Monday, December 08, 2008

Krashen on why bilingual programs are win-win

Bilingual Programs are Win-Win

Sent to The Age (Australia), Dec 6, 2008

Both sides in the debate over bilingual education ("Aboriginal language at risk in NT," December 6) are right about goals.
Tom Calma is right when he says that there are clear advantages to developing the child's heritage language: High levels of bilingualism have been shown to be good for cognitive development, resulting in better school performance. Recent studies also suggest that bilingualism helps older people as well: It can delay the onset of dementia.
Marion Scrymgour is right when she says that "kids are entitled to learn English".
One way to help children acquire English to high levels is the use of the first language in school. Good bilingual programs use the first language in ways that accelerate English language development. Scientific studies, controlling for background factors, consistently show that children in bilingual programs make very good progress in the second language, typically doing better than children in second language "immersion" programs. Bilingual education thus offers a win-win situation, providing both heritage language development and strong English language development.
A second way to increase English proficiency is to make sure children have access to reading material in both languages. English language learners are often children of poverty, and studies tell us that children of poverty have little access to reading material at home, at school, or in their communities. Studies also tell us that those who read more for pleasure read better, write better, spell better, have larger vocabularies, and better command of complex grammar. Clearly, we must invest in public and school libraries in high poverty areas. An English learner who becomes a dedicated reader in English will do well academically and have no trouble on any standardized test of English.

Stephen Krashen


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