Bilingual education in America. Illusion or reality?

An Examination on Latinos in Wisconsin

Hausarbeit (Hauptseminar), 2013

26 Seiten, Note: 2,3

Melanie W. (Autor)


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Definitions
2.1 Monolingualism
2.2 Bilingualism
2.3 Multilingualism

3. History of bilingual education in the U.S
3.1 The Permissive Period
3.2 The Restrictive Period
3.3 The Opportunist Period
3.4 The Dismissive Period
3.4.1 Ronald Reagan
3.4.2 George W. Bush
3.4.3 Barack Obama

4. Bilingual education
4.1 Forms
4.2 Criticism and Problems

5. Latinos in the U.S
5.1 Bilingual education for Latinos
5.2 Latinos in Wisconsin
5.3 Madison Metropolitan School District
5.3.1 Bilingual Programs
5.3.2 Leopold Elementary School
5.3.3 Success

6. Conclusion


1. Introduction

“To be bilingual or multilingual is not the aberration supposed by many (…); it is, rather, a normal and unremarkable necessity for the majority in the world today.” (Edwards 1994:1) This opinion was not shared by everyone over time and even today there are people who do not share the belief of a multilingual world.

In this seminar paper, the focus will lay on bilingual education in the USA. First of all, the differentiation between monolingualism, bilingualism and multilingualism will be made clear to understand the wideness of this topic. At this point, it has to be considered that even the term bilingualism can be diverse in its meaning due to the fact that it can refer to an individual or a society being bilingual. (cf. Aronin/ Hufeisen 2009: 13) This phenomenon will be explained in the next chapter. Furthermore it is important to have a look on the history of bilingual education itself. In this paper, history of bilingual education will start around the 1700s. It is the point in history when first appearance of bilingualism is documented. Certainly, even earlier, bilingualism might be pointed out but this period is crucial for the development of bilingualism in America which is important for this paper. In the next chapter, the focus will lay on bilingual education, the actual topic. Here, not only forms will be explained but also critics and problems will be pointed out due to the fact that bilingual education was not always successful because of various reasons which were explained in the history part, then. The fifth chapter deals with Latinos in the U.S. and especially with their opportunity to receive bilingual education. A closer examination will be made, then, on Latinos in Wisconsin and why the offer on bilingual education for them is so various. Finally, to prove the facts that will be claimed, an example will be given. The Madison Metropolitan School District will be introduced with its programs for English Language Learners and especially one Elementary school in the District. Before the conclusion with a summary and the answer of the opening question finishes the paper, the success of the bilingual programs of the school and the school district will be shown.

2. Definitions

Considering the term multilingualism, it is also important to have a look on the concept of monolingualism and bilingualism due to the fact that all of them lay side by side in their meaning. It is only possible to understand the consequences when the differences will be made clearly. But there are not only differences. One matter do all of them have in common: No matter if monolingual, bilingual or multilingual, the term can either refer to the language use of an individual or a society. (cf. Aronin/ Hufeisen 2009: 13)

2.1 Monolingualism

To start with the ‘smallest’ term, monolingual is sometimes also called unilingual or monoglot. Monolinguals are individuals who are able to speak one language and sometimes even some of the varieties and registers of the language. According to Kemp “Monolingualism (and monolinguality) is often seen by people in western nation-states as the unmarked case to which bilingualism and multilingualism are compared...” (Aronin/ Hufeisen 2009: 14) Today, this term does not play such an important role due to the fact that our world becomes more and more multilingual as well as multicultural trough the fast progress in many fields. So, globalization makes it almost impossible for one country or even one person to stay monolingual.

2.2 Bilingualism

Furthermore, bilingualism plays an important role concerning multilingualism because it is a term of it and will play the most important role in this term paper. Bilinguals are individuals who use two languages so that bilingualism means “the ability to speak two languages”. (Aronin/ Hufeisen 2009: 14) It does not only mean to speak two languages, it is furthermore the ability to speak two languages equally well because it was used since childhood. (cf. Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary 2005: 139) In fact, there is a difference between bilingualism which refers to societies whose members use two languages and bilinguality which describes the individual who knows two languages. Today, most sociolinguists use the term bilingualism for both the individual and the societal which will be done in this term paper, too, to make it more clearly. (cf. Aronin/ Hufeisen 2009: 14)

2.3 Multilingualism

Finally, there is the term multilingualism to declare. According to the terms defined in the chapter before, multilingualism would have to be a person or a society that is able to speak more than two languages. The problem of these kinds of definitions is not only that there are so many different ones but also that it cannot be clarified exactly. Researchers argue if a multilingual must be a person who is absolutely fluent in at least three languages so that this person has three mother tongues or more or it is sufficient that this person has one first language but is also able to speak two or more languages not so perfectly. (cf.

Indeed it is known that there are so many children in the world who became educated trough a second language which they learned later in school than those who learned only one language, namely their first language. In many countries, it is rather normal that children grow up with two languages (i.e. Canada) and even in education most children become privileged to learn a foreign language. (cf. Consequently, it is reasonable to say that our world becomes more and more a multilingual world which plays the most important role in education which will be proved with this term paper. Before, there will be made an excursion about the history of bilingual education in the U.S.

3. History of bilingual education in the U.S.

To understand the different programs of bilingual education in the USA today, it is crucial to have a look at history and its development over time. That is the reason why this chapter will deal with the different periods. Afterwards correlations will be clearer and a more sophisticated view on bilingual education in the USA will be possible.

3.1 The Permissive Period

Long time before European settlers came to North America; there have already been a wide variety of indigenous languages which can be seen as the beginning of multilingualism. But in this paper, the bilingual education stands in the foreground. That is the reason why the part about history will start in the 1700s. Around this year the permissive period has started as the first period of bilingual education that is relevant for this chapter. The permissive period lasted, then, until the 1800s. This period received its name because of its time of linguistic tolerance. There existed a general sense of geographical and psychological openness because colonists and settlers from Europe, Asia and South America came to the U.S. as already mentioned. Immigrants still felt a strong sense of identity of their maternal language, so that they used it for religious services, community newspapers, and private and public schools. Consequently, a number of states passed laws that authorized bilingual education during the 19th century. As a result of these laws, many public and private schools were bilingual or non-English instructions were provided. “In 1900, approximately 600,000 children, about 4% of the elementary school population, were receiving all or part of their instruction in German.” (Ovando, Carlos J. 2003: 4) Although this period can be characterized as permissive, it was rather a policy of linguistic assimilation due to the fact that the education in the 19th century was not especially set up to be bilingual. (cf. Ovando, Carlos J. 2003: 3)

3.2 The Restrictive Period

After, the restrictive period followed and lasted from the 1880s until the 1960s. At this time, some repressive policies appeared but for various reasons. One of those, for example, was an Indian language policy that should ‘civilize’ Indians to keep them in their reservations. Other policies like the American Protective Association were successful at the time around 1887 when it was founded. They promoted English-Only school laws for example. Furthermore, the fear of European influence and its importation of foreign ideologies became stronger around the turn of the 20th century so that the result was a call of assimilation for all immigrants into the United States and its culture. One example is the Naturalization Act that was signed into law in 1906. It required all immigrants to learn English before they could become naturalized U.S. citizens. (Ovando, Carlos J. 2003: 5)

When the USA declared its entry in World War I in 1917, another major influence on bilingual education started. Though, the Anti-German hostility caused the U.S. to push monolingualism in the country. Consequently, teaching German as a foreign language was eliminated in most schools due to the fact that it was portrayed as un- American. This push for homogeneity in the first half of the 20th century was the reason for creating Americanization classes in many large urban schools to try to integrate immigrants into the society of the USA. In these classes, the U.S. culture was presented as more desirable as the ancestral culture of the immigrants. So, assimilation and integration should be established. In 1923 already thirty-four states had regulated that English should be the only language of instructions in elementary school, in public as well as in private. They used methods like the “sink- or- swim”- method which is already known as submersion.[1]

In this period the emphasis lay on monolingual English instructions in public schools as well as on keeping ideological principles in school system in the U.S. but in the next decades the debate over the role of non- English mother tongue instructions continued. (cf. Ovando, Carlos J. 2003: 5-6)

3.3 The Opportunist Period

This bilingual belief in education continued with the opportunist period which started around the 1960s and lasted until the 1980s. With World War II the United States noticed that they had underestimated the power of bilingualism. Especially with the launch of Sputnik by the Soviet Union, which found its way through the atmosphere, the USA was reminded that the world became more and more international. So, they had to react on that to compete in this global world which they did with the National Defense Act in 1958. By that moment, the consciousness for the need for foreign languages rose again. The most important point of this Act was to promote foreign language learning in elementary schools, high schools as well as in universities. Another important fact for the openness of foreign languages was the Civil Right Movement which increased the tolerance of ethnic languages through the call for rights of African- Americans. (Baker, Colin 2011: 241)


[1] The submersion model mainstreams non-native English speaking students into regular English-speaking classes. The aim of this program is to assimilate non-native speaker to the North American society through learning English. Here, the first language is not supported and will become lost. Researchers found out that this model shows negative effects on cognition and these learners will have difficulties to succeed in school. (cf. Roberts, Cheryl A. (1995): 372)

Ende der Leseprobe aus 26 Seiten


Bilingual education in America. Illusion or reality?
An Examination on Latinos in Wisconsin
Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universität Greifswald
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
477 KB
bilingual, america, illusion, examination, latinos, wisconsin
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Melanie W. (Autor), 2013, Bilingual education in America. Illusion or reality?, München, GRIN Verlag,


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