2 jul. 2012

Bilingual education: all advantages, no disadvantages

Un gràfic del diari Avui


A few years ago I was taken aback by the ‘advice’ from an Australian primary school teacher, who in no uncertain terms told me that I should stop using my two native language(s) at home in favour of English only, because it would cause confusion. Naturally, being a language teacher for over twenty years, I disregarded the ‘advice’, based on the ignorance frequent in the monolingual mindset unfortunately prevalent in the Australian education system.

A study conducted by Catalan scholars and academics has again found (as if were necessary to prove it once more) that bilingualism is highly beneficial for young learners. Bilingual education “prepares students for learning a third language, as the bilingual person, having a dual phonetic system, has more flexibility for producing sounds in new languages.”

“Bilingual persons are better positioned for distinguishing between correct and incorrect structures in other languages, for comprehending the arbitrary relation between words and objects in different languages and, ultimately, for reflecting on language in general.”

The study has shown that students in a bilingual system outperform those within a monolingual one. Yet the PP-Government continues to attack the other languages spoken in the in the Spanish State. Could it be because they might prefer a situation where the citizens have a lower IQ? Why not propitiate a state of affairs where bilingualism becomes the norm, and not the exception? As a teacher of English in Spain for many years, I can confidently say a lot more people would have learned the language of Shakespeare well if they had had a bilingual education in their early years.

As mio caro amico Professor Lo Bianco says, not knowing English is already a disadvantage in this globalised world; but knowing only English is also fast becoming a disadvantage.

Some food for thought.

1 comentario:

  1. Glad to see this -- I read a study conducted in the US that concluded that bilinguals were neither advantaged nor disadvantaged with regard to how well they performed academically in unrelated subjects, which to me seemed beside the point: as you note here, it's not necessarily that bilingually educated children will make better mathematicians, but rather that (1) they are already advantaged by having another language, and (2) they will be better placed to learn other languages and understand the notion of languages equalling perception of the thing, not the thing itself.

    I also saw a study, which to me was fascinating, where underprivileged bilingual children were taught about registers of English by drawing comparisons between different uses of their 2 languages: a great strategy!

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