Bilingual Education in America - Essay Example

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The 2000 U.S. census report revealed the startling figure that 1 out of 5 U.S. residents speak a language other than English at home (Crawford, 2005). In a country where English was once the only accepted language it is a surprise to see how rapidly we are becoming a multi-lingual nation…
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Bilingual Education in America The 2000 U.S. census report revealed the startling figure that out of 5 U.S. residents speak a language other than English at home (Crawford, 2005). In a country where English was once the only accepted language it is a surprise to see how rapidly we are becoming a multi-lingual nation. At the current trend, English has the potential to become a minority language in America by the year 2050 (Crawford, 2005). However, these figures need to be taken into context with the fact that the number of ethnic students who also speak English very well is also on the rise. For the students who speak only a minority language, or are limited-English-proficient (LEP), bilingual education is not an optional luxury. It is a necessity required to access an acceptable education.
Bilingual education is not a recent development in America. As early as 1839 Ohio enacted a German-English program to teach immigrant students (History of Bilingual Education). The political shifts of the 20th century greatly curtailed bilingual efforts and recent political views against it have cast the issue back into the spotlight. Proponents of an English only system have pointed to the fears of losing our national identity and that speaking English makes you American. This approach has led to the sink or swim approach to educating our youngest students. Though these objections may be raised with good intentions, the long-term effect for the student and society is harmful and the cost is high.
Students need to be assimilated into our language as well as our society. With a bilingual program, students are taught the desired English, yet have the chance to also explore other subjects in their native tongue. This keeps the student on pace and the additional knowledge also aids in the learning of English (Crawford, 1998). If a student gets left behind in math, science, or history due to insufficient English skills, that student will be deprived of critical skills and information at an important point in their education. Neglecting the needs of the student will not only serve to stunt the success of the child, but will increase the chances of that child being a financial burden to society in later years.
Bilingual education not only provides the only realistic approach to teaching non-English speaking students, it also has advantages. A consensus of applied linguists have contended that, "Well-developed skills in the native language are associated with high levels of academic achievement." (Crawford, 2005). A study of 2,000 Spanish speaking students in 5 states recently showed that a slow transition to English was more effective at enhancing all academic skills when compared to early exit or English immersion programs (Crawford, 2005).
If we are to promote a society that values educated students that are also literate in English, we must recognize the importance of a bilingual education in reaching that goal. Total immersion, or a sink or swim approach, will doom many ethnic and immigrant students to academic and future economic failure. We will all pay the price for failing to provide adequate native language programs to these children. Further study is needed to develop workable and effective programs. Increased funding is also needed to provide the necessary instructional resources. The most important asset we need to devote to bilingual education is to develop a national attitude that does not fear multi-lingualism, but rather is able to see and appreciate the benefits that are to be gained from a bilingual education.

Works Cited
Crawford, James. "Bilingual Education." Issues in U.S. Language Policy. 1998. 1 Mar. 2006 .

Crawford, James. "Making Sense of Census 2000." National Association of Bilingual Education. 2005. NABE. 1 Mar. 2006 .

"History of Bilingual Education." Rethinking Schools 12 (1998). 1 Mar. 2006 . Read More
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