Bilingual education is not uncommon. There are countries where the education system makes it mandatory for students to learn more than one language. Some education systems in the world include three languages and more in the curriculum. However, it is only two languages that are focused on in most scenarios.
Bilingual education has many proponents and a few critics. There are obviously some advantages of knowing two languages but it is not very easy for every child to learn two languages while growing up. Thus, there is a need to look at the bilingual education pros and cons from a very objective viewpoint. Making generalizations or stating perceptions which cannot be substantiated would be unwise and also redundant.
Bilingual Education Pros
1. Bilingual education allows a person to know two languages which is itself a great skill. Any child would know the native language. Knowing another language, just as well as one knows the native language, can be very helpful in various ways. A student equipped with bilingual skills will find it easier to get a job. Becoming a linguist is a career option in itself. There are many organizations and several professionals that require bilingual people. From civil administration to law enforcement, tourism to hospitality, numerous industries require people knowing two languages. Knowing English and Spanish in the United States can provide any student or aspirant an edge over those who know English or those who have Spanish as their native language.
2. Bilingual education helps a student become better at languages. Even if someone is a native English speaker, that doesn’t imply he or she would become an expert in English as a language. One doesn’t become an expert in any language by the virtue of being a native speaker. There are native Spanish speakers who are better with their English and there are native English speakers who are better in other languages. It is the degree of knowledge that one has in a language that determines how well one knows the language and not just the virtue of birthplace or nationality. Bilingual education allows a student to learn more about a discipline as a language, which is a subject and not just a medium of communication. Bilingual students often get better with their native tongue as well.
3. Bilingualism has been proven to increase the flexibility of a person’s thought process. Knowing more than one language opens up the mind. A person gets to access certain parts of the brain that would otherwise not be accessed or would be left unused. Learning two languages can increase one’s ability to focus and concentrate. It can help one to become efficient with multitasking and it promotes healthier and better growth of the brain. There are distinct parts of the brain that are responsible for spatial navigation and learning new stuff is also influenced by these parts of the brain. These parts undergo a healthy development when one signs up for bilingual education.
4. Knowing two languages make it a lot simpler to learn another language. Often, bilinguals end up being multilingual. Their interest in language and the ability to grasp a language quickly make them develop a penchant for more languages.
5. Bilingual education helps students to have better memories and that develops further as they grow up. Bilingual adults clearly have better memories than monolingual adults.
6. Bilingual education also allows a person to express better. Knowing two languages, their words, grammars or syntaxes and being able to communicate, allows a person to become a better thinker, conceiver, communicator and executor. However, general psychological and behavioral traits would also play a role in this. Just by the virtue of being a bilingual one cannot be coy and a great orator at the same time.
Bilingual Education Cons
1. There are some disadvantages of bilingual education as well. But they are more like challenges than disadvantages. Parents may find it a little challenging to pay for bilingual education. With a new language, with more classes and an extra teacher working on the second language education of kids, parents would have to pay a little more. Private schools often tend to charge much more for bilingual education. Some parents just don’t see any benefit of knowing an additional language when more money has to be invested in the process.
2. Some kids find it extremely hard to master two languages. Being a bilingual doesn’t come easy for all. Only a few people actually manage to think in two languages, which is the crux of being a true bilingual. Most people end up thinking in one language, which is the native tongue, and they instantaneously translate their thoughts in the language they have learned (second or third language).
3. In countries like the United States, knowing the native or official language is sufficient enough. A second or third language is not exactly a necessity. Besides, many critics of bilingual education consider it to be unfair since English speaking kids will then have fewer opportunities, that is if there comes a time when other languages become as important or widely used as English.