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What is your take on bilingual education? Do you, or someone you know received a bilingual education with Spanish or any other language? Explain some of your experiences.

Bilingual education can be defined broadly to simply mean any inclusion of a second language in the classroom, but it can also be more specific to mean a simultaneous teaching of material in two different languages used equally. Other times, bilingual education refers to English-As-Second-Language (ESL) programs. It is commonly known that studying a second language has far-reaching benefits beyond the immediate knowledge of another language.

I have limited personal experience with bilingual education, however I believe it is a really good thing. I began studying German in pre-school (I attended a Montessori School) and continued studying it through the 5th grade. I really enjoyed learning German in pre-school, however later in elementary school I started to dislike it because of several particularly harsh teachers. I loved being able to say things to my German relatives. To this day, there are certain things, like dates, numbers, particular phrases, and certain words that are simply stuck in my brain. Often when I am trying to speak Spanish or Czech, I have to be careful because German will slip out. I did not learn a language during grades 6 – 8, but began Spanish in the 9th grade. In 2014, I studied Czech and lived with a Czech family for 4 months while studying abroad in Prague. Now, certain Czech words and phrases are stuck in my brain, mixed in with the German and Spanish.

I believe learning German at a very young age (4 or 5 years old) significantly helped me to be able to learn other languages later. While I am not great at any particular language, I do believe the skills learned while learning one language can be applied to other languages. Learning languages causes you to really think… I find myself asking why words are the way that they are and looking for patterns in words between languages.

What are the Florida Laws as far as bilingual programs in the public education systems?

Current federal law requires that “all English learners be served by a program that is based on a sound educational theory, has sufficient resources with which to work, and actually produces positive results and that schools must be held accountable for improving the English skills of language-minority students.” In Florida, there is no mandate about bilingual education; it is not consistent across the state, however the state does fund all bilingual programs regardless of type through the federal Bilingual Education Act (Title VII of The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1968). The main issue is that Florida’s consent decree requires that children with a home language other than English be placed into Limited English Proficiency (LEP) programs for as long as eight weeks before they are actually tested to determine if they belong in these special programs or not. Florida does not give parents the right to remove their child from a bilingual education program.

After reading the appropriate assigned readings, how do you concur or differ from the ideas presented?

The conclusions of experimental study described in the reading make sense to me. The study concluded that students who had received one or more years of bilingual education at the elementary level were less likely to drop out than students that had received no elementary bilingual education. The study found no correlations between GPA or absenteeism and bilingual elementary education when comparing these two groups. However, within the group of students who had received bilingual elementary education, the study found that the higher number of years of bilingual education resulted in an increased GPA mean in 7th, 8th, and 9th grades, and a decreased probability of dropout. Number of years of elementary bilingual study within this group did not impact absenteeism or retention.

What I interpret from this is that students who receive bilingual education at a young age receive tangible benefits that allow them to have greater success in their later academic careers. When learning another language, your brain is doing many things besides just absorbing another language. Often, learning another language makes you better understand how your original language works. It also causes students to increase their pattern-recognition abilities, which is an abstract skill that has many educational and practical applications. Learning a second language from a young age makes it easier for you to learn additional languages in the future. It is believed that when you learn a second language at a young age, when your brain is growing and developing, your brain is wired to make languages easier to learn in the future as an adult, when your brain is not developing and changing. It seems logical that since learning other languages makes you smarter, then this will impact student’s desire to stay in school. The more years of language education you receive, the deeper the learning is and thus more changes occur in the brain.