society that has important implications teaching students from one country to another. Racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity have increased in American academic institutions. It is a reality that these facts present challenges and innovative opportunities for teachers.
Children who speak a language other than English enter U.S. schools with abilities and talents similar to those of native English-speaking children. In addition, these children can speak another language that, if properly nurtured, will benefit them throughout their lives. The child’s first language is critical to his or her identity. Maintaining this language helps the child value his or her culture and heritage. Students who do not maintain their native language reduce links to family. If they keep their native language, the child will have access overseas and in U.S.A. Even more, students who learn English and continue to develop their native language have higher academic achievement in later years than students who learn English only. This benefit provides better employment opportunities around the world!
Regardless of what language children speak, they still develop and learn. Educators recognize that linguistically and culturally diverse children come to early childhood programs with previously acquired knowledge and learning based upon the language used in their home. For young children, the home’s language is what they use to make and establish meaningful communicative relationships, the language they use to begin to construct their knowledge and test their learning. The home language is tied to children’s culture, and culture and language communicate traditions, values, and attitudes.
It is clear teachers should accept and respect children’s native language. They need to appreciate their students’ culture to make students feel accepted and supported by the American community. By doing it, English native speakers will be part of the multicultural world and expand their minds far beyond their present environment.
It is helpful to consider that successful bilingual education programs have been implemented in countries around the world for both linguistic minority and majority students and the same patterns are observed in well implemented programs: students do not lose out in their development of academic skills in the majority language despite spending a considerable amount of instructional time through the minority language (Cummins, 2000).
There is no doubt about the benefits of bilingual education for the globalization or multicultural society of the present world. It is a matter of teamwork. Educators need to set goals and objectives. They need to consider linguistic and cultural factors that generate changes in the target language development and cultural adaptations. Teachers have the responsibility to apply research results in their classrooms. Teachers should embrace the concept that the primary language helps to establish academic skills while students learn English as a second language. This mission also requires planning their curriculum carefully. Teachers need to open their hearts and be more devoted to their professions. They need to understand and assist the ones who need them more. This is the authentic role of a reliable teacher!
Cummins, Jim. 2000. Language, Power and Pedagogy: Bilingual Children in the Crossfire. Toronto: Multilingual Matters. pp. 18-23.