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Why Speaking Another Language in the Classroom is a Good Thing

Why Speaking Another Language in the Classroom is a Good Thing

It wasn’t too long ago that bilingual education was essentially banned from the classroom in California thanks to Proposition 227. Flash forward 15 years, and you’ll find that bilingual education is now the norm — well, for one city.

As reported in SFGate, San Francisco has quickly become the model for bilingual education over the last decade. Nearly 30 percent of the city’s English language learners are enrolled in bilingual education programs, with promising results. Recent studies by Stanford University show that these students are equally as proficient in their academics as ELL students enrolled in English-only programs.

These kinds of results clearly show that supporting a student’s native language is not a “bad” thing in the least. Through bilingual programs, these students get the support they need to begin learning, while also building on their English language skills at a comfortable pace.

Not all school districts would agree, however. Most cities aren’t as diverse as San Francisco, and don’t have as high of a need to support bilingual education and spend money building up resources. Some school administrations across the country have even tried “banning” students from speaking their native language altogether.

Thankfully, the trend in many school districts now is to provide a bilingual or language-immersion education option if the resources are available, and for good reason. Speaking another language in the classroom can only help students, and even lessen the feeling of alienation ELL learners may feel with academic subjects.

As Care2 writer Steve Williams notes, there are a number of reasons why learning a second, third, or even fourth language can improve the quality of your life. Students enrolled in immersion programs, for example, become proficient in two languages at the same time. This skill can be transferred into the professional world further down the road, and if students continue their courses, they’ll be at an advantage to their peers. Additionally, bilingualism can help brain growth, memory and multitasking because of the linguistic idiosyncrasies of the new language.

Currently, San Francisco Unified School District has more than 5,000 students enrolled in bilingual programs. The most popular languages include English and Cantonese, Spanish, Mandarin and Korean. Whether they start off as ELL students or English-only, if enrolled by kindergarten, these students become proficient in their new language by middle school.

Yet, despite these benefits, there just isn’t enough support or interest for bilingual education to become the norm across the state. There are currently no efforts to rescind Prop. 227, although school districts have more flexibility than before the bill first passed. Even so, San Francisco can remain a model for what an ideal learning environment could be, and set an example for how bilingualism can be beneficial to all.

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5:23AM PST on Mar 4, 2014


5:22AM PST on Mar 4, 2014

Thank you.

8:08PM PST on Mar 3, 2014

"NOT' at the expense of English speaking students. Often times a non English speaking student and/or students doesn't speak or speaks very little English and the whole class and/or a single or multiple English speaking students are selected by the teacher to help the non-English speaking student with translation, school work etc and losing out on their school lessons and school work. This has happened to my niece and other parents, grandparents, friends and relatives. My 4th grade neice came to me complaining about how she was missing what the teacher said and doing her school work because the teacher had selected her to help a non-English speaking student during class at lunch and recess. When my nieces grades dropped and school work was don't done the teacher screamed at her and blamed her when she tried to explain. She didn't tell her parents because she believed that they would side with the teacher and instead told me. I told my adult sibling, went to the school with my adult sibling and their spouse(niece's parents) at a prearranged meeting between the principal, vice principle, teacher, my adult sibling their spouse and myself. Within two weeks my young niece had her grades back up and on top of the class academically just like before and with a new teacher and new classmates. That's why I say not at the expense of English speaking students. There are many types of immigrant parents some believe in teaching their children as much English as possible before school star

4:10PM PST on Mar 3, 2014

would be even better if children could travel..I'm about to take my 12 and 17 year old daughters with me to Egypt and Greece...they are missing 12 days of school, but they will learn much more traveling....alas too few people can travel, it is a real blessing educationally and spiritually.

4:09PM PST on Mar 3, 2014

would be even better if children could travel..I'm about to take my 12 and 17 year old daughters with me to Egypt and Greece...they are missing 12 days of school, but they will learn much more traveling....alas too few people can travel, it is a real blessing educationally and spiritually.

4:13PM PST on Mar 2, 2014

Learning a language is good but sometimes you will get cases like Canada's with French where even though we must learn it from an early age, for me it was grade 2 or 3, most of us don't stick with it and don't care about it, and most of the provinces don't know French as a result, the kid must want to learn it :)

4:09PM PST on Mar 2, 2014

there are a lot of cognitive advantages being bilingual has over those who are only monolingual...i wish i had learned a a second or third language when i was younger. had i known then what i know now would have tried harder in French class, i'm trying to learn a second language now but studys have shown that its harder as you get older. the best time to learn is when you young, parents should get out there and expose their children to as much as possible now

11:35AM PST on Mar 2, 2014

I'm thrilled my 3-year old grandsons are bi-lingual. They flip easily into whatever language their parents are speaking to them. A good article on the cognitive benefits and why they occur:

8:47AM PST on Mar 2, 2014

the more-the better

3:59AM PST on Mar 2, 2014

Thank you.

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