NOTES FROM THE CO-EDITORS
We are very pleased to present you with this special issue of BEIS/TED’s Bilingual Basics. Under the overarching theme of “Laws, policies, and decisions affecting immigrants, undocumented workers, non-native speakers of majority languages and native users of sign languages nation- and worldwide. A new restrictionism?” our call for manuscripts sought to gather articles on ongoing language-related issues in different parts of the world.
The three articles and the book review selected for publication offer a diverse blend of perspectives on the aforementioned topic. Leong describes Singapore’s bilingual education policy as well as the debate on how the presence of English in the country is displacing the teaching of students’ mother tongues in Singapore schools, and the effects of this situation on the Chinese-speaking community. Wink offers a powerful story of discrimination against a Mexican teacher in the United States, analogizing current and past patterns of immigration to the “veins of turquoise” to illustrate the borderless nature of immigration throughout time. Ates, Petrón, and Berg explore the attitudes of native speakers of English toward ESL instructors who are nonnative speakers of the language and highlight the negative reactions of native English speakers toward the English-accented speech of nonnative instructors. Finally, Taylor’s review of a recent book by Adelman-Reyes and Crawford describes the daily operations of a successful dual-language program in Chicago, and how its constructivist approach and emphasis on students’ development of bilingualism and biliteracy contributed to students’ future success and the continuous presence of Spanish in their professional lives.
We would be remiss not to extend a heartfelt thank you to each of the authors for their submissions and to the reviewers for their time and helpful comments. It is our sincere hope that our readers enjoy this special issue of BEIS/TED’s Bilingual Basics as much as we enjoyed putting it together.
VEINS OF TURQUOISE: MIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION
On the desert horizon at dusk, where red rock meets lapis sky, at the seam of the union, runs a band of turquoise, recumbent upon the land’s great darkness. The color is transient. Before night falls, blue-green is the last quantum of visible light to pass through the atmosphere without scattering. It can draw a person right down into the skin of the world. The tidal pull of light can shape an entire life. Every heart-warmed pulse of blood and breath.
Ellen Meloy, Anthropology of Turquoise (2002, p. 17)
“You’re not even American. You’re taking away our jobs. Speak English!”
Saraí, a young Mexican woman, sought after and brought to the United States to teach in a bilingual education program to provide much-needed Spanish language content and literacy to students, wept as she told me, her mentor teacher, what had happened at her school that day.
Earlier that morning, another teacher came into her room, and told her, “Shut the door.” Saraí closed the door and the woman moved in front to block any exit.
“You’re not even an American citizen. Why are you teaching here? You’re taking away our jobs. You have no right. You don’t even speak English! You’re disgusting.” Saraí ran past the blocked doorway and went into the hall, where a waiting group of teachers burst into applause. They looked at Saraí and laughed.
Later that afternoon, Saraí and I sat in a café, and she told me, “Ellas no piensan de mí como un ser humano, como una persona, maestra, professional (They don’t think of me as a human being, as a person, teacher, professional.) The only thing they care about is if I’m an American citizen. I don’t understand. Somos todas Hispanas (We’re all Hispanic.)” What Saraí was now living and being introduced to, was the Us and Them chasm that exists in the United States today—with the Them firmly focused on Mexican immigrants. For many northern New Mexican Hispanos, who have intentionally distanced themselves from their Mexican heritage and roots, this chasm continues to grow. For example, New Mexico governor Susana Martínez won the latest election by basing much of her campaign on anti-immigration promises. Martinez was supported by both Anglos and Hispanics in the state, highlighting the depth of complexities running through these issues.
Saraí had been treated this way for months, yet never had she said a word to any of the other teachers at the school. “De lo que tengo más, más, más miedo (What I am most, most, most afraid of) is that the district is going to decide that I’m a problem teacher and they are going to send me back to Mexico, before my contract is finished,” she said. A conversation she’d had the day before, however, changed the way she would handle this treatment.
“When I went to the bank to open an account, the bank teller asked me what I did, so I explained to him that I was a teacher,” Saraí told me.
“When I was a child, I hated school,” he said. “I hated it.”
“Why did you hate school, when there are so many nice teachers like me?”
“In school, we were only allowed to speak English. Everything was in English, and I didn’t understand. In my home, we spoke only Spanish. I was the oldest child and wanted my parents to be proud of me. And, no matter how hard I tried, because everything was in English, I failed again and again. I just wanted to make them proud.”
“Así se perjudica a los niños (In so doing, children are hurt),” Saraí said. “They make it so they don’t feel comfortable in school, and then they blame them when they fail. No es solo yo (It isn’t just me). It’s the 83 percent of students in this school who are Mexican. If the teachers talk like this about me, because I’m Mexican, how are they treating their students?” Her hands trembled, as she spoke. “Pero ya no me dejo más (I won’t take it anymore). No more. I’m still scared, but I won’t take it anymore. I need to defend myself, and in doing this, I’ll defend the students in this school. And do you know what’s ironic about all of this? My dad is American.”
When you look through a kaleidoscope, each tiny piece of cut glass portrays a scene―a reflection of the whole complete unto itself. As you turn the kaleidoscope, identical tiny scenes play out before your eyes, each mirroring the others. What happened to Saraí and her students is one scene in the current kaleidoscope of our nation, mirrored thousands of times throughout the United States. Saraí’s hands trembled against the white ceramic cup she held, as she reeled from the very human effects of the anti-immigrant feelings that are so predominant in the United States. Turquoise teardrop earrings framed her face.
Turquoise—the stone carried for centuries along the north-south corridor connecting what is now southern Mexico with the southwest United States. The stone’s formation occurs exclusively in arid areas. Volcanic disturbances are necessary to make the fissures in the rocks where water must run through copper, aluminum, phosphates, and iron to create veins of turquoise throughout the surrounding rocks. These veins thread the body of our land, all interconnected as our physical body. These veins know no borders.
Across time and cultures, people cherish turquoise. The Zuni people associate turquoise with supreme life-giving power. Blue turquoise is associated with Father Sky and green turquoise with Mother Earth. Powdered turquoise accompanies prayer. The Diné or Navajo hold turquoise as one of the four sacred stones (abalone, white shell, turquoise, and black jet): Hunters carried turquoise in their hunts, and warriors carried turquoise to ensure victory and a safe return. A bead of turquoise fastened to a lock of hair is worn as protection from lightning and snakebite. For the Pueblo people, turquoise is the Sky Stone, associated with good fortune and protection for the wearer. One can see turquoise-colored doors across the Southwest, coming originally from the Moors, through Spain, as protection from evil entering the home. And what color is the robe of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the original depictions of her?
Like the turquoise running north, for centuries immigration has run not east to west, but south to north and north to south. When the Spanish conquistadors encountered the Aztec empire and headed north hundreds of years before Plymouth Rock was a twinkle in any pilgrim’s eye, they traveled well-worn paths. The turquoise-embedded mask of Moctezuma, that legend says Moctezuma wore when meeting Córtez, was made of turquoise from the Cerrillos mine in what is now New Mexico (Foxx & Karasik, 1993).
The wave of history carried these migrations over thousands of years. Twenty-thousand-year-old campsites dot the Southwest, an area known historically by the Nahuatl word of Aztlán, meaning “Homeland.” According to legend, the migration from the current Southwest—Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada—began in 1064, the year of a volcanic explosion in Sunset Crater, Arizona. The descendants of original Cochise people migrated south, away from their homeland, to live along the banks of Lake Texcoco, near today’s Mexico City. The Uzo-Aztecan languages of Mexico and Central America stemmed from the language of the Cochise people.
After the arrival of the Spanish, legendary tales of this homeland became a key element drawing the Spaniards north―something to think about the next time you hear people, when referring to Mexicans, saying, “They should just go back to where they came from!”
Migration abruptly became immigration with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo on February 2, 1848, when a border was drawn on a map, bisecting the north-south lifelines of the ages. Nobody paid much attention to this for a hundred years. Communities along the Rio Grande continued as they always had, with a constant back and forth across the river. “Nobody was ever sure if my grandfather was a U.S. or Mexican citizen. He fought alongside Carranza in 1916 during the Mexican Revolution, when the Carrancistas stole his horse, and he went with them. Nobody really knew on which side of the Rio Grande he was born,” my husband, Noé, said. “Nobody ever really cared either.”
And the migration continues. My brother-in-law, Amadeo, stood with another man looking at the newly constructed metal fence, running a section of the border between Texas and Mexico.
“This fence is 13 feet high,” the man shook his head, “and all people do is bring a 14-foot ladder.”
“Well, don’t be surprised!” Amadeo exclaimed. “These are the people who built temples, mapped the stars, invented the concept of zero, for God’s sake. You think a 13-foot fence means anything to them?”
Now, the borderlands are enacting anti-immigrant laws, and the state of Arizona is banning books deemed…deemed what? How does one rationalize entering classrooms and removing books such as Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire; Occupied America: A History of Chicanos, by Rodolfo Acuña; 500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures, edited by Elizabeth “Betita” Martinez; Chicano! The History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement, by Arturo Rosales; and Critical Race Theory, by Richard Delgado, from the shelves (Winerip, 2012)? What impact does this have on students, as individuals, on the culture of the classroom, and on our nation?
Gloría Anzaldúa (1987) wrote of these impacts in her poem:
1,950 mile-long open wound
dividing a pueblo, a culture,
running down the length of my body,
staking fence rods in my flesh,splits me splits me
me raja me raja
This is my home
This thin edge ofbarbwire.
For centuries before this barbwire of a border, veins of turquoise bound us together—and bind us still. We seem to forget the history of the land and the people who brought us here. No law can erase the centuries of land and body memory of these connections. Each person holds the potential to bring these connections into the present. Saraí succeeded in defending her students and went on to create an environment of pride in Spanish and culture, high expectations, and a love of literature, self, and family in her kindergarten classroom.
Two years after Saraí and I spoke of what had happened that morning, my husband and I sat, not in a café, but in a courtyard filled with the blossoms of spring and sprays of purple flowers, as she married Rodrigo, a teacher from Spain. The complex web of our history, present and future—coming together over a unity candle. We watched as Rodrigo slipped the gold and turquoise wedding band on her finger. Behind us sat our friend, Jesús, the director of bilingual education for the school district. Jesús was born and raised in Zacatecas and Tijuana, before moving to the United States as a teenager. He told me years earlier, “These ideas take me back to 1492. They shine light on an area that no one wants to look at or talk about.” Our history is our present. These relationships and connections continue to grow and shape us.
The volcanic disturbances we experience now are political and legal, creating fissures and divisions on immigration. Somehow the real people these laws affect get lost—figuratively and literally—in the desert as words fill the air.
“Colors bear the metaphors of entire cultures,” wrote Ellen Meloy (2002). Let us create turquoise in those fissures. If turquoise is the stone of spirit, of healing, of prosperity, of protection, of journey, of safety, and of homecoming, then let us bring it to the land and our people.
If colors do bear the metaphors of entire cultures, let our color be turquoise.
Anzaldúa, G. (1987). Borderlands, La Frontera: The new mestiza. Aunt Lute Books. San Francisco, CA
Foxx, J. J., & Karasik, C. (1993). The Turquoise Trail: Native American jewelry and culture of the Southwest. New York, NY: Harry N. Abrams.
Meloy, E. (2002). The anthropology of turquoise: Reflections on desert, sea, stone, and sky. Vintage Books. New York, NY
Winerip, M. (2012, March 19). Racial lens used to cull curriculum in Arizona. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/19/education/racial-lens-used-to-cull-curriculum-in-arizona.html?pagewanted=all
MOTHER TONGUE ATTAINMENT IN BILINGUAL EDUCATION POLICY: LESSONS FROM SINGAPORE
Mother tongue education has become a major controversial issue in the 21st century as scholars have called attention to the individual’s right to use and learn his or her mother tongue as a basic human right (Skutnabb-Kangas, 2000). According to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (1992), minorities should be given sufficient opportunities to learn their mother tongue or to receiveinstruction in their mother tongue.
Mother tongue education has also been given due emphasis in Singapore’s language-in-education policy (Lee, 2011; Oon & Kor, 2009). The goal in this article is to highlight some recent issues raised by various stakeholders (policymakers, educators, parents, students, and school administrators) surrounding mother tongue education in Singapore to draw attention to some applications in language-in-education policies.
SINGAPORE’S BILINGUAL EDUCATION POLICY
Singapore is a small (714.3 sq km) island state located at the tip of the Malay Peninsula. With a population of approximately 5 million, it is a young country of many races whose forefathers are from Southeast Asia, China, India, and various European countries. In 1965, the country developed a policy of multilingualism (Rappa & Wee, 2006), resulting in the Republic of Singapore Independence Act of 1965, which decreed that Malay, Mandarin, Tamil, and English would be the four official languages of the nation. In addition, Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil were officially designated as the mother tongues of the Chinese, Malay, and Indian communities, respectively.
In 1966, the country implemented a policy of bilingualism that made it mandatory for all students in Singapore to study English as a first language, and a mother tongue language (Malay, Tamil or Chinese) as a second language. The “English-knowing bilingualism” policy renders English the language of instruction for nearly all subjects except the mother tongue languages in Singaporean schools. As Pendley (1983) stated, Singapore’s bilingual education theoretical framework is essentially additive, based on the belief that two languages can be functionally compartmentalized, maintaining diglossia.
PROBLEM IN SINGAPORE’S BILINGUAL POLICY: THE DECLINE OF THE MOTHER TONGUE
However, over the years, various controversies and issues pertaining to the bilingual educational policy emerged through various headlines in the local press:
“Was Chinese wrongly taught for thirty years?” (Oon & Kor, 2009)
“Singaporeans split on Mother Tongue” (Zhang & Hussain, 2010)
“Price of Bilingualism” (P. Tan, 2009)
Despite efforts by some parents to cultivate an interest in Mandarin (the mother tongue of the Chinese population), an increasing number of children appeared to be indifferent to the subject in schools (Lau,2010).
Currently, the mother tongue is given only 25 percent weight in the primary school exit examination in Singapore (K. B. Tan, 2010). Unfortunately, some students perceive their mother tongue merely as an examination subject for progress in the academic ladder, while others have little or no incentive to learn it in schools (Lee, 2009). A major reason for the lack of interest in the mother tongue subject can be attributed to the overwhelming presence of English in Singapore. This allows Singapore to plug into the world economy, yet runs the risk of turning Singapore into a society, where linguistic differentiation is marked by social stratification, resulting in an unequal power distribution between English-speaking and non-English-speaking citizens.
As a result of the importance of English in Singapore, more and more Chinese Singaporeans speak English instead of their mother tongue at home. For example, Oon and Kor (2009) reported that 3 out of 5 Chinese pupils entering elementary schools in Singapore speak English at home.
Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s former minister mentor and initiator of Singapore’s bilingual policy, expressed concern that the encroachment of English in the home environment could hinder the intergenerational transmission of the mother tongue within Chinese families (Lee, 2011) and shared his concern that, some 30 years after English became the first language, the pendulum had swung too much in the direction of English, leaving many younger Singaporeans unable to speak their mother tongue (Chen, 2011).Along these lines, some educational leaders are worried that this trend will eventually lead to a decline of the Chinese language (Lee, 2011).
In addition, it has also been reported that an increasing number of Chinese students from English-speaking families state that learning the mother tongue subject in school was painful and stressful (Lee, 2011). This issue was first highlighted in 1997 when the former prime minister, Mr. Goh Chok Tong, flagged the need to study and rectify the learning difficulties of ethnic Chinese from English-speaking homes (Lee, 2011, p. 183):
These children have at least average ability. They have no difficulties with their other school subjects. But they find Chinese (the mother tongue subject) in school very difficult. This is despite intensive effort, extra tuition and close supervision from parents.
To prevent the Chinese language from halting the academic progress of their children, an increasing number of Chinese parents―specifically those from English-speaking home environments―have called for a reduction of the weighting of the mother tongue in the Primary School Exit Examination (K. B. Tan, 2010). Zhang and Hussain (2010) reported that the Ministry of Education received more than 1,024 signatures from parents petitioning for the reduction of the mother tongue.
The mother tongue reduction issue aroused strong emotions in Singapore, particularly among English-speaking Chinese parents. Two surveys of parents and children conducted by the Ministry of Education in 1998 and 2004 (Lee, 2011, p. 134) reflected an inordinate amount of anxiety and frustration over the learning of the mother tongue among parents from English-speaking home environments. Some parents have also criticized the mother tongue requirement as misguided―something that has resulted in students merely studying Chinese as a second language to pass examinations, while resenting its use in their postschool lives (Balji, 2010).
The Ministry of Education is also aware of the widespread concern among Singaporean parents that their children are being penalized for a lack of linguistic proficiency, rather than a lack of intellectual adequacy (Rappa & Wee, 2006). Minister Mentor Lee has admitted that the mother tongue requirement was pitched too high and did not take into consideration students’ attitudes and aptitudes in language learning (Lee, 2009).
In response to these challenges, the Ministry of Education developed a B syllabus, enabling students to opt for a simpler mother tongue course in secondary school. In a parliamentary speech in January 1999, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong explained the rationale behind the implementation of the B syllabus as an attempt to teach the mother tongue language at a more realistic level―ultimately, taking into consideration the increasing number of students from English-speaking homes (Lee, 2011). However, this tweak in the mother tongue policy has caused heated public reactions, especially among leaders within the Chinese community, who feel that such a move would lead to a deterioration of the Chinese language (Lee, 2011). In this regard, some members of Parliament representing the Chinese community had called for a comprehensive review of the teaching of the mother tongue in schools to ensure that the mother tongue remains a living language, rather than being a mere examination subject.
IMPLICATIONS OF LANGUAGE-IN-EDUCATION POLICIES FOR SCHOOLS
There are some implications for language planners that may derive from the issues and controversies surrounding mother tongue education in Singapore. Thus, official planners may need to adopt an ecological orientation (Hornberger, 2003) to implement language policies and to acknowledge that multiple languages in the linguistic landscape are resources, not problems, for the community. Providing more spaces for the mother tongue subject in institutional contexts will help increase students’ appreciation for their mother tongue and motivate them to learn the language. Moreover, education planners should address the continua of biliteracy model proposed by Hornberger (2003) and decide the mix of languages, literacies, and discourses aftertaking into consideration the history of and relationship between languages within the school community. In addition, as suggested by Canagarajah (2005), official language planners should strive toward a more localized orientation, considering the tensions, ambiguities, and paradoxes that exist within the community in which language planning is effected.
In order to maintain the standard of, and to sustain students’ interest in, the learning of the mother tongue, schools may want to consider the following:
(i) The mother tongue should be the main teaching language for the first six years. Empirical evidence (Ramirez, 1992) shows that using the home language for instructional purposes for at least five to six years contributes to a more successful schooling experience for emergent bilinguals (Ramirez, 1992).
(ii) The content of mother tongue education should incorporate local cultural traditions and customs. In order for students to attain a high level of proficiency in the mother tongue, the cultural content of mother tongue education needs to be context-sensitive and applicable to pertinent situations in the local ethnic community. This will ensure that the mother tongue is widely used, appreciated, and socially relevant in the community.
(iii) Mother tongue learning should include cognitively complex tasks. Skutnabb-Kangas (2009) suggested that mother tongue education should incorporate both children’s and community’s experiences and knowledge, progressing from pragmatic everyday thinking to scientific thinking, and thereby taking students from basic interpersonal communicative skills to cognitive-academic language proficiency (Cummins, 1991).
(iv) Include well-trained bi- or multilingual teachers in the classroom. The availability of bilingual or multilingual teachers in the classroom will help children develop metalinguistic awareness, the main factor benefiting high-level bilingual or multilingual children when compared with monolingual children (Mohanty, 1995). In addition, the presence of effective bilingual or multilingual teachers will help create nonthreatening learning contexts for students learning the mother tongue, as well as a favorable environment for dual-language education―fostering the successful development of both the mother tongue and the dominant language.
Balji, P. N. (2010, August 19). Potholes on the road to bilingualism. China Daily. Retrieved from http://www.chinadaily.com.cn
Canagarajah, S. (2005). Accommodating tensions in language-in-education policies: An afterword. In A. Lin & P. Martin (Eds.), Decolonization, globalisation(pp. 194-201).Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters.
Chen, S. (2011, October 14). The myth of the bilingual Chinese Singaporean. Asian Correspondence. Retrieved from http://www.asiancorrespondent.com
Cummins, J. (1991). Conversational and academic language proficiency in bilingual contexts. AILA Review, 8, 75-89.
Hornberger, N. (2003). Bilingual education and language maintenance: A Southern Peruvian quechua case. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Foris.
Lau, S.S. (2010, May 9). A mum’s concern and hope. The Straits Times. Retrieved from http://www.asiaone.com/News/Education/Story.
Lee, K. Y. (2009, November 17). Insistence on bilingualism in early years of education policy was wrong: Minister Mentor Lee. The Straits Times. Retrieved from http://www.news.asiaone.com
Lee, K. Y. (2011). My lifelong challenge: Singapore’s bilingual journey. Singapore: Straits Times Press.
Mohanty, A. K. (1995). Bilingualism in a multilingual society. Psycho-social and Pedagogical Implications. Mysore, India: Central Institute of Indian Languages.
Oon, C., & Kor, K. B. (2009, November 29). Was Chinese wrongly taught for thirty years? The Straits Times. Retrieved from http://www.news.asiaone.com/News/
Pendley, C. (1983). Language, policy and social transformation in contemporary Singapore. Southeast Asian Journal of Social Science, 11(2), 46-58.
Ramirez, D. (1992). Executive summary. Bilingual Research Journal, 16, 1-62.
Rappa, A. L., & L. Wee. (2006). Language policy and modernity in South East Asia. New York, NY: Springer.
Skutnabb-Kangas, T. (2000). Linguistic genocide in education or worldwide diversity and human rights? Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Skutnabb-Kangas, T. (2009,). The stakes: Linguistic diversity, linguistic human rights and mother tongue based multilingual education or linguistic genocide, crimes against humanity and an even faster destruction of biodiversity and our planet. Paper presented at the Bamako International Forum on Multilingualism, Bamako, Mali. Retrieved from http://www.tove-skutnabb
Tan, K. B. (2010, May 5). Mother tongue: A hot button issue. TODAY. Retrieved from http://www. news.asiaone.com
Tan, P. (2009, November 26). Price of bilingualism. The Straits Times. Retrieved from http://www. news.asiaone.com
Zhang, R. & Hussain, Z. (2010, May 11). Singaporeans split on Mother Tongue weight age. The Straits Times. Retrieved from http://www.news.asiaone.com
Dr. Patrick Ng earned his doctorate in education (applied linguistics and TESOL) from Leicester University, United Kingdom. He is currently an assistant professor in the International Studies and Regional Development Department at the University of Niigata Prefecture, Japan. His research interests focus on bilingualism, readers’ theater, and multicultural literacy.
REVIEW OF DIARY OF A BILINGUAL SCHOOL
Two teacher-parents, looking for a progressive, bilingual education opportunity for children, started a grassroots movement that resulted in the opening of the Inter-American Magnet School in Chicago. Adelman Reyes was one of those teacher-parents. She discovered the school―a setting that instilled intellectual curiosity and a love of learning in children―after her daughter experienced a rigid curriculum devoid of creativity, thoughtful planning, or representation of Latino cultures in a transitional bilingual education first-grade classroom. The results of her year-long ethnographic study in Ms. Sontag’s second-grade classroom are documented in five narrative chapters, which are preceded by an introduction to fundamental concepts in the inception and implementation of a dual-immersion program based on a constructivist philosophy. Two additional chapters follow, the first one describing the current activities of the teacher and her former pupils (now in their twenties), the second providing suggestions for further reading.
The authors felt that a diary approach to their book was necessary because, even though the bilingual/bicultural side of Inter-American has been widely researched, its individual constructivist underpinnings had not. In adopting a diary genre for their book, Adelman-Reyes and Crawford felt they could present the program’s constructivist roots and the school’s teaching/learning processes in a more holistic manner, providing overviews of its educational philosophy, curriculum, and pedagogy.
PART I – FUNDAMENTALS
The authors note that teaching situations are too context-bound for findings in any particular setting to be replicable, despite the current top-down push for scientific justifications for effective program models, curricula, and teaching methodologies.
Chapter 1, “Making sense of the words-and the world,” provides inception details of the Inter-American school. The authors note that parents are becoming aware of the value of bilingualism and are consequently seeking ways for their offspring to become bilingual in formal school settings. They explore the relationship between the origins of the school and its Canadian French immersion antecedent, as well as existing differences between the two models.
Chapter 2, “Principles and practices,” identifies the key features of dual-immersion programs (i.e., additive bilingualism and biliteracy, cross-cultural emphasis, professional development, and home-school connections). These features, encompassing constructivist strategies (i.e., critical thinking, active engagement, and motivation) and an innovative, child-centered curriculum, create a space for discovery learning and spark children’s critical thinking skills.
PART II – NARRATIVES
The titles of the narrative chapters―“Welcome to room 307”; “The worms have arrived!”; “Nincas and ninfas”; “Beetles and butterflies”; and “Goodbye, Mrs. Bee”―indicate that insects were the thematic focus throughout the year.
“Welcome to Room 307,” for example, presents an episode in which an English-dominant student chooses the Spanish version of two identical picture books for silent reading. Access to several forms of comprehensible input (Krashen, 1985) put in place by her teacher, among them the English version of the same book and access to a Spanish-dominant peer who can explain new Spanish vocabulary in paraphrases during bilingual partner-reading, allowed her to make sense of a text slightly above her comfort zone in her second language.
Various factors helped students acquire a deep knowledge of insects throughout the year, namely a continued focus on the topic, ownership of the knowledge presented experientially through project- and discovery-based learning, and theme-based reading, writing, listening, and speaking for a purpose. This approach to teaching/learning contributed to the transformation of students into bilingual/biliterate learners with a love for scientific discovery learning. In the process they also gained critical thinking skills, became autonomous learners, and constructed positive identities. As an additional perk, they learned specialized Spanish vocabulary on topics such as how to care for insects at different stages of their life cycle.
PART III – OUTCOMES
The authors caught up with 15 of the original students in 2011, 15 years after the students’ second-grade experience, in order to document their current activities. Interestingly, all of the children went on to gain meaningful employment or continue their studies, and approximately one third of them were still involved in Spanish in their academic pursuits, professions, or aspirations. According to the authors, this finding provided evidence of Inter-American’s successful educational program in a way that numbers could not reveal. Interview data from the students, now adults, serve as testimonials of a bilingual/bicultural program’s benefits for its students.
The illustrations of exemplary L2 teaching practices and classroom-based research make this book ideal for pre- or in-service teachers and for psychology students interested in constructivism. In addition, the linkage between theory and practice included in the “Info Boxes” included in the narrative chapters exposes readers to refreshing and edifying information on topics ranging from “Building on prior knowledge” (p. 52) to “Habits of mind” (pp. 92-93). Furthermore, the authors provide additional sources after the narratives for those interested in delving deeper into certain topics. Overall, the book meets the authors’ goal of being appropriate for laypeople.
Although the research was conducted in 1995-1996, it is still highly pertinent. The narratives will draw researchers interested in Egan’s (2011) work on the deep knowledge resulting from students’ engagement in a theme-based, project/discovery approach to at-school learning, and the subsequent conversations occurring at home. Researchers focusing on the development of student engagement through authentic learning situations, purposeful learning, and learner autonomy―along the lines of Little’s (2010) work―will also find the narratives noteworthy. Finally, the way the program structure developed student self-esteem and positive identity construction relates to Cummins and Early’s (2011) recent work on identity texts. Overall, the narratives lend themselves to a variety of researchers—including ones working in other models of bilingual education and constructivism.
Taylor (in press) also outlined how additive bilingualism and biliteracy are key goals of French immersion, just as they are in dual immersion. Moreover, Larsen-Freeman and Anderson (2011) provided sample portraits of how communicative classrooms could look compared with audiolingual or grammar-translation classrooms in terms of teacher-student roles, teaching methodologies, and principles of second language learning; however, no similar portraits exist of French immersion classrooms (Merrill Swain, personal communication, June 5, 2012). In this regard, Adelman-Reyes and Crawford’s portraits of how to integrate a second language focus into teaching academic content (i.e., factoring vocabulary development and student engagement into teaching, structuring activities in which students read for a purpose, orchestrating action-oriented teaching, designing authentic learning situations, and co-constructing student identities) are well suited to inform teacher candidates and practitioners in various models of bilingual education.
The short section outlining “where fifteen of the former students are now” lends strong qualitative support to the success of the program, although no information is provided in regards to who tracked the pupils into their adult pursuits. More information on the process would have been useful as would have a “that was then and this is now” section fast-forwarding to how and why the teaching/learning process had or had not changed at Inter-American since the study was done. In other words, the book does not answer two questions: “What is dual immersion like now?” and “Will children enrolled in dual immersion now do as well as the children profiled in the book?” Such sections would help settle parents’ qualms and better prepare policymakers favorable to dual-immersion programs for the obstacles that lie ahead. As the maxim goes, forewarned is forearmed.
While the book presents only a snapshot of a year in the development of students attending a second-grade dual-immersion classroom, and it is fair to assume that their lives and learning trajectories diverged in countless ways since then, Ms. Sontag’s former students seem to have developed into successful young adults whose Spanish-English bilingualism remain a part of their lives. At a time when the dominance of English and linguistic imperialism shows no sign of abating, touting the benefits of bilingualism often seems like a counterdiscourse in and of itself (Cummins, 2007). For parents, teachers, and policymakers seeking support for the bilingual goals and aspirations they hold for children, Adelman-Reyes and Crawford’s book may be the text they need to strengthen their resolve, buttress their position, and make alternative voices heard.
Cummins, J. (2007). Rethinking monolingual instructional strategies in multilingual classrooms. Canadian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 10(2), 221-240.
Cummins, J., & Early, M. (Eds.). (2011). Identity texts: The collaborative creation of power in multilingual schools. Stoke-on-Trent, England: Trentham Books.
Egan, K. (2011). Learning in depth: A simple innovation that can transform school. London, Canada: The Althouse Press.
Krashen, S. (1985). The input hypothesis: Issues and implications. London, England: Longman.
Larsen-Freeman, D., & Anderson, M. (2011). Techniques and principles in language teaching. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Little, D. (2010). Issues in learner autonomy [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from http://www.tesolacademic.org
Taylor, S. K. (in press). Immersion. In J. Ainsworth (Ed.), Sociology of education: An A-to-Z guide. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Shelley Taylor is associate professor at Western University, specializing in minority language children enrolled in various models of multilingual education. She has conducted research on French immersion in Canada, a bilingual/bicultural program in Denmark, and multilingual language education in Nepal. She was BEIS chair in 2009-2010 and edited Bilingual Basics from 2004 to 2007.