Over the years, many debates have arisen in regards to second language instruction (L2), giving prominence to two main models: English Only versus Bilingual Education. English Only uses solely English as the medium for instruction, whereas Bilingual Education, as its name implies, uses both English and the student?s native language. While there are several aspects to the debate, this paper will briefly cover a certain few: cultural sensitivity, accuracy, and segregation.
Proponents of the English Only model claim that the use of a student?s native language creates a ?cycle of native language dependency,? meaning that the student, to some extent, gets ?tethered? to his native tongue. Using solely English in the classroom, advocates say, frees students to think and speak in English, thus facilitating language acquisition. However, those teachers who prefer Bilingual Education believe a student?s first language is a foundation for learning; in other words, bilingual teachers use the native language as a valuable medium for language instruction.
Interestingly enough, bilingual educators state the concept of native-language ?dependency? creates a hierarchy between L1 and L2, or rather, it devalues a student?s native language. This is Bilingual Education?s cultural argument: the student?s cultural identity is very important, and therefore, the attempt to ?wean students off their native language? is seen as demoralizing, confusing, and a detriment to motivation. The proponents of the English Only method counter this point by stating the early difficulties of L2 acquisition in an English only environment is compensated later with satisfaction of learning a second language, pride, and success.
By nature, a bilingual classroom will segregate students into various groups: Chinese native speakers will be grouped together, Spanish native speakers will be grouped together, and so on. The English Only model instead encourages exactly the opposite: it groups students by language proficiency level while advocating mixed native speaking groups. This hodge-podge, they say, will increase trust among students rather than creating a ?fall back? into native speaking groups. In addition, it promotes the use of English across cultures, one of the main reasons many students desire to learn English.
This debate continues to go on in the world of L1 and L2 acquisition, and both sides bring valid points into the argument. The English Only immersion model tends to rest its philosophy on the fact that students need to begin to think in English; total immersion facilitates the process. On the other hand, Bilingual Education tends to see L2 acquisition as a slower, more deliberate learning process, creating a bridge from a student?s native language to English. Both models are still used today.
*Research information was collected from San Diego State University?s Professor Jill Kerper Mora.
Author: Keith Lin
Date of post: 2006-07-21