Human behavior and perception are mediated by a language a particular person speaks. Codes that open when people study foreign languages help create new perception channels. Thus, a person who knows more than one language – bilingual – possesses unique language skills, as he can operate both languages with equal proficiency and clarity. According to the statistics, the number of non-English-speaking students in the US is continuously growing, while bilingual education is still treated skeptically (Gándara and Escamilla 1).
However, bilingual education is considered worldwide the best way to establish a multicultural, multilingual, and tolerant society. Hence, it requires governmental consideration, as it gets people acquainted with different cultures and helps students whose English language command is low increase their level of language proficiency.
Bilingual education has always been a matter of deep concern for the US due to the growing number of immigrants. Today’s statistics provide the number of 60 million people, or almost one-quarter of the total US population, speak other languages at home (Gándara and Escamilla 5). Despite that fact, most bilingual educational programs implemented by the US government mainly targeted English language proficiency rather than bilingualism. Since the US government requires equal educational opportunities for all students regardless of their English language level, there were created transitional bilingual education (TBE) programs of different types.
They were organized in a way that helped non-English-speaking students gradually transit from learning school content in a non-English language to learning school content in English (Gándara and Escamilla 6). However, the citizens widely criticized the TBE programs because they prioritized the English language among others (Nikolska 45). Such a policy seems utterly wrong since the main objective of bilingual education worldwide is to promote multilingualism and cross-cultural communication that will benefit both English-speaking and non-English-speaking students.
However, the situation changes over time because the shortcomings of the TBE programs resulted in establishing a new bilingual education program, Dual Language Education. It promotes learning other languages alongside English (Gándara and Escamilla 6). This bilingual educational program regards more benefits for the students because they master new languages despite English and extend their knowledge of different countries’ cultural peculiarities. Unlike the TBE programs, the dual-language programs give the students opportunities to learn at least two languages and learn school content in English and other languages. Teaching with the use of two or more languages regards the extension of students’ knowledge in terms of other countries’ traditions and the formation of a tolerant attitude towards people of different views (Nikolska 48).
This process contributes to the further creation of multicultural society, promoting the idea of pluralism and cross-cultural communication. Hence, bilingual education programs serve not only the students’ interests but also the society’s development.
Regardless of the advantages of bilingual education, many people still seem to be quite skeptical about its benefits to students. However, the studies comparing students participating in transitional bilingual, dual language bilingual, and English-only programs showed that bilingual students, especially those of dual language programs, had a higher level of academic proficiency (Gándara and Escamilla 9). Such an increase is caused by a number of skills students develop when they study two or more languages at the same time. Hence, bilinguals are more creative and ingenious because seeing the world from several perspectives develops a creative way of thinking.
Besides, it becomes easier for bilinguals to plan their schedule, make decisions and analyze challenging situations, as they are highly attentive and observant. One more consequence of studying several languages regards tolerance towards people of other cultures and to the cultures in general because it is impossible to develop a proper language command without knowing the country’s culture (Nikolska 48). Thus, bilingual education possesses several benefits that facilitate students’ lives and help them handle the modern rhythm of life relatively quickly.
The majority of bilingual education programs start from elementary school students. It is explained by the fact that children are more susceptible to developing proper command of both languages they study. Besides, bilingual education, in that case, relates not only to children but also to their parents, who are involved in the educational process. Thus, children are able to gain essential academic skills, get proper education regardless of their native language and preserve their cultural heritage (Majd 112).
In that case, bilingual education serves not only the needs of individuals but for the interests of the whole community, as it helps bridge linguistic and cultural gaps between the native and non-native speakers. Hence, bilingual education may become a foundation of a healthy multicultural, multilingual, and multinational society whose members respect each other despite socio-cultural or economic background.
Considering all mentioned above, it is possible to conclude that bilingual education gives students an excellent opportunity to become multilingual and multicultural people. Apart from that, it helps them develop secondary skills necessary for day-to-day life both inside and outside school. In addition, bilingual education programs help preserve heritage languages and cultures and promote cross-cultural communication, which is vital in today’s globalized society.
Gándara, Patricia and Escamilla, Kathy. “Bilingual Education in the United States.” Bilingual and Multicultural Education, edited by Ofelia García, Angel M. Y. Lin and Stephen May, Springer International Publishing, 2017, pp. 1-14.
Majd, Sarah. Review of The Bilingual Revolution : The Future of Education is in Two Languages wrote by Fabrice Jaumont. International Journal of Language and Literary Studies, vol. 1, no. 2, 2019, pp. 110-113.
Nikolska, Nina. Bilingualism as a Pedagogical Problem in the USA and Canada. Education: Modern Discourses, vol. 2, 2019, pp. 44-50.