Being bilingual provides several advantages, both personal and professional. The ability to speak and read in both languages on a regular basis is an important key factor to hone the skills necessary to stay fluent. For children and teenagers this means being exposed to two languages not only at home, but also at school – and a growing need for bilingual education programs.
Bilingual Students are on the Rise – So Must Be Bilingual Education
2016 marked a change in the education system of the United States, at least in the makeup of the average student body. This past September public schools became a majority of minorities. This means that, while no group alone surpasses the amount of non-Hispanic white students, slightly over 50 percent of the students now belong to minorities – many of which are bilingual or speak a language other than English at home. This is a trend that will only rise in the following years.
Bilingual education programs are therefore a highly discussed topic, if still somewhat rare. A diverse student body could help make these programs possible, as students who purely know English would be put together with students who are native speakers of various target languages. Most of these programs are in Spanish, followed by Korean, but many other languages are possible, if there are enough students to put together a class.
Starting a Bilingual Education at an Early Age
Bilingual education does not just start in middle or high school either. Most elementary schools provide an option for Spanish speaking students to start learning mostly in Spanish. Then the English component is slowly increased to prepare the students for their following educational institutes, where English most often is still the dominant language. Even pre-schools are starting to offer bilingual programs, where children’s books are read and discussed in both languages.
In many public school systems over the past decade the trend has been to cut foreign language programs out of elementary school curriculum due to budget cuts. However, with evidence showing that language acquisition is best achieved at an early age, the hope is that this trend can be reversed for bilingual education. Sadly, there is little to no focus on languages in American middle and high schools. Changing to a system that values the results of standardized testing above all else has led to many schools treating language classes as “extras”. But with the growing numbers of bilingual students a greater effort will have to be made in the future in terms of integration, and surely learning a second language will also benefit English-native speaking students.
What Does Bilingual Education Mean For Schools?
There are many implications for institutions looking to provide a more integrated experience – both for English speaking and non-English speaking students. Translation of academic materials – including lesson plans, syllabi, presentations, videos, exercises and more – will be necessary so students are able to follow along. Aside from this, cultural training may be necessary to promote the most successful bilingual education possible. Teachers will need to be able to teach in both English and the target language of their students, as well as understand the differences, even subtle ones, of U.S. culture and that of any students who may have immigrated to the states. Successful schools will not only be able to teach students in a bilingual manner, but they will also be able to introduce diversity and global knowledge into the classroom in a way that is still rarely done in the U.S. today.
If you want to learn more about the advantages of bilingualism see the references that follow –
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