The discussion of bilingual education is a topic that hits me very close to home whenever it comes up. lam a woman who grew up speaking Spanish at home as my first language English was a second language that I learned at school. For my son, his story is the opposite. He spent the first few years of his life learning English as his first language and never spoke Spanish at alL. It was not until he started school that he started to learn Spanish as a second language, which at the time was a complete accident.
The administration placed my son in ESL classes on a mistake because they made the assumption that he was a first-language Spanish speaker based upon my background. This mistake by his school was, however, a fortunate event in his life, he is now 11 years old and speaks Spanish fluently because of his experiences in the bilingual education environment. On top of this, my son consistently receives the best grades in his classes, his intelligence is something that I attribute to learning both languages side by side in the classroom setting, which has helped him to develop flexible mental capacities.
It is a scientifically proven fact that children who manage to obtain bilingual education from a young age often outcompete their peers academically. In the book Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, Colin Baker demonstrates that children who are actively raised to be bilingual develop analytical skills earlier than their peers. These skills, he argues, continue to outshine at later ages those of their classmates who are actively raised to only speak one language when given tests of analytical and symbolic comprehension.
These observations give clues to the obvious advantages of efforts to educate children to be comfortably bilingual when these students exhibit such advanced analytical abilities. The American learning system, however, does not make bilingual education a priority while it maintains a situation where English is the exclusive language of the majority of the American people. In a world that has become increasingly connected because of the internet, it makes little sense for the American government to ignore these potential benefits that come from bilingualism.
When looking at the improved analytical abilities of the children who have grown up in environments where they received active bilingual education, it makes one wonder about the possibilities that increasing the level of bilingual education in America would have on the general population. In The United States, most of the population only speaks English, so it generally only in families that speak other languages that children grow up speaking more than one language. Students have the option to take foreign language classes at school, but these options only appear later in the education system in either high school or when the children reach college. This leads to the question: what cultural effects would impose a mandatory bilingual education policy onto the American education system have on the American people? This paper will attempt to investigate American attitudes toward bilingualism and whether or not it would be beneficial for Americans to develop a more extensive approach to educating students as bilinguals.