Two-way Bilingualism in American Schools

In many schools in the United States and elsewhere in the world, students are being instructed through two languages in education programs so that they achieve proficiency in two languages alongside their regular academics.  The two-way bilingual programs try to integrate students whose native language could be either the minority or majority.  The program also tries to provide instructions in chosen area of interest and language development in two languages.

A study was conducted across more than 100 schools during the 1990’s to decipher the current state of two-way bilingual education in the United States. The results showed that

“Two-way programs typically share the goals of bilingual proficiency, academic achievement, and positive cross-cultural attitudes and behaviors. Emerging results of studies of two-way bilingual programs point to their effectiveness in educating nonnative-English-speaking students, their promise of expanding our nation’s language resources by conserving the native language skills of minority students and developing second language skills in English-speaking students, and their hope of improving relationships between majority and minority groups by enhancing cross-cultural understanding and appreciation”. (Donna Christian, 1994)

Most Two-way bilingual programs do not segregate language minority and language majority students.  They also provide instructions in, and through, the two chosen languages. One of it is obviously the native language of the student from the minority community, and the other one is inevitably English. The former is also called as the target language. The programs attempt to teach students regular subjects while also developing their understanding of languages.  To reap full rewards from this system of education, “students from the two language backgrounds are in each class, and they are integrated for most or all of their content instruction”. These programs are also beneficial in that they create an atmosphere that promotes favorable attitudes toward both languages and their respective cultures.  The program is framed in such a way that the students achieve expertise in both their native language and English.

There are other merits to two-way bilingual programs.  Firstly, they help address several serious issues facing the present state of education. They also help in creating an intuitive and easy-to-learn approach to educate the increasing number of nonnative-English-speaking students registering in American schools.  This is done in an “additive bilingual environment” that not only encourages development of native language and English, but also ensures general academic progress. Furthermore,

“They promise to expand our nation’s language resources by conserving the language skills minority students bring with them and by adding another language to the repertoire of English-speaking students. Finally, they offer the hope of improving relationships between majority and minority groups by enhancing cross-cultural understanding and appreciation.” (Donna Christian, 1994)

In the final analysis, two-way programs, by virtue of merging the dual goals of language proficiency and academic achievement, for students of all ethnic backgrounds, builds positive beliefs and attitudes in the students.  As the United States tries to improve its system of education and is striving to include language competence as an important goal nation-wise, two-way bilingual programs are the best possible method of going about it. In addition to providing a sound foundation for academic excellence students, they also assist educators and public representatives alike.  As students learn via the dual-language system, we as a society can benefit from the increasing diversity in our schools.  It will also promote a better understanding and communication across cultures.

Reference:

Donna Christian, TWO-WAY BILINGUAL EDUCATION: STUDENTS LEARNING THROUGH TWO LANGUAGES, Center For applied Linguistics, 1994.