In 1964, following Florida’s example, Texas began to experiment with some bilingual instruction in two school districts. By 1968 bilingual education was being provided in at least 56 locally initiated programs in 13 states. The large majority was Spanish–English programs, but six other languages were represented (Andersson & Boyer, 1970). These bilingual programs were locally developed and funded, and they were supported by the local community of each school.
By 1971, the first International Bilingual/Bicultural Education Conference was held in the United States (Mackey & Andersson, 1977), and the National Association for Bilingual Education was officially incorporated as a professional organization in 1975 (Pena, 1976b). Issues Language minority students have different sociocultural backgrounds and previous schooling experiences. Researchers argue that these differences in the students’ sociocultural background bring difficulty to language minority children to adopt in schools in the US.
This can be attributed to the apparent mismatch between the children’s home and classroom environment (Jacob & Jordan, 1993; Jordan, 1984; Mehan, 1991; Tharp & Gallimore, 1988; Ogbu, 1992; Trueba, Guthrie, & Au, 1981). In this section, we will look at some of the emotional issues, the linguistic issues, and the academic issues that language minority students face when they arrive at school. Emotional Issues. To analyze the level of adjustments language minority students face in school, consider their emotional needs and experiences must be considered (Ovando, Combs, & Collier, 2006).
Ovando et al. (2006) further stress that “Combining the variation in cultural patterns with the individual personality of each student results in many different ways that language minority children may react to a particular classroom situation”. Teachers likewise must adjust with such students. They must consider that some of the students may have some difficulty in learning because of some emotional issues the students may have such as political and social disturbances.
Some may have experienced on-and-off schooling because of very stressful conditions; some may have had dehumanizing refugee camp experiences in host countries; and some may be living with total strangers in the United States because their families sent them out of their war-torn countries in search of safety. Garbarino (1992) explains that “lethal violence in a young life often leads to nervousness, rage, fear, nightmare and constant vigilance” (p. 6). Teachers must be aware of these possible problems to know how to deal with each student.
More importantly, understanding the students’ possible problems may help in determining what kind and where to find professional help needed by the students. Being sensitive to the emotional needs of language minority students sometimes requires careful observation on the part of the teacher (Ovando, Combs, & Collier, 2006). The teacher must take time to notice and appreciate the messages that the students want to communicate. A desire to express one’s cultural or personal identity may come in very subtle ways.
Unfortunately, however, racial and ethnic discrimination, no matter how subtle or blatant, actual or perceived, is a reality of life in most culturally plural environments. And it is the school in which language minority students find out that the mainstream culture perceive them to be different. An American-born language minority student from a rural background shares his experience, “When we came to this city I first experienced prejudice in school, and that really cut me down.
I wanted to go back where we came from, but my parents wanted me to stay here with them. ” As these children grow, they come to discover the sociocultural texture of society and notice what is valued and devalued. Discrimination or prejudice may result to a feeling of not being in control of the environment, which eventually leads to low self-esteem (Cummins, 1986a; Ogbu, 1992). However, although school is one of the first places where language minority student experience discrimination, it is also an important place where they can learn to confront it.
Thus, the critical role of bilingual teachers is to encourage their language minority students to be confident in themselves and to affirm their ethnolinguistic heritage. Language minority students may also begin to feel defeated when they are placed in a grade that does not correspond to their age. In the past, new ELL students were placed in a lower grade than they would normally be placed according to their age. This is because it is believed that the students would learn easier and that they would have more time to catch up in learning English.
However, mismatches often occur when language minority students were placed in an age-appropriate grade but failed to learn enough English so they were retained. When this happens, students more often wish to quit school. Trueba, Spindler and Spindler (1989) showed that repeated grade retention often leads to an extremely high probability of a student’s dropping out. At present, there are different alternative methods that can be used in the elementary grade providing age-appropriate, meaningful schooling to language minority students such as multilevel, nongraded classes and cooperative learning.
Older than average high school students may need alternative secondary programs that can address their age-grade mismatch within a supportive environment by combining features such as individualized instruction, counseling, work experience opportunities, intensive language training, and academic preparation for postsecondary education (Ovando, Combs, & Collier, 2006). Another affective issue may take the form of trust. This may happen, for example, when students’ and families’ academic expectations may have a different view than that of the school’s academic expectations for the students.
Where such differences exist, they can be a barometer of the level of trust between the school and the students and their parents. Regardless of whether they are justified, feelings on the part of some language minority students that less is expected of them are real and have to be faced (Ovando, Combs, & Collier, 2006). Language minority students also confront emotional issues as they establish their ethnic identity. Schools are an important ground in which the students’ ethnic identities are shaped.
For example, the students may establish their ethnic identity based on the ethnic composition of the school they attend. Although many other factors are involved in a student’s self-concept, a school with a large proportion of language minority students may provide the students a supportive environment for more positive self-identification (Ovando, 1978a). conversely, schools with only a small proportion of language minority students may provide feelings of stigmatization.
Children usually feel uncomfortable when they receive any special academic assistance, but the adjustments language minority students have to make in filtering their experiences through a different culture and language background may tend to make them particularly vulnerable (Ovando, Combs, & Collier, 2006). Linguistic Issues. In a more particular note, the process of learning English itself can be a highly emotional experience for language minority students.
Researches show that emotional factor play a critical role in the acquisition of a second language (Brown, 1994; Dulay, Burt, & Krashen, 1982; Genesee, 1987; Schumann, 1980). Miscera (1983) emphasize in second language learning the “chances for success seem to be lodged as firmly in the viscera as in the intellect” (p. 1). For language minority students, language is the most critical issues as they establish their role within the classroom. It is the driving force behind the organization of bilingual and ESL classrooms.
Language minority students come to the school with a different oral language base and literacy traditions — different writing systems, different concepts of sound-symbol relations, different modes of discourse, and different story patterns (Ovando, Combs, & Collier, 2006). Ovando et al. (2006) stress that “finding the appropriate balance in instruction between the first and second language is another challenge”. A student may appear to have strong oral skills in English but may be week in reading and writing English.
For teachers who have mastered the English language, the difficulty lies in maintaining a realistic perspective on how long a student becomes academically proficient in a second language. Teachers may assume (incorrectly) that, once the students have mastered the basics of informal, conversational English, the students already understand the many forms of expression, vocabulary items, and sentence structures encountered in content-area class work in English. The amount of language information the students must learn will only become visible after the primary grades in which simpler language, more visual aids and hands-on experiences are used.