US immigrants see value in bilingualism, no more English-only focus
WORLD / U.S. – It used to be that English was the only language immigrants would like their children to equip themselves with. The idea was for their children to fit in quickly into American culture by speaking the dominant language. This is not necessarily the case anymore.
A 2013 Pew Research survey “found that 95 percent of Hispanic-Americans think it’s important that their children speak Spanish.” As a result, more and more parents are turning to bilingual homeschooling to educate their children in not just the core subjects, but also to ensure that their children are bilingual and bicultural.
Homeschooling in two languages
The school system has kept up with the growing trend toward bilingualism. In the last ten years, there were just a few hundred bilingual programs. Today, there are around 2,000. While the initial thought among many is that it takes longer to learn to read and write in a bilingual environment, Usula Aldana, an education instructor at the University of San Francisco, told Wastvedt that the “two languages work together to build literacy.”
Even so, bi- or multi-lingual parents who speak a language other than English note that their children are surrounded by other who speak English at school. These children do not want to speak their parents’ language when they come home, notes Corey Heller of MultilingualLiving.com.
The structure of homeschooling in two languages varies, notes the Mommy Maestra website. Some parents might teach each lesson in both languages, or they may make use of both languages at different times during the school day, notes Heller. Some parents will completely homeschool in the minority language. This makes passing standardized tests in English, which many states require for homeschool students, difficult. In addition, students may not learn English to the level of their peers, which makes everyday functioning in a majority English-speaking society hard, explains Mommy Maestra. Partial immersion is one popular way to bilingually home school. This method educates in the minority language in the early years, and then introduces English around second grade. The most popular way is to introduce the second language around Kindergarten or first grade and then to continue to develop it over time.
Bilingual teaching focuses on subject
While the means to becoming bilingual may vary, children learn and produce work in two languages. Even though textbooks in all subjects for every grade are difficult to find in two languages, home school families use various resources to teach concepts. Heller notes that the results of learning matter most: whether the child can read and understand in two languages, do math problems, or understand world history, not the language in which a textbook is written.
Heller notes that, “While language learning is about learning to speak (and often read and write) in a given language, bilingual homeschooling is teaching a subject in a given language – the subject is the focus, rather than the language.”
How Asian and European countries do it
In many Asian and European countries, languages are ranked first, second or third depending on the government educational direction. These could be different from their lingua franca. Japan and Norway may consider their national language the first language, and English as a second language, which is why many exchange students will have to have a grasp of the local language to study abroad.
In countries such as Singapore, where Bahasa Melayu is the national language (as it was part of Malaysia and Malaya back in the day), English is considered the first language and all schools conduct lessons in English. Malay, Mandarin and Tamil – while these are native tongues of its people, are considered second language. They also have Singlish, which is essentially English amalgamated with the local languages, which is apparently an effective way to communicate.
The bilingualism approach to homeschooling is a great way to assimilate children into their culture while exposing them to a common language that will be extremely useful later on in life. While English is today the most important language in the world, it isn’t the most used language. Our previous article highlighted the most spoken language in the world is Mandarin, followed by English, Hindi and Spanish.
Ultimately, a language’s chief purpose is to facilitate communication. Will we be teaching our children Mandarin when China becomes a global economic force?