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Myths Regarding Bilingual Education

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Emily LaCoppola

on 24 February 2017

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Transcript of Myths Regarding Bilingual Education

Hi Everyone!
I just wanted to take a minute to introduce myself, since I haven't had the opportunity to meet most of you.
My name is Emily and I am a first year graduate student. I am currently working on a Master's degree in Speech-Language Pathology and a bilingual extension.
I began studying Spanish in 6th grade, but it wasn't until the end of high school that I really fell in love with the language and culture. So, as an undergraduate student I completed a minor in Spanish and had an amazing opportunity to study abroad for 6 months in Salamanca, Spain. I have continued to study Spanish as ell as bilingual education because I think that it will allow me to help more client's as a speech-pathologist.
So, Why Do People Think This?
In my opinion, many people think that bilingualism confuses children for many reasons. One reason might be because the child not only has to learn the structure and rules of both languages, but they also have to learn when to use each language. For example, a child may speak Spanish at home with their parents but, English when they are hanging out with their friends. Another reason might be that people may not fully understand the bilingual education system. A third reason might be that bilingual children are more likely to have a speech or language delay or disorder because they are trying to learn 2 languages. This is not an exhaustive list, but just some things I've heard people say.
Benefit 1
Being bilingual can improve student's executive functioning skills like attention. In this article Kamenetz (2016), discussed that bilingual children have to pay close attention so they can efficiently use both language. Bilingual students also have an easier time switching between activities (Kamenetz, 2016).

Benefit 2
Bilingual education can improve student's social skills.

Kamenetz (2016), reported that "bilingual children as young as age 3 have demonstrated a head start on tests of perspective-taking and theory of mind — both of which are fundamental social and emotional skills.
Additionally, bilingual children are more in-tune with body language because they have to follow social cues to know what language to use when and with whom (Kamenetz, 2016).

Benefit 3
Bilingual education strengthens student's English-reading skills (Kamenetz, 2016). This is because learning two languages increases the student's metalinguistic awareness. The student's metalinguistic awareness is greater in bilingual students because they need to know how both languages function and be aware of how the languages are different (Kamenetz, 2016).

For this News Alert!
presentation, I wanted to talk about one of the common misconceptions that I hear when people talk about bilingual education or raising children bilingually.

That is that raising children bilingually confuses children and impairs their cognitive ability (i.e., their ability to think and learn).

Myths Regarding Bilingual Education
But Wait!
One day while sitting in the library last semester, this really interesting article popped upuo on my news feed and it seemed to answer a lot of my questions.

Anya Kamenetz (2016), with nprEd found 6 brain benefits bilingual education that raising children bilingually and participating in a bilingual education program can actually be beneficial for children.
Benefit 4
Benefit 5
Bilingual education can improve student's academic performance (Kamenetz, 2016).
Students in dual-language bilingual education programs compared with students in English-only classrooms or in one-way immersion, had somewhat higher test scores and also seem to be happier in school (Kamenetz, (2016), also noted that attendance is better, there are fewer behavioral problems , and parent involvement higher.
Bilingual education promotes diversity and integration (Kamenetz, 2016).
Benefit 6
There are long term cognitive benefits to bilingual education.

Overall, this article clarified many of the myths I hear when I talk to people about bilingual children or bilingual education, In general, there are many benefits to bilingual education. However, I think that type of bilingual program that the student is enrolled in and how that bilingual education program is being implemented plays a big role in whether or not student's is actually benefitting from receiving bilingual education.

Additionally, I believe that is our job as bilingual educators to share findings such as these with parents and other educators in our school to hopefully change they way people think about bilingual education.
Kamentez, A., (2016, November 29). 6 Potential rain benefits of bilingual education. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/11/29/497943749/6-potential-brain-benefits-of-bilingual-education
Kamenetz (2016), found that dual-language bilingual education programs tend to be more ethnically and socioeconomically diverse. This contributed to a more welcoming classroom environment that makes students feel comfortable.
This made me think about how home parents decided to only use English because they want their child to assimilate to the English culture. However, I think that people shouldn't abandon their home language, but rather embrace it and their culture.
Kamenetz (2016), found that bilingual education can protects against cognitive decline and dementia because the brain is actively being used in different ways that in monolingual individuals. Being bilingual (and utilizing both languages) can help keep the brain sharp and prevent atrophy (Kamenetz, 2016).
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