The bilingual students still encounter some barriers in the U.S schools. It is believed that one has to speak the main language (English), to become successful. Despite the increase of language diversity in school through the immigrants and refugees in the country, still, the school curriculum has not accommodated the new demographic changes. This forces most of the student to put aside the language they are familiar with, and completely adopt a new one if they want to prosper while in the US. Nieto states, "The field of multicultural education has been slow to embrace linguistic diversity as a central focus of its work. With the exception of a few scholars who have attended to language issues, most treatments of multicultural education do not consider the significance of language in teaching and learning" (Nieto, 2002). It is essential to view through the lens on the statues and power; and determine how bilingual influences school achievement and how the teachers can support language learners.
In regards to power and status, the students who practice bilingualism get stigmatized if they do not learn English effectively. In America's education system, English is upheld with superiority and any student that does not speak the language is considered to be 'handicapped' and they are forced to learn it. There is an 'English only attitude' whereby the parents have to teach their children to speak English as much as possible and exclude their first language. The non-native children who have not grasped the English language were not enrolled in school, and they were denied admission. For instance, among the Mexican-decent students in California high school, the teachers insisted on English-language monolinguals English as a goal and overlooked the essence of bilingualism (Nieto, 2002).
Native language plays a significant role in school achievement. As mentioned by Nieto (2002) an effective teaching is built on the prior knowledge and experience that the student had acquired. However, this is different as students are restricted from their prior knowledge due to language constraints. Our prior knowledge is important in interpreting new information. Bilingual students struggle to perform academically since the society has robbed them their prior knowledge and viewed them as a blank slate. If the educator will allow them to apply their language in accessing prior knowledge at least, their performance will be competitive.
The teachers have a role to play to support bilingual students as a way of promoting their academic performance. The teachers need to respect all learners with culturally defined identities. The teachers are expected to create socially responsible and culturally responsive practices for the students. The teachers can give class instructions in two languages, aimed to help the students learn the second language faster while maintaining the cultural heritage and native language (Nieto, 2002).
To wind up, in US monolingual English is preserved as a powerful tool for one to be successful and it defines one social status. This makes it a challenge for the bilingual students who are considered to be the minority and forced to learn English and abandon their native language. The consideration of monolingual rather than bilingual has restrained the non-native students from applying their prior knowledge and experience in academic hence hampering their performance. The education institution has to consider other non-English languages into the curriculum since they are producing people who can serve internationally and not locally in the US. Just like race, class, and gender are considered in multicultural education in the US, language diversity should be nicely fitted.
Nieto, S. (2002). Language, Culture, and Teaching: Critical Perspectives. 5th ed. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, pp.79-96.
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