Does Banning Bilingual Education Change Anything?

Nine years after bilingual education was banned in Massachusetts, educators are still arguing over the effect on students’ language abilities.  Massachusetts is among of several states, including California and Arizona, to ban bilingual education. The fear seems to be that non-English speaking kids won’t learn English fast enough if they receive much of their instruction in their native tongue (which in the US is usually Spanish). The solution has been “total immersion” in English.

There’s no shortage of studies related to bilingual education. Here are the cases for and against . Also, the National Association for Bilingual Education, and some other links.

Reporter Andrea Smardon of WGBH-Boston has been looking at why the ban came into being, and its effects– whether  non-English speakers are now picking English faster, or whether they’re dropping out of school. There’s more on her series here.

Also in the pod, more conversation with UK-based American, Lynne Murphy. Murphy teaches linguistics at the University of Sussex. She also writes the clever and droll blog,  Separated by a Common Language. In the last podcast, we talked about twangy accents, pronunciation of the world water, and the declining status of British English in the United States. This time, we consider politeness, and why neither Yanks nor Brits live up to each others’ expectations. One word encapsulates this: toilet. Misuse this word at your peril. But there are others: excuse me and sorry have subtle differences in usage, which if you don’t get them right, may result in the locals thinking you arrogant.

Murphy has an entertaining theory about British people and the word sorry. If you’ve spent any time in the UK, you’ll know that the word comes up all the time, especially in official announcements (“We are sorry to announce that the 9:16 train to Chingford is delayed due to a staff shortage.”). But when Brits bump into people– which they do a lot on their crowded island–  they don’t always apologize. Murphy suspects this is because they are in denial about having made any physical contact.

We round off the pod with some girl pop from the 1960s, en español.

Back then, Francisco Franco was still running Spain with an iron fist, and his government resisted anything that smacked of  youthful rebellion.  But there were mini skirts (not quite so mini in Spain). And there were carefree female singers.

Spain’s best known singer was Marisel.

Marisel is one of many artists featured in a new CD called Chicas: Spanish Female Singers 1962 to 1974.

Most of the tunes on the CD were released as original singles, composed by Spanish song writers.

They had been influenced by British rock, American soul and dance crazes like the twist. The lyrics are Spanish, but the musical language is very much imported.

Listen via iTunes or here.


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9 responses to “Does Banning Bilingual Education Change Anything?

  1. Emilio


    1. This “yeye music” was part of the popular mass culture of Francoism. Pop, beat, twist etc. was the music of the dictatorship. The “youthful rebellion” was engaged with Dylan and protest songs.

    2. “But there were mini skirts (not quite so mini in Spain). And there were carefree female singers”. Are you kidding? Spain was the most important tourism country in the world. Obviously there was bikinis, miniskirts and everything. Not pornography like in Sweden, Germany etc.

    3. Who is Marisel? I suppose is Marisol. Yes, she was great, but in “Chicas” you can find many gogo and yeye female singers from Spain.

    Anyway, i recomend this CD too.

  2. Karla Perez-Paz

    My name is Karla and I am a student at NVCC. After reading the article on banning bilingual education, I was floored by how it made no sense to negate the ability for children to cultivate themselves with multiple languages. We are living in a world were jobs are requiring bilingual skills. If we could implement our youth the ability to master two or more languages I think our world would have less discrimination or stereotyping of certain cultures. We would be able to understand ethnic communities in a language level and maybe even psychological level. Language is a barrier in society that keeps up from having friends from all over the world. We like to segregate ourselves based on our cultures. If everyone could speak or understand other languages we would be closer to solidify our society at least in the U.S. being the melting pot of cultures.

  3. Tatiana Chernyakova

    I am a student of Northern Virginia Community College and I enrolled in Culture communication class. As we discussed in class, there are plenty of different issues in varieties of languages. Indeed, one of them is learning barrier of exploring a new tongue. In my experience, I know how hard it is to learn an absolutely new language when you keep speaking your native language at home, at school or with friends. Since I’ve moved to the US five years ago, I have had big issues talking English. When I was placed on ESL classes to help me learning English quicker, I kept talking to my all of my friends on my own language. The result was it took me more that two years to realize that I remembered absolutely nothing from what I learned, and there was an extreme need for me to isolate myself from Russian community and concentrate only on English language. When half year past, I noticed I leaned more English for that short period of six months than since firth grade at school.
    The same situation was with children at California and Massachusetts states. Children cannot explore a new language while talking their own the most of the time. It really slows down their abilities to learn fast and productive. As a result of speaking native language at the same time than discovering new one is their poor talking and understanding unfamiliar tongue. In my opinion, to learn faster was the necessity of blocking the access of hearing the native language and practice only the new one.

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  6. Alae A.

    Course: CST229-01
    Instructor: Mr. Tirpak

    The effects of the ban on bilingual education are numerous. Either children pick up English faster or they drop out, are not the only results the ban can possibly produce.
    Non-English speakers should be taught English first and foremost before entering into any complex subjects that require a sufficient vocabulary understanding. Maybe if a dual-language class existed, students would be able to retain information in English and whatever other language complimenting the course (their native language). For example, maybe if you have a teacher teach biology with English and Spanish combined (Spanglish). However, if there are going to be bilingual studies, then more focus and emphasis should be on teaching English to help enable the student transition into more advanced courses.
    On the other hand, the terms that are used for the area where one urinates and defecates are plentiful here in the U.S. When referring to the “bathroom” or “lavatory”, these words seem more appropriate and less disgusting to me than “toilet”, despite the fact the former sounds like a room designed specifically for taking a bath, and the latter sounds like the very last place you would want to eject flammable gases from your body ( i.e. a science lab). I guess there’s different strokes for different folks.

  7. Ximena Fernandez

    As my Cultural communication book says “humans have a propensity to prejudge. We are inclined to generalize, classify, and categorize”everything that we perceive. The way we think, feel and act is determined by our culture. Of course if we travel some place we’ll tend to judge everything around us and somehow compare it to our own culture. That doesn’t mean that our culture is right and the other culture is wrong or vise verse; it’s just the way cultures are. As it was mentioned in the podcast, one culture may pronounce one word (Either) a specific way and another culture may pronounced the same word a totally different way; it wont change the meaning.
    Concerning to the bilingual education topic, I think that the new program, ESL, is more effective than the bilingual education program because it encourages students to actually learn English. I think that if students know that they will be taught in their native language, they wouldn’t bother to learn English. I came to the U.S. four years ago and English was introduced to me for the first time through this program. As my experience, I can say that ESL program helps students with the transition because besides teaching English, teachers also teach American customs, such as what should we do on Halloween what is the myth behind it, or why do American celebrate Thanksgiving that are their traditions and customs. As my professor says if you want to learn a specific language, you should learn the culture first and if you want to learn a specific culture, you should learn the language first.

    Ximena Fernandez Quinteros
    CST 229-01
    Professor Tirpak

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