Bilingual Education: The Tie that Divides

In the United States there is the presupposition that bilingual education is the answer to teaching linguistically diverse children.  The idea is that the children who have a mother tongue other than English and do not speak English as their own language will be sufficiently able to merge and communicate with the major culture of the States while being taught the majority of their classes in their native tongue.  In many cases this presupposition creates a setting where the same children are never exposed to English beyond a few hours of each school day.

Common languages create a bond between speakers because they can understand each other and communicate their way through disagreements and misunderstandings.  Learning a new language also forces one to learn a new culture as well.  Linguistically, parts of the States are becoming fragmented in such a way that children can grow to adulthood without ever needing to speak any language other than their mother tongue.  This creates a communication and often relational gap between English and foreign-language speakers.  Children are very adept at learning new languages, but this learning requires exposure to the new language.  When children from non-English speaking homes never hear English at home and are exposed to minimal amounts of the language at school, the learning process does not occur sufficiently.  Continuation of the bilingual education mindset will promote divisions that grow in this nation as each language group gravitates to its own section of city or state thus driving a wedge between the languages rather than creating a bond of a common language and communication.

Students should receive assistance in their own language so they are not stranded in their learning.  However, the key is assistance in the native tongue not reliance.  It is necessary, for the language-learning process, for the students to be exposed to the English language as much as possible.  With this exposure they will be able to understand American culture and communicate therein wholly avoiding the division of language barriers.  A few meager hours or less each day will not suffice.  Students must be exposed to the language they need for successful living in the States.  They will not lose their own language because they will still be exposed to it in their own homes.  They will become bilingual themselves and be the timbers that bridge the gap between culture and languages in the United States.  This is only possible if mindsets change and they are given sufficient teaching and exposure in the English language.  If bilingual education would teach two languages and not make the students reliant on their own native tongue, it would build a bridge between the cultures and help keep communication between cultures part of the great melting pot called The United States.