INTRODUCTION TO CONCEPTS OF BILINGUALISM AND BILINGUAL EDUCATION
Lets start first with a
definition of bilingualism:
speaking, to be bilingual is to be fluent in two languages.
this in greater depth, as the issue is more complex than it appears.
According to Baker (1996), there
is a fundamental distinction between bilingual ability and bilingual usage.
Whereas some bilinguals may be fluent in two languages but tend to heavily favour one of
them, others may be much less fluent in two languages but switch between languages much
more frequently. In other words, bilingual ability refers to a persons
language proficiency in its four basic dimensions; listening, speaking, reading and
writing and naturally, also thinking. Separate from this is a persons usage
of two or more languages. As a bilingual moves from one situation to another, so may
his/her language change.
Click here for more information about Bilingualism
How is this different from
Mainstream Bilingual Education?
Mainstream Bilingual Education
(MBE) is a title for the practice of teaching non-language subjects through the medium of
a foreign language. The typical student is a mother tongue speaker of the official
language/s of the country, who will be taught, for example, biology, history or business
studies through a modern foreign language.
The practice, which has been
variously described as Immersion, Content-Based Language Learning or Bilingual Education,
is by no means a new idea. Socrates Academy could be classified as a bilingual
learning environment. More recently, the Canadian French immersion programme has shown
that students can succeed in mastering the standard school curriculum through the medium
of a foreign/second language, and in doing so attain high levels of competence in the
In Europe, national programmes
in MBE, such as those in Canada, are still fledgling. In some German and French schools,
there have been MBE streams since the beginning of the 1970s. In other bilingual
parts of Europe, namely the Basque Countries and Catalonia, there have been a number of
successful initiatives aimed at restoring and maintaining the local language and culture
but it is fair to say that, in Western Europe, the main non-elite MBE programmes have only
begun to emerge during this decade. It is important to make clear that this description
does not ignore designated International Schools which offer the International
Baccalaureate, but rather that the term mainstream precludes these, usually
One last clarification is
needed: Mainstream Bilingual Education, as it is understood in countries which have a
systematic educational programme, aims not at bilingualism.
To aim at pupils being fluent in
two languages is deemed to be either unrealistic or not appropriate.
Click here for more information about Bilingual
Click here for more information about the Bilingual Education
Programmes in different parts of the world