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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Bilingualism in the US

Bilingualism in the US has an interesting history. A community that had a huge amount of a second language presence was Germans in the US before World War I. Peter F. Drucker mentioned this to me when I was presented my paper on what became Childbook.com With World War I, instruction in German was banned in many schools, German newspapers in the US stopped publishing. An online book covers the subject. A German American was even lynched. German Americans were the largest immigrant group at the time who were still keeping their original language. Around 9 Million in 1910 still spoke German. In England, the Royal Family changed it's name from the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha became the House of Windsor, Battenberg became Mountbatten and the German Shepherd was renamed the Alsatian (only going back in 1977 to German Shepherd).

Bilingual Education in the US is usually associated with Spanish. Title VII in 1968 and 1977 gave funding for children who had low English proficiency. At the time this was known as ELS - English Language Learners, but the current terminology is LEP - Limited English Proficiency. It used to be ESL, English as a Second Language. 1974 Equal Education Act of 1974 was interpreted that limited English Proficiency should not bar students from getting a good education. In 1967, Ronald Reagan (California Governor) signed a law allowing the other languages to be used for education besides English, overturning an 1872 law. In 1998 in California, Proposition 227 passed that basically banned using Bilingual Education as a method for teaching English in public schools.

Proposition 227 was passed by voters because they felt that public schools were not doing a great job of teaching English to students using bilingual education. There is a lot of debate on this still, but the politics in my opinion is proposition 227 is going to stay in force for the foreseeable future. Scores of students whom were Learning English have improved since the passage of Prop. 227, the reason for this is hotly debated. Smaller class sizes were implemented, increases in funding, new teaching methods, etc.

The preferred method for Learning English currently is called SDAI, or Structured Designed Academic Development. Translation - classes are taught in English, but with a lot of body language and easier words so students can understand. It's like the ESL classes I taught for adults. How bilingual education was originally done in the US, was classes would be done in a foreign language so the students understood, then theoretically they would be gradually introduced to English. The prior widespread idea, that was labeled Bilingual Education being if they were proficient in a subject in their native language, it would be easy for them to understand it in English. What happened was many students never graduated from the bilingual classes.

There are some schools that are doing some very exciting work to be true bilingual schools. This is where students are taught for example both in English and another language. Private schools have done this for a while, but some public schools are now doing this. I will have some names in a future post.

Some of them off the top of my head:
Unfortunately I don't know of any full time bilingual schools in Souther California. Lots of weekend schools.

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Blogger Garfield said...

I've heard that private schools have great bilingual programs. I want to make sure that my kids get in to a good program.

March 31, 2011 at 3:44 PM  

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