Educación bilingue: qué es y que implica?

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BILINGUAL EDUCATION: WHAT IS IT AND WHAT DOES IT IMPLY?

Presented By: Javier Andrés Morales Moncada
Masters program in applied linguistics to TEFL
13-09-2006

For many years people have been worried about learning a second or even a third or a four language for many different reasons. Sometimes, the learning of a new language instead of being a personal decision has been a need. Peoplelearn a language for one principal reason: communication. When the process of conquering started and colonies started to emerge principally in the Americas, indigenous needed to learn a new language for being able to communicate with their conquerors. The dominant languages (the languages conquerors brought) started to be the principal ones. In order to understand the conquerors, indigenous peoplewere forced to learn the new languages to communicate with them although they had a permanent communication in their L1 with other indigenous.

In the modern world, people learn a new language for other reasons. People learn because they want to do it or because there is the belief that learning a language gives the opportunity to have a better job, better educational opportunities or increaseknowledge about different cultures around the world. In fact, the goal is the same: having the opportunity or being able to communicate in a language for a personal, economical or educational reason. I consider that people learn a new language because they are sure that in a specific time in their future they can use it. Most of the people do not learn a language just for fun. They need or theythink they will need it in the future for different reasons. In the modern world learning a second language is more a necessity than a way of increasing knowledge about a different culture. Communications and business principally, make learning a new language in the modern world a must for almost everybody who plans to have a better life condition and better opportunities to grow personally andeconomically in a near future.

If we continue with our view of learning a second language as a necessity to fit in the modern world, we can observe that many parents around the world want to give their children the opportunity to study in a bilingual school and learn a foreign language since the beginning of their school years. According to some parents’ words, children need to be prepare for thechallenges of the future world and one way of being prepared is knowing a second language and bilingual schools give them that opportunity. On the other hand, some people believe in a wrong way that enrolling the children in bilingual schools will make them be less competent in their academic development. Research has found that students in bilingual schools who speak the dominant languageacquire significantly more advanced levels of proficiency in the L2 that students who receive conventional L2 instruction and also they generally achieve the same levels of competence as comparable students in L1 programs. As Genesee notes, “instruction in academic subjects through the medium of an L2 does not usually impede the acquisition of new academic skills and knowledge in comparison to thatacquired by students receiving the same academic instruction through the medium of their L1.

Another important aspects to take into account into this analysis are the focus on form Vs the focus on meaning bilingual programs and the age. It has been said that an exclusive focus on form or focus on meaning program is not optimal for learning a language. Students should receive instruction based onthe content and why he or she uses that content and also how he/she uses it. The problem is that when students learn to be concentrated only on form, they present problem in the form of the language, that is, in grammatical rules and the linguistic component itself. I personally have met people who can speak English and they are fluent and can read it also because they have traveled abroad but...
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