Bilingual education is making a come back, writes Sarah Garland on Slate. “Dual-language” programs that teach in both English and (usually) Spanish appeal to Hispanics and to middle- and upper-middle-class English speakers who want their kids to be bilingual.
One afternoon last fall, I watched as a group of young Hispanic students trained to become the best Spanish-language spellers in America. Their thick practice packet for the fourth annual National Spanish Spelling Bee began with examples of the easiest words students might expect to encounter in the bee’s first round, like esperar (to wait for), cuidar (to take care of), and peluca (wig); it extended to much harder 20th-round samples, like fisioterapeuta (physical therapist), otorrinolaringologo (ear, nose, and throat specialist), and nenufar (water lily).
Until recently, many Hispanic parents wanted their children to learn English quickly, writes Garland. “Hispanic parents haven’t lost sight of the stigma and obstacles faced by non-English speakers, but they may feel more confident embracing their native language.”
“A growing body of research suggests that dual language education does not hinder a non-native speaker’s progress in English and may actually accelerate it over time if the programs are designed well,” she writes.
Dual-immersion programs aren’t prone to water down academic content because they include advantaged students whose parents wouldn’t stand for it. That’s a huge advantage over traditional bilingual ed.
In secondary school, non-fluent students often are taught academic subjects in “sheltered English” classes. “Sheltered” students think they’re stupid, according to a new study. The stigma is strongest for long-time English Learners, weakest for recent immigrants.
That makes sense. Students who’ve gone to U.S. schools since kindergarten and don’t test as proficient in English are less capable than those who’ve left English Learner status behind. Recent immigrants’ lack of English fluency doesn’t say anything about their intelligence.