Wednesday, July 15, 2009

English Language Acquisition Without Bilingual Instruction

No Child Left Behind's modification of the 34-year old Bilingual Education Act in 2002 has been academically detrimental to English language learners and reinforced conservative English-only arguments associated with immigration myths.  Ronald Takaki asks Are we limited to a choice between a 'disuniting' multiculturalism and a common American culture, or can we transform the 'culture war' into a meeting ground?  Replacing the Bilingual Education Act with the English Language Acquisition Act seems to have indirectly answered this question with a binary agenda. 

Everything regarding linguistics is sociolinguistic.  In addition, it is impossible to assume a standard exists or ever will. 

In fact, if anything approaching a universal standard variety exists at all, it is found only in the written form of English or any other language.  Discriminating against people for the way they speak is even more unwarranted than might be obvious to any rational person, for nobody speaks either ‘English’ or ‘Standard English’; everyone speaks a variety of English, and SE speakers speak but one variety of SE” (Pincus & Ehrlich 1999).

The English Language Acquisition Act attempts to punish schools that do not make sufficient progress surrounding expedited fluency.  This means native-language instruction is eliminated to make room for mandated full-immersion curriculums that neglect increased sociolinguistic proficiency.  The inability to deftly code-switch, manipulate communication, or indulge in heterogeneous experiences inevitably results in personal and cultural isolation.  The English Language Acquisition Act inadvertently prevents language acquisition by a system of oppression or neglect because it suppresses native languages and hinders academic progress. 

Academic language is intertwined with cognitive development; they work together.  Developing proficiency in academic language thus means catching up and keeping up with native speakers, for eventual successful academic performance at secondary and university levels of instruction (Collier 1995)…

            Standard English is the most acceptable form of English because of historical inequalities and contemporary stratification.  There has to be a “standard” language in this country because our country is dependent upon social constructs.

Whatever 'multiculturalism' may mean to its proponents, it most assuredly does not involve a rejection of English as the national lingua franca.  No ethnic leaders have been crazy enough to suggest that immigrants can get along without learning English, nor would any immigrants pay the slightest attention to such a suggestion if it were made (Nunberg).

While students absolutely need to master Standard English in order to remain competitive, sacrificing their home languages is not a necessary step. 

Our zeal to make every U.S. citizen and resident English-speaking has obscured a basic fact: learning English--developing a common language--does not require unlearning or not learning other languages" (Mendez 71).

            Teachers should be required to learn the languages of their students and bilingual education should be reinstated.  Discouraging native languages invites unintentional latent or covert discrimination into the classroom.  Teachers should have to code-switch as much as their students struggle to if global adaptability does, in fact, continue to be a major catalyst for funding No Child Let Behind.

References

Collier, Virginia P.  (1995).  Promoting Academic Success for ESL Students. 

Crawford, James.  (2002).  OBITUARY: The Bilingual Ed Act, 1968 – 2002.  Rethinking Schools Online.

Mendez, Sara E.  (1989).  A Nation of Monolinguals, a Multilingual World.

Nunberg, Geoffrey. Lingo Jingo: English-Only and the New Nativism. Pincus, Fred L. & Ehrlich, Howard.  (1999). Race and Ethnic Conflict. 

Tataki, Robert. Multiculturalism: Battleground or Meeting Ground? Pincus, Fred L. & Ehrlich, Howard.  (1999). Race and Ethnic Conflict. 

 

 

 

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