March 2003 -- Volume 6, Number 4

Bilingual Education

Donna Christian & Fred Genessee, Eds. (2001)
Alexandria, VA: TESOL.
Pp. x + 188
ISBN 0-939791-94-3
$29.95 (members $25.95)

Bilingual Education is a fresh, accessible, and timely text that addresses many facets of bilingual education in a variety of contexts. The book aims to explain how certain programs are implemented and how language and content is taught in different bilingual education settings. It also illustrates how programs have involved educators and community members in the education of their children through the use of the first and second language. The eleven selected case studies in the edited volume span the globe from Central Europe to the Pacific Rim, to America's heartland, and northward to Canada. A diverse collection of case studies, this compilation is designed to represent many groups and cultures, while appealing to a broad audience of educators, pre-service teachers, teacher trainers and community members.

The text is divided into three principal parts: Part 1 deals with situations in which the majority language is taught in conjunction with a local minority language; Part 2 describes several bilingual programs that teach an indigenous language along with the majority language; and Part 3 is dedicated to international, or foreign language bilingual education. Within each of these sections are case studies that exemplify the type of educational situation defined by the section.

The organization of the chapters is succinct, uniform, and reader-friendly, due to the fact that each chapter conforms to the same general framework. Each chapter contains the following sections: introduction, context, description, distinguishing features, practical ideas, and conclusion. The predictability of the chapters contributes to the handbook-like format of the volume as a whole.

In the first chapter, Christian and Genesee provide criteria for categorizing main contexts and programs of bilingual education. Their system for classifying programs is based on a tripartite model, which includes the goals of the program, the sociolinguistic status of language instruction, and the profile of students involved in the program (p. 2). Chapter 2 introduces the oldest two-way dual language school in the American Midwest, the Inter-American School. Two of the schools' teachers, Urow and Sontag, explain how their Spanish/English immersion school has become so successful and popular that it has had a waiting list for entry since its inception. Another two-way program using Spanish and English, the immersion school described in chapter 3 by Calderón and Swain, attributes its success to the implementation of the bilingual version of SFA/EPT (Success for ALL, Éxito para Todos), in which oral language and reading are emphasized within a regimented curriculum that progresses throughout the elementary years.

Chapter 4 explains how the "transition in transitional programs" can be strengthened, despite limited and constricting time limits imposed by Proposition 227 on support classes for English language learners. Saunders and Goldberg describe a situation in which several California schools have worked to enrich the transition period by implementing a well-articulated, multi-phase system designed to better prepare students for the imminent transition to all-English classes.

Chapters 5 and 6 are set in the European context. Chapter 5 discusses one of only two trilingual education situations in the volume. In South Tyrol, Italy, the paritetic school system provides for education in German and Italian, while allowing the use of the local language, Ladin, in the classroom. Researchers Egger and Lardshneider McLean explain how the unusual linguistic and political situation in the Ladin Valley has contributed to the very specialized multilingual education that has developed there. In chapter 6, Gersten presents a case study of bilingual Hungarian/Slovak education in the Slovak Republic. This case illustrates how bilingual language education can be successful in promoting a minority home language and culture in a majority language environment. [-1-]

Part 2 focuses on indigenous languages and reveals ways in which education can help to revitalize native languages. In chapter 7, Yamauchi and Wilhelm explain that although Hawaiian was in danger of extinction only a few years before the Kaiapuni school began, the language has since enjoyed prosperity and gained support by students and parents. In chapter 8, Benton traces the history of a bilingual Mäori/English program in New Zealand and explains how language revitalization has occurred in the Mäori community, despite major stumbling blocks in language planning. The final chapter of section 2 discusses what the Mohawks of Kahnawà:ke, Canada have done to resuscitate their native language. Educators Jacobs and Cross describe the language planning and policy making involved in the grand task of attempting to revive the Mohawk language in one of its native communities.

The last section of the text is dedicated to international language teaching. The first two chapters deal with Japanese/English bilingual schools. Chapter 9 focuses on a school in Japan, and chapter 10 looks at a school in the U.S. The director of the program in Japan, Mike Bostwick, recounts some of the difficulties involved in implementing the immersion program due to both differences in Japanese and Western education and linguistic distance between the Japanese and English languages. In the next chapter, Kanagy describes the strategies used by teachers at the Yujin Gakuen immersion program in the Pacific Northwest to help their students gain access to Japanese. In the last chapter of the volume, Weber, the founder of the International School of Indiana, explains how relationships with foreign ministries of education and international businesses, as well as strong local and community ties have served to strengthen this trilingual program.

While some of the authors concede limitations encountered in the development and implementation of the bilingual programs they describe, I believe it might be helpful for readers if all the chapters provided for a limitation section. An additional section in each of the chapters would serve to highlight those caveats made by the authors. In this way, pre-service and in-service bilingual teachers and potential program developers would learn not only about the practicalities and benefits of bilingual education, but also the possible roadblocks, potential problems, and drawbacks of implementing different types of programs.

Because one of the principal target audiences for this volume is that of teachers in training, I feel that a glossary might well be a useful addition to the text. Pre-service language educators, as well as seasoned professionals from fields outside of bilingual education could benefit by having some of the specialized terminology of bilingual education explained in a readily accessible format.

Despite these critiques, this text achieves its purpose. The insights and practical hints supplied by the authors in their discussions of various types of programs highlight the complexities of bilingual program development, while serving to assist those wishing to become involved in bilingual education. Moreover, it is successful and thorough in describing a variety of bilingual education situations. The collection of case studies included in the volume serve to illustrate the diversity of bilingual programs, as well as myriad ways in which these programs are manifested and carried out. As a result, this book can be a useful reference and educational manual for not only those interested in bilingual education, but also those looking to improve their knowledge with respect to bilingual education.

Editor's note: For more information, see http://www.tesol.org/pubs/catalog/bilingualed.html

Holly Hansen-Thomas
The University of Texas at San Antonio
<hhansen@utsa.edu >

© Copyright rests with authors. Please cite TESL-EJ appropriately.

Editor's Note: Dashed numbers in square brackets indicate the end of each page for purposes of citation.

Return to Table of Contents Return to Top Return to Main Page
[-2-]