The impact of bilingualism in cognitive develepment

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Thought and Two Languages: The Impact of Bilingualism on Cognitive Development Rafael M. Diaz Review of Research in Education, Vol. 10. (1983), pp. 23-54.
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Chapter 2 Thought and Two Languages: The Impact of Bilingualism on Cognitive Development
Yale University

By the end of 1979, approximately 3.6 million children in the United States were judged to be in need of special linguistic assistanceto cope with the regular school curriculum (Pifer, 1980); at the time, however, roughly 315,000 children were participating in some kind of bilingual education program. Despite the fact that federal spending on bilingual education is comparatively low, and that existing programs reach only a fraction of eligible children, bilingual education is presently under considerable attack. Indeed, "fewother educational experiments in recent years have managed to arouse such passionate debate-so much so, in fact, that the future of this promising educational tool is uncertain" (Pifer, 1980, p. 4). The attack against bilingual education can be explained mostly in terms of political, cultural, and socioeconomic variables (see Fishman, 1977). A discussion of such variables is well beyond the scope ofthis paper. Nevertheless, for our purposes it should be noted that psychological and educational research on the effectiveness of bilingual education often has provided the attackers with sophisticated weapons. For example, an influential study of bilingual education projects sponsored by the Office of Education in 1976 (American Institute for Research, 1977) showed that many existing programs werenot providing academic gains for students and, in some cases, were allowing students to fall behind. Although the study has been criticized severely for basic methodological flaws, it has contributed significantly to a negative mood against bilingual education efforts in the nation (Blanco, 1977). Tucker and D'Anglejan (1971) outlined four commonly held beliefs regarding the effects of bilingualeducation:
This work was supported by Grant DAR-8010860 from the National Science Foundation to Professor Kenji Hakuta and a predoctoral Minority Fellowship from the American Psychological Association to the author. Editorial consultant for this chapter was Kenji Hakuta.


Review of Research in Education, 10

(1) Children who are instructed bilingually from an early age will suffercognitive or intellectual retardation in comparison with their monolingually instructed counterparts. (2) They will not achieve the same level of content mastery as their monolingually instructed counterparts. (3) They will not achieve acceptable native language or target language skills. (4) T he majority will become anomic individuals without affiliation to either ethnolinguistic group. (as...
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