Baker (2006) distinguishes between three major approaches to bilingual education:
- Monolingual forms of education for bilinguals
- Weak forms of bilingual education for bilinguals
- Strong forms of bilingual education for bilingualism and biliteracy
Hamers and Blanc (2000: 321) define bilingual education to “any system of school education in which, at a given moment of time, and for a varying amount of time, simultaneously or consecutively, instruction is planned and given in at least two languages.”
Monolingual and weak forms of bilingual education are described as subtractive because the second language is developed at the expense of the first or native language, whereas additive approaches foster the development of both languages (Brisk 2006: 46).
Monolingual Forms of Bilingual Education
- They may receive a period of intensive majority-language tuition before entering the mainstream classes.
- They may initially receive intensive majority-language tuition in specific classes separate from mainstream classes.
- They may spend half a day, or some other proportion of the day, in a majority-language class and the remainder of the day in mainstream classes.
- They may be placed in a mainstream class but with additional assistance form specialist majority-language teacher working in the classroom.
- They may be withdrawn from the class for specific periods of time for majority-language classes.
- They may be placed in a mainstream class with no additional support other than the general classroom teacher.
Weak form of Bilingual Education
Bilingual transitional education is another term for weak forms of bilingual education. In this model, children begin school with some language support in their first language. This generally takes the forms of school content, such as mathematics, literacy, and other subjects, which are taught in the first language, with gradual and increasing move to teaching in the second language.
Bilingual transitional programs vary in both the amount of L1 and the length of time over which it is provided. Thomas and Collier’s (2002) extensive study, which reports on outcomes in terms of academic achievement by minority-language learners in the US, includes two models of transitional education.
- Dual-language and immersion programs achieved the best results in L1 and L2, and had the lowest dropout rate
- Minority-language learners who initially attended remedial, segregated programs did not close the achievement gap after integration into the mainstream, and the gap was either maintained or widened in later years
- Short-term programs of one to three years for students with no proficiency in English were inadequate; the length of time taken to reach grade-level performance was a minimum of four years
- The strongest predictor of L2 achievement of language-minority student achievement was the amount of formal schooling in L1
- Children who had bilingual schooling outperformed monolingually schooled students in all subjects after four to seven years of dual-language schooling
- While minority-language students who exited into mainstream English programs initially outperformed those in bilingual programs when tested in English, by the high school years the bilingually-schooled children outperformed the monolingually-schooled children
Strong Bilingual Education Programs
Immersion programs for majority children where children coming from the same first-language background are educated in a second majority language
Dual-language programs in which mixed groups of majority-language and minority-language children are educated in the two languages
Programs designed to maintain or revitalize indigenous languages of bilingual children where children are educated in both the majority language and the minority language with the specific aim of maintaining, or in some cases revitalizing, the minority language
What is Biliteracy?
Hornberger (2004: 156) defined biliteracy as “any and all instances in which communication occurs in two (or more) languages in or around writing.” Reiterating the same idea in a more elaborate way, Pérex and Torres-Guzmán (1996: 54) described biliteracy as the “acquisition and learning of the decoding and encoding of and around print using two linguistic and cultural systems in order to convey messages in a variety of contexts.”
Biliteracy is affected by four variables:
- Context s of biliteracy
- The development of biliteracy
- Content of biliteracy
- Media of biliteracy
Hornberger refers to this as the continua of biliteracy. In this model, bilingual’s biliteracy is described in terms of their experience along the proposed continua rather than their proficiency in a set of skills.
The Interdependence Hypothesis
Cummin’s (1979) Interdependence hypothesis proposed the CALP (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency) is transferred from one language to another.
The Prerequisites for Reading and Writing
Bialystok et al. (2005) note three specific prerequisite critical to literacy which may have developed as a result of the different backgrounds of bilinguals. They are:
- Oral proficiency
- Metalinguistic awareness
- General cognitive development
Oral proficiency has been widely reported to be associated with children’s acquisition of literacy and is the most common test used to diagnose literary development (Geva 2000). Oral vocabulary has been correlated with oral proficiency (cf. Adams 1990; Garcia 2003).
Several studies found bilinguals to be metalinguistically more aware in certain tasks. That is, bilinguals were able to analyze some levels of linguistic structure more intensely. More pertinently, some researchers have reported a temporary bilingual advantage in phonological awareness for five-year-olds that disappears by age six. Phonological awareness has been widely acknowledged as a good predictor of alphabetic reading ability.
The third skill concerns the way orthographies or script type may influence the working memory by either constraining or facilitating the transfer of information.
Learning Two Different Scripts
Kenner et al. (2004) undertook a study whether bilingual pupils might become confused when dealing with scripts. In a role-playing game, they were able to explain to their classmates differences between the English writing system and those of their languages – Mandarin, Arabic, and Spanish.
Furthermore, Kenner (2204) reports that five-year-old bilingual children in her study looked for connections between the two scripts and exploited the similarities as well as differences.
The Effects of Different Scripts
The process of learning how to read involves many steps; the key step is breaking the code of the orthographic system. There is great variation in how languages represent the spoken word in the written form, which we will refer to as script.
The way language has conventionalized the sound-letter representation or orthography also varies. A transparent orthography has a simple one-to-one correspondence between the written representation and sound, and in an alphabetic writing system transparency is enhanced by one-to-one correspondence between letter and sound.
At the extreme end of the opaque continuum, we have languages like Mandarin, which uses a different writing system—logographs. Logographs are not based on phonological representations, and in Chinese, each character represents a unit of meaning.
There are two hypotheses about the effect of orthography on reading. One hypothesis is script-dependent, claiming that reading varies across languages, and reading development should vary with the transparency of a particular orthography. Conversely, with less transparent orthographies, children will take a longer time to master the learning of the system.
In contrast, the central processing hypothesis proposes that reading is an independent skill which is not constrained by the type of orthography. Instead, literacy acquisition is dependent on common underlying cognitive processes such as “working memory, verbal ability, naming, and phonological skills,” and deficiencies in these processes are more likely to affect literacy acquisition (Veii and Everatt 2005: 240).
Though central processing hypothesis and the Interdependence hypothesis stress a common underlying source, the central processing hypothesis is different from the Interdependence hypothesis framework, as the central processing hypothesis refers specifically to the processing of script and reading, were as the Interdependence hypothesis refers to the broader notion of general communicative skills.