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Bilingual Basics

Bilingual Basics News, Volume 11:1 (December 2009)

by User Not Found | 11/03/2011
In This Issue...
  • Leadership Updates
    • Note From the Editor, Sarah Cohen
    • Update From the BEIS Chair, Nancy Dubetz
  • Convention Updates
    • Announcing TESOL’s New Deaf Bilingual Education Resolution
  • Articles and Information
    • Is There a Need for a Language Policy and Heightened Multilingualism in TESOL? Survey Results
    • The English-Only Cult in China
    • Educational Dilemmas in Guatemala: Is It Really the Land of Eternal Spring?
    • The Possibilities for Two-Way Bilingual Education Programs in Japan

Leadership Updates Note From the Editor, Sarah Cohen

Welcome to the current issue of the BEIS Newsletter. This issue contains a letter from the BEIS chair, Nancy Dubetz, and features three articles and two reports on official TESOL business. One is a brief report on the new Deaf Bilingual Education Resolution that was passed at last year’s TESOL convention. Congratulations to Kristin Snoddon for spearheading the effort to bring recognition within TESOL to a historically underserved and underrepresented population. The other report describes the results of a survey conducted last year by members of BEIS to gather data and bring attention to the issues of multilingualism within TESOL and determine whether a language policy is needed in TESOL. These reports demonstrate the importance of BEIS as a section within TESOL to assist in the movement to recognize the multilingual nature of this organization.

The three articles address issues of bilingual education in different parts of the world. One describes the increasing hold that English is taking on China and how this is influencing language policy at different levels of schooling. Another also relates to English being perceived as a language of power around the world and explores the possibility of using the model of two-way immersion programs as a format for children in Japan to learn English. The third article reports on some of the problems and possibilities in Guatemala in relation to bringing about a more equitable system of education for all children there, in particular those from indigenous cultures whose first language and culture needs to be recognized and drawn on as a resource for learning.

These articles and reports are evidence of the important work happening in relation to the development of bilingual and multilingual learners and raise important questions about the ways in which to best support the promotion of multilingual students both here and abroad. We welcome these contributions to the newsletter as a way to promote further dialogue and hope to include your writing in future issues to add to these conversations.

Many thanks!
Sarah Cohen

Update From the BEIS Chair, Nancy Dubetz

Nancy Dubetz, Lehman College, CUNY


I want to thank all of the BEIS members who contributed to the 2009 TESOL Convention. Our IS was represented in 14 sessions at the 2009 convention. One of these sessions was our Special Academic Session, “Advocacy for Bilingual/Multilingual Learners,” which included a panel of highly regarded researchers and educators including Ester de Jong, Josepehine Arce, Manka Varghese, Juliet Luther, Kristin Snoddon, and Jim Cummins. A summary of this session will be included in the upcoming themed BEIS Newsletter on advocacy. BEIS also collaborated with the Secondary Schools IS and Video and Digital Media IS to offer an InterSection entitled “Linguistic and Cultural Influences on Secondary Students in and out of School.” Panelists included Lynore Carnuccio (SSIS), Cecilia Cutler (BEIS), and Nicolas Gromik (VDMIS). In addition, 14 sessions focused on a wide range of important topics of interest to BEIS members including Deaf education, bilingual education, bilingualism and biliteracy, multilingualism and language policy, the effects of immigration reform on English language learners, and bilingual teachers. One additional BEIS-sponsored session focused on a report of the findings from our IS Special Project in which members were surveyed regarding their views of a TESOL/BEIS multilingual language policy. A summary of the findings from this work will be published in an upcoming issue of the newsletter.


Focusing on policy, programs, and practices, the BEIS sessions scheduled for the 2010 TESOL convention will, once again, offer a diverse array of opportunities to learn about the important work of our members. There will be a BEIS-sponsored Special Academic Session that will extend our discussion around advocacy and a cosponsored InterSection with the Teacher Education IS about international teacher development in multilingual contexts. In addition, there will be 14 sessions on topics focusing on particular populations of bilingual/multilingual learners (e. g., Chinese immigrant children, Deaf students), program development (e.g., immigrant family literacy, immersion programs in contexts where antibilingual policies have been passed), and instructional practices (e.g., methods and materials for Deaf educators, data-driven instruction, biliteracy instruction). Prior to the conference, I will send to the membership an overview of all of the BEIS sessions including their times and locations, using our BEIS electronic mailing list.


In case you missed the collection of articles on “Imagining a Multilingual TESOL” in the June issue of TESOL Quarterly, I encourage you to read them. This collection grows out of the symposium organized by our past chair, Shelley Taylor, for the BEIS Special Academic Session at the 2008 TESOL Convention and offers thought-provoking insights into current perspectives on multilingualism.


BEIS members sponsored a TESOL resolution on the right of Deaf learners to acquire full proficiency in a native language and written and spoken language. The resolution was voted on and passed at the annual business meeting at the spring convention. The article by Kristin Snoddon in this issue provides more details.


In April, we had 362 TESOL members who selected BEIS as their primary interest section and 928 who selected BEIS as a secondary interest section. This reflects an increase in our membership from previous years. Please encourage your colleagues to select BEIS as either a primary or secondary choice. The larger our representation is within the TESOL organization, the stronger our voice will be. A second way to increase the visibility of the important work that our BEIS members do is to submit proposals for the annual TESOL conventions. The number of slots that an interest section receives is based on the number of proposals submitted by its members, so please consider submitting a proposal to share your work at the 2011 convention.

Hope to see you in Boston!

Convention Updates Announcing TESOL’s New Deaf Bilingual Education Resolution

Kristin Snoddon, TEDS/BEIS Representative 2008-2009

At the 2009 TESOL Convention, a member resolution was presented in support of Deaf learners’ language rights. This resolution was first presented to the Rules and Resolutions Committee of TESOL. The committee then agreed that this resolution would be presented to the membership. At the March 27, 2009, annual business meeting, TESOL members voted on the resolution. The resolution was endorsed by a margin of 124-1 votes, with one abstention.


The resolution addresses Deaf learners’ right to acquire proficiency in a native signed language. It also deals with their right to learn a written (and sometimes spoken) language, including English. This resolution was presented in part because Teachers of English to Deaf Students (TEDS) has experienced declining involvement.

At one time, TEDS was a stand-alone TESOL interest section with active involvement. TEDS’s membership included bilingual educators of Deaf students from across the United States and Canada. However, because of declining membership, in 2001 TEDS was dissolved as an interest section. TEDS then became part of the Bilingual Education Interest Section (BEIS). This support from BEIS has allowed TEDS to remain part of TESOL.

BEIS’s purpose is to promote primary language literacy as fundamental to the acquisition of English. In this respect, BEIS’ and TEDS’ goals are closely aligned. Promotion of native signed languages, such as American Sign Language (ASL), is central to TEDS’ mission. However, the use of ASL or other signed languages is often not supported in education for Deaf learners.

According to Gibson, Small, and Mason (1997), bilingual bicultural education for Deaf learners has two goals. It recognizes the native signed language(s) of the Deaf community and the majority language(s) of the country where learners reside. Bilingual bicultural education also incorporates Deaf culture and the cultures of learners’ families and of majority society. Bilingual bicultural education programs for Deaf students have been present in several countries since the early 1990s. However, there remains a lack of support for signed languages in education. Bilingual education for Deaf learners is in need of further promotion and development.

As the TEDS representative, it has been my goal to raise the profile of bilingual Deaf education. I wish to attract more interest and involvement in TESOL from the Deaf community. I also wish to increase the support that TESOL provides for bilingual Deaf learners. One idea I had was to propose a resolution for the TESOL Board.

TESOL has approved many important resolutions relating to language rights, equity, and diversity. To date, however, it has not approved a resolution that addresses Deaf learners’ unique language needs. In the next section, I discuss the process of drafting this resolution.


According to TESOL Standing Rule XIV.3.II (TESOL, 2009), “Resolutions are policy recommendations to the Board of Directors.” These recommendations include “a call for TESOL action, consistent with TESOL’s mission.” Resolutions “are approved by the membership present at the Annual Business Meeting.”

In 2008, I drafted a “Resolution on the Right of Deaf Learners to Acquire Full Proficiency in a Native Signed Language and Written and Spoken Languages.” On the TESOL Web site, I found Susanne McLaughlin’s name. Susanne is chair of the Rules and Resolutions Standing Committee.

I sent Susanne the draft resolution. In the months preceding the 2009 convention, Susanne provided guidance for presenting the resolution. I needed to find 10 TESOL members in good standing to sign the resolution. Revisions to the draft resolution were also suggested.

The resolution was to be presented to a closed meeting of the Rules and Resolutions Committee during the 2009 convention. However, I could not attend the convention in person. With help from BEIS members, a volunteer, Eric Dwyer, was found. Eric attended the committee meeting on my behalf. The committee agreed to present the resolution to the TESOL membership at the annual business meeting.


At the March 27, 2009, annual business meeting, the TESOL membership endorsed the resolution. Members voted 124-1 in favor of the resolution, with one abstention. According to Standing Rule XIV.3.V (TESOL, 2009), “Resolutions passed at the Annual Business Meeting should come before the TESOL Board of Directors for consideration as quickly as possible within one year.” This means that the TESOL Board will now consider the resolution.

Several individuals provided support and guidance throughout this process. I am grateful for the support provided by Eric Dwyer, Yvonne Freeman, Mary Lou McCloskey, Susanne McLaughlin, and Shelley Taylor. I am also grateful to the nine other TESOL members (beside myself) who signed the resolution: Sarah Cohen, Christian Chun, David Freeman, Yvonne Freeman, Sybil Ishman, Geoff Lawrence, Mario Lopez-Gopar, Jane Nickerson, and Shelley Taylor.

Below is the text of the resolution:

A Resolution on the Right of Deaf Learners to Acquire Full Proficiency in a Native Signed Language and Written and Spoken Languages

WHEREAS Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) is concerned with individual language rights and an accessible, high-quality education for all learners of English, including Deaf students;

WHEREAS a goal of TESOL is to support and promote primary language literacy and mother tongue proficiency, which in the case of Deaf students often includes proficiency in a native signed language;

WHEREAS TESOL is also concerned about adequate support and resources being allocated for bilingual education programs, including programs for Deaf students that utilize a native signed language;

WHEREAS Deaf learners around the world often face impediments to their acquisition and use of native signed languages in education;

WHEREAS the learning of signed language and the promotion of the Deaf community’s linguistic identity are fundamental to Deaf learners’ positive self-image and engagement in the English learning process; therefore, be it

RESOLVED that TESOL shall be proactive in promoting teaching methods and materials that recognize Deaf learners’ right to become proficient in a native signed language and in written or spoken language(s), including English.


Gibson, H., Small, A., & Mason, D. (1997). Deaf bilingual bicultural education. In J. Cummins & D. Corson (Eds.), Encyclopedia of language and education: Vol. 5. Bilingual education (pp. 231-240). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic.

Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. (TESOL). (2007). Standing Rules XIV: Policy determination. Retrieved March 30, 2009, from

Articles and Information Is There a Need for a Language Policy and Heightened Multilingualism in TESOL? Survey Results

Shelley K. Taylor, The University of Western Ontario; Patrick H. Smith, The University of Texas at El Paso; Mayra C. Daniel, Northern Illinois University; and David Schwarzer, Montclair State University

Members of the Bilingual Education Interest Section (BEIS) Executive Committee were granted TESOL Special Project funding to conduct a member survey in 2008-09. This article reports on the topic investigated and the survey results. The results of the quantitative part of the study indicated broad support for general (“big picture”) policy issues and an overall belief in the value of multilingualism among BEIS members; however, there was some resistance among members to specific plans to alter the status quo of TESOL operations, conventions, and publications. Respondents who completed a follow-up qualitative component of the study supported the need to develop a TESOL language policy and to enact measures to heighten the multilingual nature of TESOL (i.e., they supported a language policy and multilingualism in both words and actions).


TESOL is a global organization that supports the concept of language rights. This stance is clear in TESOL’s Position Statement on Language Rights (TESOL, 2000) and Position Statement on Multilingualism (TESOL, 2004). The organization promotes discussion of multilingual issues in public venues (e.g., in plenary talks at the annual convention and in TESOL publications). That includes discussion of topics such as the effects of English teaching worldwide on linguistic diversity (Skutnabb-Kangas, 2002) and on the ecology of multilingualism (Hornberger, 2002). Though TESOL supports linguistic diversity as an organization, linguistic diversity is not visible within the organization.

The Bilingual Education Interest Section (BEIS) has taken fledgling steps toward including languages other than English in the organization. For example, since 2007,

  • papers have been published in languages other than English in the BEIS e-newsletter, Bilingual Basics (López-Gopar & Caballero, 2007; Munyankesha, 2008; Park, 2008), and
  • BEIS Discussion Groups have allowed for presentations or discussion in English and other languages (e.g., Zhang, 2008, and Yu, 2008, in Chinese, and Kilbride & Rublik, 2008, in French).

Otherwise, English-medium presentations are the norm at TESOL’s annual convention; abstracts are printed only in English in the convention program book and in TESOL Quarterly.

For the past few years, the BEIS Executive Committee has explored the possibility of expanding support for multilingualism throughout TESOL. This support would include multilingual practices such as listing abstracts in other languages and employing staff who can take questions in languages other than English in the TESOL Central Office. BEIS members have also proposed that a “multilingual strand” be introduced at the annual convention. The idea is that presentations made in such a strand would be delivered in languages other than English or bilingually.

How would that work? One option would be for each presenter to speak a language other than English while projecting PowerPoint slides in English. Conversely, presenters could speak English while projecting PowerPoint slides in a language other than English. Or they could take questions in the various languages that they speak.

The BEIS Academic Session at TESOL 2008 featured experts in bi-/multilingualism: Jim Cummins, Ofelia Garcia, Joshua Fishman (in absentia), Robert Phillipson, David Schwarzer, Rita Silver, Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, and Joan Wink. Their suggestions as to how TESOL could expand its support for multilingualism in the organization were published in a TESOL Quarterly Symposium (see Taylor, 2009).


The purpose of the BEIS Special Project was to elicit BEIS members’ views on whether TESOL should develop a language policy and heighten the degree of multilingualism in the organization. To do so, we developed an online survey.

The field of bilingual education is moving away from reductionist understandings of second language acquisition and second language learners. For example, the term limited English proficient, codified in current U.S. education law, has been widely rejected by scholars and practitioners. Instead, they favor the more descriptive and positive term English language learners. Recently, García (2009) and colleagues (García, Kleifgen, & Falchi, 2008) proposed the term emergent bilinguals. This term better reflects the facts that

  • students learning English and other additional languages all speak other home languages worthy of educational support, and
  • many students whose first language is English also wish to become bilingual and multilingual.

Bilingual education experts consistently reject subtractive forms of “bilingual” schooling in favor of additive forms in which learners develop academic proficiency in multiple languages. Thus, we were interested in knowing whether and to what extent these additive bilingual discourses were shared by TESOL members, or whether support is greater for ideologies and practices of English monolingualism (Katz, Scott, & Hadjioannou, 2009).


We developed survey questions based on past discussion with BEIS members and our review of the literature and TESOL Position Statements. We formulated

  • Likert-scale survey questions,
  • multiple choice questions,
  • open-ended questions, and
  • an invitation to respondents to discuss the issues with members of our research team.

Thus, there were both quantitative and qualitative components to our study.

We piloted the questions with graduate students and faculty involved in language and literacy education in Canada and the United States. Research assistants in Texas and Canada[1] helped us track the feedback obtained on the survey items and develop a revised version of the survey. Members of the TESOL Research Committee reviewed our survey and suggested that we clarify our use of certain notions and terminology. Their suggestions made the survey more transparent to all BEIS members. After we addressed all of their concerns, TESOL put the survey into Survey Monkey format and sent it out to BEIS primary and secondary members. Of the 646 BEIS members subscribed to the e-list, 67 responded, giving us approximately a 10% response rate.


Two key findings emerged from the quantitative component of our study:

  • BEIS members agree with general (“big picture”) statements about the value of multilingualism.
  • They are disinclined to support or are at least wary of instituting multilingual practices that would differ from TESOL’s status quo.

Interesting findings also emerged from the qualitative component of our study. Several respondents opted to engage in follow-up discussions with us after completing the survey. They not only supported the idea of developing a TESOL language policy and heightening the degree of multilingualism in the TESOL organization, but did so on principle and in terms of altering the status quo (i.e., they provided practical suggestions for how to increase multilingualism and develop related language policies). The qualitative data we obtained from respondents who wanted to follow up on topics raised in the survey helped us better understand and contextualize the quantitative results.

For example, one respondent, Paul Boyd-Batstone (personal communication, March 15, 2009), suggested the following as duties that members of a TESOL Multilingual Commission could carry out:

  • Write and recommend policy regarding multilingualism;
  • Initiate conference institutes regarding current issues related to multilingualism in a global society;
  • Review conference proposals to ensure that an appropriate percentage of the presentations include multilingual topics’ and
  • Maintain a database of current research about multilingualism that can be hosted on the TESOL Web site.

Another respondent, Kristin Snoddon (personal communication, March 17, 2009), suggested that a language policy synthesizing various position statements on language rights and multilingualism “would/could include the principles expressed in a position statement on bilingual Deaf education. . . . This may also mean the inclusion of Deaf educators on the Language Policy Action Committee.” She also suggested that including an ASL video-log (vlog) on the TESOL Web site “would go a long way towards increased visibility and awareness of TESOL among the Deaf community.” Clearly, these suggestions go beyond “talking the talk”; they also provide guidelines for “walking the walk” of enhanced multilingualism in TESOL.


We decided that, should we send the survey out to a broader TESOL membership, we would alter it. The next version of the survey should be shorter and include statements for and against multilingualism to heighten its internal validity. Furthermore, we would include two open-ended questions:

  • Do you agree or disagree with the statement that TESOL should promote multilingualism? Explain.
  • If you agree with the previous statement, how do you envision the TESOL organization might actively promote multilingualism?

Our primary objective in conducting the present study was to take the pulse of the BEIS membership by means of an e-survey. We wanted to get a sense of members’ views on

  • whether TESOL should be more multilingual,
  • whether there needs to be greater recognition of the multilingualism that currently exists within the organization as a whole (and BEIS in particular), and
  • whether BEIS members want TESOL to develop a specific language policy at this time.

Our response rate was not strong enough to make definitive statements about how BEIS members view these issues. Still, we are on our way to gaining a better understanding of member views and gathering the information needed to engage in informed debate on the timely, pressing issues raised in our study.


García, O. (2009). Bilingual education in the 21st century: A global perspective. Oxford, England: Wiley-Blackwell.

García, O., Kleifgen, J. A., & Falchi, L. (2008). Equity in the education of emergent bilinguals: The case of English language learners. The Campaign for Educational Equity Research Review Series 1. New York: Teachers College.

Hornberger, N. (2002). Multilingual language policies and the continua of biliteracy: an ecological approach. Language Policies, 1(1), 27-51.

Katz, L., Scott, J. C., & Hadjioannou, X. (2009). Exploring attitudes toward language differences: Implications for teacher education programs. In J. C. Scott, D. Y. Straker, & L. Katz (Eds.), Affirming students’ rights to their own language: Bridging language policies and pedagogical practices (pp. 99-116). New York: Routledge/National Council of Teachers of English.

Kilbride, C., & Rublik, N. (2008, April). ELLs and official bilingualism: Free will versus policy. Paper presented at the 42nd Annual TESOL Convention and Exhibits, New York[CM3] .

López-Gopar, M. E., & Caballero, J. J. (2007). Políticas de lenguaje: Ejemplos de Oaxaca, México [Language politics: Examples from Oaxaca, Mexico].Bilingual Basics, 9, 2. Retrieved July 18, 2008, from

Munyankesha, P. (2008). Les défis du plurilinguisme officiel au Rwanda [Official multilingualism in Rwanda: Challenges and goals]. Bilingual Basics, 10, 2. Retrieved November 13, 2008, from

Park, H.-R. (2008). Open Source: The gateway to the Open Source community. Bilingual Basics, 10, 1. Retrieved November 13, 2008, from

Skutnabb-Kangas, T. (2002, April). Linguistic diversity, biodiversity, and the future of the planet. Plenary remarks at the 36th Annual TESOL Convention and Exhibits, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Taylor, S. K. (2009). Paving the way to a more multilingual TESOL. TESOL Quarterly, 43, 309-313.

TESOL. (2000). Position statement on language rights. Retrieved December 2, 2009, from

TESOL. (2004). Position statement on multilingualism. Retrieved December 2, 2009, from

Yu, H. (2008, April). The challenges facing newly arrived ELLs. Paper presented at the 42nd Annual TESOL Convention and Exhibits, New York.[CM4]

Zhang, Z. (2008, April). Chinese ELLs: Authentic dialog and English writing. Paper presented at the 42nd Annual TESOL Convention and Exhibits, NewYork[CM5] .

[1] We would like to thank Zheng Zhang from the University of Western Ontario and María Díaz from the University of Texas at Brownsville for their assistance with various aspects of this project.

The English-Only Cult in China Zheng Zhang, University of Western Ontario

Personally, I see the low response rate to the Bilingual Education Interest Section Member Survey (Taylor, Smith, Daniel, & Schwarzer, 2009, this issue) as a positive sign because it reveals there is much room for awareness-raising regarding issues about language rights. In this sense, the survey can be conceived of as a novel initiative that invites TESOL global members’ participation in the ongoing negotiation regarding how to make practical changes in the organization that reflect a multilingual stance.

The call for a multilingual TESOL has started to echo in North America; however, it is doubtful how far the echo has reached globally, especially in those areas where English has enjoyed dominance for decades. Below I discuss some of the issues related to the hold that English has on Chinese society and how they affect educational policy. I also discuss how my own perspective on English teaching has shifted since I left China and came to Canada to pursue graduate studies. I use this information to reflect on the potential obstacles that TESOL faces as an institution to achieve the goal of being a proponent of multilingualism.


In China, for example, where English education today has become even more popular, or “too popular” (Zhengdong Zhang, 2007), English as a foreign language has been assigned as a compulsory course from Grade 7 to the postgraduate level for more than two decades. Zhengdong Zhang argued that there is a tendency for English education in China to deviate from foreign language education toward bilingual education and the increasing use of English as a lingua franca in educational spheres.

According to Zheng Zhang (2007), English education in higher education in China, though implemented in a gradual process, has officially become reoriented from foreign language education toward bilingual education since the college English education reform launched by the National Education Ministry in 1999. The objective of the language policy has been shifted to cultivating undergraduates’ overall competences in applying English in discipline-specific domains. Subject-based English education has been required to develop students’ disciplinary biliteracy.

The politics behind this policy shift are currently untraceable. Ostensibly, this deviation seems to be useful to facilitate Chinese intellectuals’ international mobility and sharpen their competitive edge against the backdrop of globalization. However, the ethics of this language policy shift are questionable in the sense that a certain number of Chinese students who are interested in foreign languages other than English and who are willing to commit more time and effort to their interested subjects have been forced to take English as a compulsory course.

Bill 247, issued by the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, appeals for the abolition of English as a nationwide compulsory course. The rationale is eloquently aired in Bill 247: to respect millions of Chinese students’ individuality in subject selection, to encourage diversity, and, most important, to reevaluate Chinese local languages and cultures. Interestingly, so far Bill 247 has gained substantive support throughout the whole nation. A Google search for “Bill 247” turned up more than 400,000 articles spreading the news that English would possibly cease to dominate education in China. The tide supporting Bill 247 to some extent echoes the contentions against English-only policies in other Asian countries, with protests in Korea (Korea Beat, 2008) as a good example. Korea’s English education policy promotes more English-only classes; in fact, it intends to realize the goal of every single high school class being instructed in English starting in 2010.

In this sense, the emergent consciousness of the imposing power of English-only education policies in these areas might indicate a good starting point for TESOL professionals to spread the word about the import and value of a multilingual TESOL and a multilingual world.


Since the new English education policy was enacted in 1999, using English-only subject-based textbooks has been a prevailing trend at the higher education level. According to Wu (2006), the trend of using English-only textbooks has also expanded to English education in primary and middle school levels since 2001. Wu argued that, despite the prevailing trend, it is still questionable whether English-only textbooks would benefit younger English learners who are just starting to learn English basics.

Besides English-only textbooks, English immersion and a monolingual approach to English teaching have become propaganda focuses for kindergartens and private schools to attract potential “customers.” The monolingual principle (Howatt, 1984) is apparently an appealing and desirable approach for the public and for English teaching professionals. According to my own observation as an English educator, monolingual English dictionaries have enjoyed widely accepted preference over bilingual dictionaries. Thinking in English only and learning/teaching English through English (Zhengdong Zhang, 2007) have been recommended more than strategies such as translation that can enhance students’ linguistic awareness and pride in bilingualism (Malakoff & Hakuta, 1991, as cited in Cummins, in press).

In spite of the new language policy advocating bilingual education at the tertiary education level, teachers regard bilingual education more as an extension of foreign language education than as a critical approach to improve students’ disciplinary biliteracy. What was taught in Chinese in mandated subject areas, such as law, finance, biotechnology, and information technology, has been instead taught in English in universities experimenting with the new policy. Bilingual education turns out to be an extension of the English-only trend. According to Zheng Zhang (2007), in Chinese universities who have initiated bilingual programs, bilingual education instructors can be either language teachers or disciplinary course instructors. Teachers in both groups do not have a good command of the systematic pedagogy of bilingual education. Even though English teaching happens in additive contexts where students’ first language is the dominant language, English turns out to be the dominant language of instruction in some subjects. Subject-based knowledge is imparted via English as the scientific language at the expense of students’ first language as the scientific language. Instead of promoting disciplinary biliteracy, such an approach of bilingual education risks endangering the status of Chinese as a scientific language.


On the basis of what I have seen as an educator and a researcher in China, the English-only cult is still prevailing in the field of English education from kindergarten to postgraduate levels. Two years ago, before I came to Canada to pursue my MEd study, I hadn’t thought that I would be advocating multilingual rights as an English teacher. Two years ago, technical strategies that TESOL organizations or publications might present to facilitate English learning and English teaching would have been very appealing to me. On the basis of my own observation, the cognitive and psychological benefits of supporting the mother tongue as an asset when learning a second or third language have not been hot topics in the field of English education research in China. Research on English learning and teaching in China has been predominantly perceived as a neutral pursuit, separate from political issues.

For me personally, studying in Canada has been an eye-opening experience in the sense that I have started to reevaluate Chinese languages and cultures that I have ignored for too long.

In my MEd research (Zheng Zhang, 2008), I interviewed a group of Chinese international university students about their perceptions regarding whether advocating for Chinese academic culture and academic language would be beneficial for their academic writing in English. Some of the Chinese students said no, it was not beneficial, because they said that their purpose for studying in Canada is to learn English, to learn “more advanced” North American disciplinary knowledge, and to learn “standard” North American ways of academic writing. They worked hard to adapt themselves and their writing styles to North American academia. Some of them conceived of their prior knowledge systems and literacy experiences in China as inferior to those they gained in Canada. Assuming a seemingly active role by working diligently, they are actually playing a passive role and are becoming acculturated into the North American academic discourse as functioning members. In their eyes, Chinese as a scientific language, especially in the field of engineering, is always inferior to English as a scientific language.

The inferiority mentality does not restrict itself to only the Chinese sojourners. As the first nonnative English speaker to be the president of TESOL, Jun Liu mentioned the “inferiority complex” syndrome among nonnative English speakers when they compare themselves with native English-speaking professionals (Wang, 2005). He pointed out that, compared with 70% of U.S. membership in the TESOL population of 14,000 in 2005, only about 200 people from China were TESOL members. Besides the major reason that China is not an official global affiliate of TESOL because of political reasons, Chinese people’s inferiority mentality negatively influences Chinese English educational professionals’ recognition in TESOL, especially in leadership positions in this organization.

For me, it is not English education in China that is problematic, but the imposition of English learning on every Chinese student regardless of their interest or willingness. It is not the Chinese students who have pressing needs to learn idiomatic English to be more competitive on the global job market that are problematic, but people’s devaluing and ignorance of the values and beauty of the many Chinese languages and Chinese cultures.


Before I came to Canada, TESOL for me was an association endorsing English education around the world. I would have never thought that such an organization would be supportive of multilingualism at all. As Cummins (in press) contended, failure to articulate a position on the issue of the use of monolingual versus bilingual instructional strategies risks linking TESOL with the normalized assumption that monolingual instructional strategies are self-evidently desirable in English education. It would be beyond my scope of study to know how many Chinese professionals holding TESOL membership might have similar assumptions. However, I was definitely an English-only advocate before I worked with professors who endorse multilingualism and got to know more about TESOL and the value of multilingualism.

Many Chinese professionals can hardly envision the likelihood that the addition of English as a second language would replace or displace Chinese English learners’ Chinese languages and cultures. However, I believe it is important to ask what measures can be taken to educate and recruit them to look critically at the globalizing effect of English on the Chinese culture and language and to participate in hailing the import of bilingualism and multilingualism. Cummins’s (in press)bilingual instructional strategies, which address many of the challenges of English language and academic development, might be a good start for enlightenment. In addition, discussions related to TESOL global minority members’ “inferiority complex” might be sensitive, but if tactfully handled, empathy would arise and shifted awareness could be anticipated.


Cummins, J. (2009). Multilingualism in the English-language classroom: Pedagogical considerations. TESOL Quarterly, 43(2), 317-321.

Howatt, A. (1984). A history of English language teaching. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

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Educational Dilemmas in Guatemala: Is It Really the Land of Eternal Spring?

Mayra Daniel, Northern Illinois University

Achieving basic literacy and high levels of literacy and biliteracy in Latin America is a difficult goal for the indigenous (Daniel, 2007; Heath, 1972). My work with teachers, students at Guatemala’s Normal Schools, and teacher-trainers documents the complexity of the challenges facing both teachers and students and explores why these prevent the country’s multilingual, multiethnic populations (Ferreiro, 1997; Rubio & Chesterfield, 1998) from having full access to the society’s economic system. I have delivered workshops in Spanish, which is my native tongue, throughout Guatemala for the past 6 years in collaboration with volunteer members of the Guatemalan Literacy Council (GLC). During my trips I have gathered data in the form of surveys, interviews, and focus groups in an effort to delineate the limitations of the Guatemalan educational system in relationship to the country’s history, and to work as an insider Latina.

I have attended three International Reading Association-sponsored literacy conferences in Guatemala and copresented with my Guatemalan friends and colleagues there. My involvement helps to promote literacy in Guatemala. It also helps me to better grasp the experiences that English language learners of Guatemalan descent bring with them to schools in the United States. I am now better able to use my personal experiences and knowledge of the inequities that exist in Latin America and that I have witnessed in my native country, Cuba, to teach educators of English language learners in the United States about the funds of knowledge Guatemalan immigrants hold. In this article, I

  • describe the historical underpinnings of recent educational reforms,
  • share data regarding pedagogical and societal challenges in Guatemala, and
  • discuss what Guatemalan teachers have told me they need.

During my first trip to Guatemala, the visits I made to schools in the capital city introduced me to an educational system that prevents a country of multilingual people from rising above poverty and subservience. I witnessed children attempting to learn in abysmally poor conditions. Schools’ physical plants evidence long-term neglect. The evidence is glaring when one enters many classrooms. The walls are bare, teachers’ desks are pushed into corners, and few books are visible other than those dedicated to orthography and handwriting. Historically, education has not been equitable in the Latin American region (Ferreiro, 1997; Rubio & Chesterfield, 1998) and therefore achieving literacy has not been within the reach of all socioeconomic sectors of the population, most especially the indigenous. In Guatemala, dropout rates are the highest in the first and third grades, 43% and 50% respectively (Vásquez, 2005). Becoming biliterate is a multifaceted challenge in the southern hemisphere of the Americas and it is most especially a lofty goal for indigenous groups because they have not been an accepted part of mainstream culture.

The work I have been conducting in Guatemala centers on helping teachers to overcome the numerous challenges to schooling that they encounter daily. I was inspired to work with Guatemalan teachers by a visit to Hector Nuila Arriaga School in Guatemala City and a conversation with its ex-principal, Miriam Recinos de León. After Miriam began attending workshops given by the GLC, she knew that the climate in her school and the manner in which she led would take a new and exciting path. Miriam explained her advocacy efforts to me and how she was able to change her school community. These efforts began with creating a curriculum that empowered parents because it was based on their families’ funds of knowledge. Miriam encouraged her teachers and her students’ parents to question whether schooling in their neighborhood was promoting democratic citizenship.

She developed a plan that evolved as she and her teachers strategized to focus on social consciousness. She asked for parental participation, and parents were drawn in when she sent newsletters home with titles that interested the parents such as “Why are there disenchanted children?” The families were captured by her revolutionary ideas. The newsletters engaged them in conversations with their children’s teachers and school principal that had never before been presented to them as their right. Many parents came to school to talk about the questions that had been posed to them. Curiosity and hope resulted in such active involvement by the students’ mothers that they have addressed previously ignored issues such as what happens when a teacher is ill and where children eat their lunch. The mothers now engage in advocacy in action. They fill in when a teacher is sick, are in charge of the food kiosks where the children buy their lunch, and make certain the school is clean. Their presence and the pride they feel in their contributions to the school are evident everywhere in the school. They even wear a uniform that resembles the children’s when they are participating in school activities.


Guatemala is a country where the ravages of the 30-year civil war of the past century are still visible. Solares (1995) proposed that issues of equity in Guatemala are rooted in the racist character of the interrelations of its cultural groups. The country has had nine constitutions, each one modeled after a European nation (Solares, 1995). None has acknowledged the diversity of the nation. In the 1970s, the actions of the military created many widows and orphans and left the people poorer than before. The military addressed indigenous movements by murdering entire communities and kidnappingladinos/nonindigenous who sided with the underdogs (Hong, 2000). In the 1980s, the army set up model villages and reeducation camps to train the indigenous in the ways of the majority culture and also admitted that it had destroyed 440 villages. In 1984, the government’s Supreme Court revealed that some 100,000 children lost at least one parent in the government-led massacres. In many communities women still outnumber men by sizable numbers.

Many of these women, who even now in 2009 live in neighborhoods of unpainted row houses, have had little access to formal education and, regardless of how hard they work, are perceived to be second-class citizens. Braslavsky (2003) was on target when he warned that the person who “es estigmatizado como analfabeto se contempla a sí mismo en el espejo de la visión que tienen los demás sobre su persona [is stigmatized as illiterate views himself/herself according to others’ perception]”(p. 12). This is what has happened to many indigenous in Guatemala and it is the reason that schools must advocate for those who have not been heard and who have not been allowed a place in modern society. Many Guatemalan children born in the poorer areas of the country are born at home, and birth certificates are not given to document their citizenship. If these children do not attend school, no one is the wiser.This deplorable fact has led to kidnappings and illegal adoptions. It has also contributed to the wealth of those dishonest mediators who continue to thrive despite the efforts of many well-intended Guatemalans to document home births.

In Guatemala, educational opportunities are not the same for everyone. Although Guatemalans speak 21 Mayan languages that span over 140 dialects (Friedland & Méndez, 2005), and 40% of the population speaks a language other than Spanish as their primary language, Spanish monolingualism prevails as the medium of instruction in schools. The Peace Agreements signed in Mexico stated:

The indigenous peoples have been excluded from the decision making process in the country’s political life, so that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible for them freely and fully to express their demands and defend their rights. (United States Institute of Peace, 2007, p. 8)

Regrettably, the vision of an equitable educational system that seemed tangible when the Peace Agreements were signed has failed to result in substantial educational reforms. As recently as February 2009, I observed teachers in classrooms sitting at their desks while the learners copied material. At recess, the violence that is an integral part of the society is evident in the games children play. Although the Ministry of Education continues its efforts to offer culturally responsive pedagogy, there is much left to do because many neither understand nor accept the possibility of change.

In 2005 the Guatemalan Minister of Education summarized the situation well when she said “La enseñanza en primaria es deficiente. Hay que tomar acciones inmediatas [Elementary education is deficient. We must take immediate action] (Vasquez, 2005). Three years later, on July 29, 2008, Vernor Muñoz, representative for the United Nations task force that evaluated the Guatemalan educational system, documented that the country spends the least of all Latin American nations on education. He forthrightly recommended that “Guatemala debe hacer un gran ezfuerzo para alcanzar acuerdos nacionales que no se desmorronen con cada cambio de gobierno [Guatemala should make efforts to reach agreements on a national scale that will not disintegrate with changes in government]” (Cereser, 2008). He referred to the unrealized goals of the 1995 Peace Agreements such as the establishment of a Mayan university. In discussing teacher preparation he stated, “La formación docente sigue siendo débil, las escuelas normales están debilitadas, y el sistema universitario ha sido víctima de la escasa inversión[Teacher preparation continues to be weak and the university system the reflection of a small budget].” Last, he challenged the government to confront the country’s 54% childhood malnutrition rate and offer children snacks at school.


Intercultural-multicultural education was first proposed in Guatemala in 1983 by the First Central American Pedagogical Congress in Guatemala City (Grandin, 2000). Although the Guatemalan Ministry of Education has repeatedly underscored that introducing an intercultural and multicultural education orientation is an important and much needed educational reform effort, this objective has yet to be met. The problem is that lofty plans to implement bilingual education are poorly articulated. Bilingual education is virtually nonexistent. Education in Guatemala in actuality promotes Spanish monolingualism for the learners who manage to stay in school. At the present time, the Ministry is offering bilingual education in rural areas that begins in kindergarten and lasts until second grade. I have observed many classrooms where teachers are using a skills-based phonics approach to teach the indigenous dialects. The Ministry has provided the teachers with phonics books written in select indigenous languages akin to those used to begin rote literacy instruction in Spanish. However, there are two problems with this model. First, it does not provide balanced literacy. Second, it is subtractive pedagogy that aims to replace students’ home language with Spanish. This continues the hegemony of the language of power and invalidates the possibility of multiliteracy.


Guatemalan teachers struggle because they have not been prepared well, are underpaid, and do not have the basic supplies needed to teach. The system prepares teachers by dedicating the last year of high school to teacher preparation. New high school graduates begin teaching careers immediately upon graduation. There are several reasons why few teachers have attended college. First, the country has no licensure requirements for teachers. Second, most Guatemalans cannot afford to pay for a university education that requires travel or living in another community. In addition, the distance many must travel to a university is great and seen as an impediment by people who might want to complete college-level courses. Another issue regarding teacher learning that is in need of attention is the way curriculum materials are distributed to teachers. The government supplies select books for learners in public schools but there are no in-service workshops to help teachers learn how to use these texts constructively other than those sporadically given by the Ministry of Education. Also, teachers do not always receive one textbook for each child and are never given storybooks for their classrooms. The teachers voice their disenchantment with the Ministry because they feel the training given by the Ministry does not model what the teachers are being prompted to do. Even the teachers who attend university and are familiar with constructivist theory share that they do not see ways to implement this methodology in their large classes.

It is not unusual to walk into a Guatemalan classroom and see two extremes of behavior. Children are either obediently copying from books or from the board or standing on their desks and peeking out the classroom door to say hello. My recurring observation is that learners are expected to be still and be quiet, to demonstrate buena educación [proper upbringing] and politeness. Critical examination of text and collaborative work are not the norm. Students know that when asked a question they should recite the expected answer and not share a dissenting point of view. Similarly, teachers who attended my workshops exhibited these same behaviors of quiet attention until I assured them that I expected them to voice their perspectives and that I was looking forward to learning from them. It was exciting to see that it took little encouragement to get them to open up and share their points of view.

For the most part, schools lack basic supplies for teachers and students to work, and having a library in their schools is a lofty and unfathomable goal for most principals. Many classroom walls are bare because buildings often house two different schools and no one has ownership or the right to use the entire room. A building may be an elementary school in the morning and a high school in the afternoon. One side of a classroom has a blackboard for the morning teacher that the afternoon teacher is forbidden to use.

Another factor is the unreasonably low rate of pay for teachers in Guatemala. Teachers with 30 years of experience make the equivalent in dollars of $575 a month while new teachers earn about $173 a month and may pay a monthly rent of $170. Guatemalan teachers are resourceful and many hold two jobs to make ends meet. Some work at an escuela, a government-run public school, in the morning, and then work at a colegio, a private school, in the afternoon. In colegios teachers earn $100 a month, and if they are bilingual in Spanish and English, up to $250 a month.

Parents are challenged to afford school tuition and there are no economic scales for paying student registration or buying supplies, and no subsidization of lunch. Teachers are quick to highlight that many of their charges are hungry. Children spend their days in schools within physical plants that are not conducive to learning. Though 60% of the country’s population resides in rural areas, 75% of the schools are in urban centers, and only 58% of communities have a high school (World Fact Book, 2004). Per capita income is approximately US$1,740, and 75% of the population lives below the poverty line (World Fact Book, 2004). Many children spend their days working in the streets to help put food on their families’ tables. Only 52% of the indigenous have appropriate sanitation facilities in their homes such as bathrooms and running water. It is not unusual to find a neighborhood where there is but one community faucet. Not surprisingly, the mortality rate for children under five is 47% (UNICEF, 2005).


In this section I do not seek to compare Guatemala with the United States but rather to highlight that change is possible and not out of the question in reference to every single shortcoming of the Guatemalan educational system that I am discussing. First, Guatemalan teachers know that change is needed in their methods of instruction in order for the socioeconomic status of their people to improve. Teachers know that to overcome poverty, all populations need to be helped to reach biliteracy. Although the indigenous groups of Guatemala comprise 50 to 60% of the country’s population, they typically complete only 3 years in school. The differences between private and public schools in the country do not relate to methodology because in the majority of both sectors of schools, instruction follows the transmission model. The difference is that in private schools bathrooms have running water, toilet paper, and toilets that flush, whereas in public schools there is usually one water faucet for the children to fill buckets to pour down nonfunctioning toilets. Classrooms in many public schools have poor ventilation, the roofs are often made of tin, and small noises reverberate and interfere with learning. Public schools have no cafeterias, so children eat as they walk around their school’s central courtyard. There are no subsidized lunches for the poor.

The limitations in Guatemalan teachers’ professional lives make it difficult for them to change the schoolhouse. Classrooms consist of small rooms with 40, 50, or 60 children. Teachers find it difficult to engage large groups in small rooms where there is little space between desks, so instruction becomes rote and does not follow constructivist models. Teachers are not supplied storybooks by the government and with their meager salaries they cannot afford to purchase books themselves. Clearly, the teachers are asking for training so they know how to teach multilingual multiethnic populations. They also lobby for improved hygienic conditions in the schools and a pay raise that allows them to afford to pay their own living expenses. Why is the government not responding to needs that are as basic as food and water? Is it because so many subsidies are coming from outside the country? Is it disinterest or is it complacency?


The teachers of Guatemala must be considered success stories when one considers the numerous obstacles that they face. They are resourceful and they work under substandard conditions. In my research, I have found that Guatemalan teachers know what they need, are clear about what the children are not learning in school, are openly critical of the Ministry of Education when they know it is safe to voice their opinions, and are aware of Guatemala’s adherence to an antiquated system that continues to colonize in this century. They know what challenges they and their students face. I was very saddened recently when a teacher shared that part of the problem is that “Guatemala is a culture of violence” (Xochi, a pseudonym). The status quo remains in place because bandages are being applied without first cleaning the wounds. How could an incision in an operation heal under conditions that are not sterile? Guatemala’s education system does not need polishing but cleaning. The teachers want to know how to assess their mainstream learners and evaluate their special needs learners. They want the system to address special needs learners so that the child in a wheelchair has access to a wheelchair and doesn’t have to drag him- or herself across the floor. They want libraries in their schools and a textbook for every child in their classrooms. Most of all, they want respect regardless of the group that is in power in the capital city.


The failures of the past need not create recurrent educational and societal failures although the challenges may appear insurmountable at first glance. The future can be promising for all Guatemalan children and for the Republic of Guatemala if citizens elected to governmental positions and those in the Ministry of Education embrace and believe in the possibility of change. Quick fixes such as handing manuals to the teachers without modeling how to implement new methodologies will not accomplish what is needed. Guatemala is a society that needs literate workers if socioeconomic levels are to rise for the country’s poor masses. Improvements will first require a frank look. This needs to start with learning the reasons that young children drop out of school in the first and second grades and continue with the implementation of remedies that work. Second, school buildings need to be repaired. All children have the right to learn in clean and pleasant environments. Third, supplies for teachers and students need to be chosen with an eye to the types of instructional paradigms and societal stances they represent. Last, there needs to be a focus on development of a community of learners that involves the educational staff, the students, and the parents.

The schools in Guatemala that have impressed me and that rival quality education in the more developed parts of the world are those where the student is the center of the universe and the teachers are collaborators that plan instruction beginning with the learner’s world. The Ministry of Education is currently focusing on developing a curriculum that is based on values and has mandated more testing. They are to be commended for their efforts to bring about change. They should, however, also be encouraged to use caution in modeling their educational reforms after countries whose history is on the opposite end of the spectrum from theirs and whose populations do not offer the rich heritage of the Maya.


Braslavsky, B. (2003). ¿Qué se entiende por alfabetización? Lectura y Vida, 24(2),2-17.

Cereser, L. (2008, July). Relator de ONU critica la educación nacional. La Prensa Libre. 18,872(1), 3.

Daniel, M. (2007). Literacy in Guatemala: Revealing teachers’ pedagogy. International Journal of Learning, 13(3), 97-104.

Ferreiro, E. (1997). Alfabetización. Teoría y Práctica. Mexico: Siglo XX1 Editores.

Friedland, E., & Méndez, E. S. (2005). Guatemala. In Encyclopedia of children’s issues worldwide. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Grandin, G. (2000). The blood of Guatemala. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Heath, S. B. (1972). Telling tongues. New York: Teachers College Press.

Hong, M. (2000). Guatemalan Americans. In J. Lehman (Ed.)., Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America (2nd ed., Vol. 2). XXX: Gale Group, Thomson Gale.

Rubio, F. E., & Chesterfield, R. (1998, December). The status of primary education in El Quiché in relation to other departments served by DIGEBI and to Guatemala as a whole. Improving Educational Quality Report. American Institutes for Research. Retrieved April 10, 2006, from

Solares, J. (1995). Realities and hopes: Indigenous rights in Guatemala today. Retrieved from

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Vásquez, C. (2005). Pequeños afrontan problemas de lectura. Prensa Libre, p. 8.

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The Possibilities for Two-Way Bilingual Education Programs in Japan

Junko Matsuzaki Carreira, Tokyo Future University

In Japan, English education from an early age is thriving. More and more parents are choosing to educate their children in English by sending them to international schools (Masuda, 2003). Therefore, schools that help students obtain a good quality English language education are becoming more and more necessary. The first immersion education program in Japan began at Katoh Gakuen in 1992 (Bostwick, 1999) and the number of schools using a language immersion model has slowly begun to increase. Immersion education was begun in Canada as a strategy to meet the needs of parents who were dissatisfied with the level of French language education in Canada. It involves core subjects being taught in both English and French, allowing both languages to be acquired at the same time by students who were nonnative speakers of French. Such impressive results were achieved that the idea of teaching language through content in this type of immersion education model rapidly spread to all areas of Canada and to other parts of the world (Johnson & Swain, 1997). There are many positive aspects to immersion education; however, there are also some downsides. Some of these include the fact that because the second language is learned only during class time and the teacher is the only speaker of the second language, it is difficult for the students to achieve a native level of fluency and to pick up that language’s culture (because the only opportunity to come in contact with it is when communicating with the native-speaking teacher), and it can be difficult to maintain the language without opportunities to use it outside the classroom (Nakajima, 2001).

On the other hand, two-way bilingual education as it is carried out in the United States involves classes and school life in general being conducted in both languages, in order to achieve a greater level of natural input and to provide many opportunities to use the second language. Two-way bilingual education means that the students are English native speakers and the speakers of the target language. In the United States, this is typically Spanish, although more two-way programs are being established with other target languages all the time (Howard, Sugarman, & Christian, 2003).

In the United States there are problems with Hispanic students dropping out of school or not achieving sufficient academic standards (Howard et al., 2003). Two-way bilingual education allows students to study various subjects in their minority language as well as in English; therefore, their first language skills are maintained and developed while their English skills progress at a level close to or even above that of similar students enrolled in English-only programs. Research shows that the number of students dropping out has decreased visibly in these programs (Thomas & Collier, 2002). In spite of the many advantages to two-way bilingual education described above, it is not very well known in Japan. Therefore, I would like to examine two-way bilingual education in this article, and at the end consider the possibilities it offers for English education in Japanese elementary schools.


Two-way bilingual education began in the United States in the 60s at a public elementary school in Dade County, Miami (Lessow-Hurley, 2004). Two-way bilingual education is known by various names, including bilingual immersion, two-way bilingual immersion, two-way immersion, two-way bilingual, dual language education, and developmental bilingual education (Lindholm-Leary, 2001). Two-way bilingual education can be divided into two main types (Cloud, Genesee, & Hamayan, 2000). The first is called 90/10 and involves having 80 to 90% of instruction in the first year in the minority language and then gradually increasing the amount of English used as the students advance to the next grade levels. Typically, by the time the students reach grades 5 and 6, the language used in class is equally balanced. The second program type is called 50/50 and involves the same number of hours of instruction in each language right from the beginning. Overall, 90/10 has shown much better results.

How much English and minority language are students actually able to acquire? According to studies, in both the 90:10 and 50:50 styles of two-way immersion programs, both groups of students achieve a very high level of fluency in their native language, but, though the differences didn’t show as significantly in their English abilities, students in the 90:10 programs showed much better achievement in their native Spanish than did students in the 50:50 programs (Lindholm-Leary, 2001). On the other hand, what about results in the core subjects? According to Thomas and Collier (2002), the Spanish native speakers showed much better grades in math than did native English speakers, and Spanish native speakers in 90:10 programs showed better achievement than did their peers in other types of bilingual programs. It is also reported that the native English speakers, while maintaining a native level of fluency in English and acquiring Spanish at the same time, showed as good or better results in other subjects as students in nonbilingual programs (Thomas & Collier, 2002). In addition, Baker (1996) has reported that in two-way bilingual education programs, the native Spanish speakers helped the native English speakers in classes where Spanish was used and the English speakers helped the Spanish speakers in classes that were conducted in English. They can learn each other’s language in two-way bilingual education programs.

In sum, two-way bilingual education is beneficial for both minority language and native English-speaking students. Both native speakers and minority language students are able to learn English almost without any problems. For the minority language students, there is a degree of variation, but studies show that they are able to achieve significant levels of fluency in their native language. In addition, in comparison with other bilingual programs, they achieve average or better results in their subject areas and the number of school dropouts decreases, and various other positive results have been shown. Here, I would like to take a look at whether this style of two-way bilingual education would be possible in Japan.


English is a very high-status language in Japan, and many people recognize its importance. Under these conditions, if two-way bilingual education were to be undertaken it would probably be relatively easy to attract sufficient Japanese students. On the other hand, because there are fewer native English speakers in Japan than Asians or Brazilians, it may be difficult to attract enough native English-speaking students. Also, many English native speakers probably don’t feel such a need to acquire Japanese. Because of this, finding a sufficient number of native English speakers is likely to be one of the big problems of trying to carry out such a program. Furthermore, in the United States the majority of two-way bilingual programs are for Spanish and English, which, although different, have many cultural and linguistic similarities. The same cannot be said for the Japanese and English language and culture. For this reason, it would be difficult to try to import those systems as is to Japan because English and Japanese have many significant cultural and linguistic differences. For these reasons, two-way bilingual education would likely be more difficult to enact in Japan (English and Japanese) than in the United States (English and Spanish).

The school carrying out the Japanese and English two-way bilingual education program, Seigakuin Atlanta International School, was established in 1990 to provide Japanese language instruction for overseas Japanese students and began its bilingual program in 2004. Because it is private, there are significant differences from the public programs established for immigrant families in the United States. In the lower grades, instruction is carried out 90% in Japanese and 10% in English and in the upper grades the proportion becomes 50:50. Classes are conducted according to the Japanese Ministry of Education’s curriculum. After graduation, some students go on to local junior high schools, while other students enter junior high schools in Japan. Though the results of its two-way Japanese-English bilingual program are not yet clear, the fact that a bilingual program in two such different language systems is being carried out at Seigakuin Atlanta International School demonstrates that such a program would not be impossible to realize in Japan.

With regard to administrative difficulties, one problem would be deciding whether to base the curriculum on Japanese education requirements for graduation. At several international schools, the international baccalaureate is used, which could be one strategy for addressing this problem.


It is difficult to acquire a high level of English for elementary school students who receive instruction from Japanese or foreign teachers only several times a week. It is much more meaningful for the understanding of other cultures and for international relations to have the opportunity to interact with children of the same age who are themselves English speaking. And because children of the same age who speak the target language are nearby to work and play together with, students learn this new language in a more natural way, acquiring useful language. The majority of studies of two-way bilingual education have been conducted in schools where English and Spanish are spoken, two languages that are relatively close linguistically and culturally, so it is difficult to say whether the same would be possible with English and Japanese in Japan. However, though there are various problems that need to be overcome, if English-Japanese bilingual education were to be realized in Japan there is no mistaking that it would provide a big contribution to English studies at elementary schools in Japan.


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Johnson, R. K., & Swain, M. (1997). Immersion education: A category within bilingual education. In R. K. Johnson & M. Swain (Eds.), Immersion education: International perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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