This is a great article about bilingual advocate Diane Rodriguez. She is working on improving provisions in US schools for newly arrived immigrant children who do not speak English. Schools often see these learners in a very one-dimensional way – they are “English-language learners”, and therefore the focus is on teaching them English. Her point, which is so important, is that these children as so much more than just “ELL”. They are also fluent speakers of another language, and have cultural knowledge and personalities and interests that they cannot tap into in English. They are also learners of culture, a new way of life, new ways of socialising and a new school and school system.
Good support for these children needs to go beyond focusing on the fact that they need to learn English, and consider all the other things they need to learn, without neglecting what they are bringing with them,
Professor Calls for Bilingual Education Services to Go Beyond English Instruction.
I enjoyed this reading! It has been a shock for me as international trained teacher, knowledgeable about the importance of being bilingual; and Spanish language teacher, when I arrive here, as new immigrant in this country and realize that right now Spanish teachers jobs are currently being suppressed from many schools (at least in Florida).
Although there are ESOL programs in schools, the main focus of this lessons, is the learning of English languages without consider transitional issues for the students. Other subject´s teachers are not aware about the importance of allow students to express themselves in their mother tongue (mostly Spanish around here) –or to give them at least a clue for a word in a language different of English-, in order to understand better the content and in order to express what they really know.
This situation creates a sense of low self-steam and struggle the children with frustrations, facing lack of communication issues when probably they only need to know the equivalence of the terms they are working with because they know and or understand process and contents which they are talking about in lessons. Do not know English doesn’t mean that the student doesn’t know the content!
In my short personal experience here, schools are working with old fashion methods of teaching not only languages, but other subjects, thinking only -as the article says- in one way, “They are English learners”, ignoring the wonderful source for languages lessons which is to get advantage of diversity and multiculturalism.
There are a lot of researches and sources which document and support the idea of get advantage in lessons of the student’s mother tongue knowledge to learn a new language. Modern language teaching methods are supported on this fact and they have excellent, solid and fast results.
To recognize differences, to include new experiences and cultural backgrounds are elements which always will enrich educational and academic contexts. Learners will be more knowledgeable about the global world in which they are immersed and they will also enrich their personal cultural awareness.
So, yes, it is important to support this efforts to redirect methods and approaches.