Understanding of Cultural Differences in USA

The 1990’s United States of America Census stated that approximately 1 in 7, or 31.8 people speak language other than English in their home. Nowadays, with more understanding of cultural differences in USA, people are expected to keep and exhibit their primary language to their children. They are expected to encourage bilingualism, as a reflection of ethnic identity and pride. In the past, the second-generation kids were encouraged to accept language, culture, and customs of of the majority culture.

The number of languages spoken throughout the world is estimated to be 6,000 (Grimes, 1992). Although a small number of languages, including Arabic, Bengali, English, French, Hindi, Malay, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish serve as important link languages or languages of wider communication around the world, these are very often spoken as second, third, fourth, or later-acquired languages. Fewer than 25% of the world’s approximately 200 countries recognize two or more official languages, with a mere handful recognizing more than two (e.g., India, Luxembourg, Nigeria). However, despite these conservative government policies, available data indicate that there are many more bilingual or multilingual individuals in the world than there are monolingual. In addition, there are many more children throughout the world who have been and continue to be educated through a second or a later-acquired language, at least for some portion of their formal education, than there are children educated exclusively via the first language. In many parts of the world, bilingualism or multilingualism and innovative approaches to education that involve the use of two or more languages constitute the normal everyday experience (see, e.g., Dutcher, 1994; World Bank, 1995).

The results from published, longitudinal, and critical research undertaken in varied settings throughout the world indicate clearly that the development of multiple language proficiency is possible, and indeed that it is viewed as desirable by educators, policy makers, and parents in many countries.

Different theories exist as to what is the best way to teach children to use two languages. Most of scientists and researchers think that a child that is exposed to two languages at a very early stage of his/her life will naturally pick up both of them.

A child is expected to go through several periods of mixing the two languages and borrowing words to be able to express themselves, in many instances within the same sentence. This is caused by the fact that a word can exist in one language and be not present in another. Or, the words in one language are hard to be translated to the other language. A separation and shaping of those two languages will happen gradually over the course of time.

Children are likely to experiment with the languages to create their own way to express some messages and to create special effects while doing so. This way one language can be though of as a less formal language and used for expressing information in more informal environment. Correspondingly the other language can be identified is more formal and used in more formal environment, for example activities outside home. There can also be times when one language is used more than another. Then with changing environment the opposite occurs.

A child may not be equally good in both languages. It is more common for a child to have a better understanding of one language.

Commonly speech-language issues are not likely to happen with both languages if they are introduced early in life at the same time. The problem may arise if the children are exposed to a new language during preschool time and after the first language was used exclusively. Some scientists believe that if a second language is completely developed, the development of the first language may be slowed down and even regress. Others think the skill of the second language will not exceed the skill of the first language.

The use of multiple languages in education may be attributed to numerous factors, such as the linguistic heterogeneity of a country or region, specific social or religious attitudes, or the desire to promote national identity. In addition, innovative language education programs are often implemented to promote proficiency in international language(s) of wider communication together with proficiency in national and regional languages. In Eritrea, for instance, an educated person will likely have had some portion of their schooling in Tigrigna and Arabic and English, and will have developed proficiency in reading all these languages, which are written using three different scripts (Ge’ez, Arabic, and Roman). In Papua New Guinea, a country with a population of approximately 3 million, linguists have described more than 870 languages.

Here it is common for a child to grow up speaking one local indigenous language at home, to speak another in the market place, to add Tok Pisin to her repertoire as a lingua franca, and to learn English if she continues her schooling. Analogous situations recur in many parts of the world in countries where multilingualism predominates and in which children are exposed to numerous languages as they move from their homes out into surrounding communities and eventually through the formal education system.

Now let us take a look at a research results on the use of first and second languages in education. A complete research carried out for the World Bank (Dutcher, 1994) researched three different kinds of countries. The first type is countries with no mother tongue speakers of the language of wider communication, such as Philippines, Nigeria and Haiti. The second type is presented by countries where some of mother tongue speakers of the language of wider communication are present, for example Guatemala. And the last one is the presented by countries with many mother tongue speakers of the language of wider communication, those are United States, New Zealand and Canada.

These are the results of the research:

 

  • Success in school depends upon the child’s mastery of cognitive/academic language, which is very different from the social language used at home.
  • The development of cognitive/academic language requires time (4 to 7 years of formal instruction).
  • Individuals most easily develop literacy skills in a familiar language.
  • Individuals most easily develop cognitive skills and master content material when they are taught in a familiar language.
  • Cognitive/academic language skills, once developed, and content ­subject material, once acquired, transfer readily from one language to another.
  • The best predictor of cognitive/academic language development in a second language is the level of development of cognitive/academic language proficiency in the first language.
  • Children learn a second language in different ways depending upon their culture and their individual personality.
  • If the goal is to help the student ultimately develop the highest possible degree of content mastery and second language proficiency, time spent instructing the child in a familiar language is a wise investment.

 

The research has discovered the certain common traits that are necessary to make bilingual program successful, to provide students with bilingual proficiency:

 

  • Development of the mother tongue is encouraged to promote cognitive development and as a basis for learning the second language.
  • Parental and community support and involvement are essential.
  • Teachers are able to understand, speak, and use with a high level of proficiency the language of instruction, whether it is their first or second language.
  • Teachers are well trained, have cultural competence and subject-matter knowledge, and continually upgrade their training.
  • Recurrent costs for innovative programs are approximately the same as they are for traditional programs, although there may be additional one-time start-up costs.
  • Cost­benefit calculations can typically be estimated in terms of the cost savings to the education system, improvements in years of schooling, and enhanced earning potential for students with multiple language proficiency.

 

Despite the different views on educational process and learning nowadays, in most organization there is still a belief that when and additional language is introduced in the study course, a child must return and go over already learned concepts of the first language. And though there are rather many unexplored areas and parts of transferring across languages, a belief like that should not be a topic for debate. It is most obvious that a child that acquires some basic numeric or literacy principles in one language can easily transfer the knowledge to another language that he is about to learn. The documented practical experiences show examples of how important it is to nurture child’s mother tongue. Gonzalez (1998), in particular, writes and speaks especially compellingly about the need to develop basic functions of literacy, numeric and scientific discourse in the first language to the fullest extent possible while facilitating transfer to the second language.

Swain (1996) described the need to “transfer” the stages and processes of evaluation, theory building, generation of hypotheses, experimentation, and further evaluation that will help to ensure the implementation of programs appropriate for the unique sociocultural contexts in which they will operate. That is, she cautioned that it is not a particular model of innovative language education (and, in particular, a Western model) that should be transferred but rather a “cycle of discovery” that should be transferred. Swain reminded us that the so-called threshold levels of second language skills required for successful participation in formal education may differ dramatically across content areas, and that a majority of children face a language gap that must be bridged when they move from learning the target language to using the target language as a medium of instruction. Many policy makers have characterized bilingual education as a high risk undertaking, by which they mean that it is necessary to attend to a complex set of interacting educational, sociolinguistic, economic, and political factors.

There are four areas that were thought as deserving a special attention. One is socialiguistic research through the world; another one is the concept of paying more attention on specifics of transfer. The third one involves materials development, distribution and reproduction in less commonly used languages. Finally there is development of cadre of trained teachers that are proficient language carriers. Despite of the thorough research of linguistic issues, there are lots to be done to describe the situation with the language in most parts of the world. A lot of languages of the world are still to be codified, elaborated or written. Also there not ready materials for initial training and for advanced education both, there are not teachers qualified to teach some of the world’s languages. All these issues are thought as crucial for enhancing language learning in our century. They have to be dealt with before the major change can take place in the multilingual situation in the world.

The evidence coming from the researches over the last decades says the there is a large percentage of the population who has the potential for developing bilingual skills when compared with monolingual rest of the world. These are some important issue to be discussed by parents, administrators and educators in the multilingual education:

 

  • What are the explicit or implicit goals for formal education in the region?
  • Is there general satisfaction throughout the region with the level of educational attainment by all participants (both those who terminate their education relatively early and those who wish to go on to tertiary studies)?
  • Is the region relatively homogeneous or is it heterogeneous linguistically and culturally, and how would bilingual education complement the linguistic and cultural characteristics of the community?
  • Does the region have an explicit or implicit policy with respect to the role of language in education, and how would bilingual education fit or not fit with this existing policy? Is this policy based upon tradition or the result of language (education) planning?
  • What priorities are accorded to goals such as the development of broadly based permanent functional literacy, the value of education for those who may permanently interrupt their schooling at an early age, and the power of language to foster national identity and cohesiveness?
  • Are the language(s) selected for instruction written, codified, standardized, and elaborated?
  • Is there a well developed curriculum for the various levels/stages of formal educationthat is, a framework that specifies fairly explicitly a set of language, content, cognitive, and affective objectives that are then tied to or illustrated by exemplary techniques, activities, and supported by written materials?
  • Are sufficient core and reference materials available for teachers and students in the language(s) of instruction? If not, are there trained individuals available who can prepare such materials?
  • Is there a sufficient number of trained and experienced teachers who are fluent speakers of the language(s) of instruction and who are trained to teach via that language(s)?

 

The number of linguistically and culturally diverse students in America is constantly increasing, that is why there is a challenge before the teachers to give children and students quality bilingual education, especially to those with limited English skills. The problem is that many teachers just didn’t have enough training in second language education and need additional training to help them understanding what this type of kids need.

The benefits of bilingualism are obvious. Those children, that have a chance to speak two languages should be encourages to maintain them, because they can enjoy benefits that come with knowing them. Children that come from homes where English is not native language should be encouraged to learn as well as English. Sometimes parents in those families are not able to speak English. If the children do not keep the knowledge of the native language they can loose the ability to speak with the members of their family.

The false argument is wide spread; it says that facilitating the native language at homes of children prevents them from developing for example English. It is important to realize, rather, that as a child is learning a second language, one language may predominate because the child is using that language more than the other at a given time. Children that are not advanced in both languages are most likely some sort of developmental stage, during which a limited use of the home language causes it to decline, whereas the second language has not reached a good level yet.

Some of the children from language minority can run into difficulties in school because their ways of communicating and learning are different from that of the rest of the class. Teachers are able to spot those differences through the way kids communicate in the classroom. This way, some kids can be avoiding participation in classroom, because their cultural background considers showing somebody’s knowledge as an arrogant form of behavior. For example a child can be embarrassed by teacher saying: You should be proud of yourself”; more effective praise for them might be, “Your family will be proud of you.” By recognizing student’s culture, and adapting to it, teacher can provide a better and effective way of approaching culturally sensitive children. Children will feel validated in the classroom if they are encouraged to acclimate gradually through daily affirmation of their learning styles and communication patterns.

Now I would like to discuss some of the programs supporting bilingual education.

Adult and continuing education programs in California offer instruction based on levels of English as Second Language (ESL) proficiency. Most programs offer Literacy to Advanced level classes during the day and in the evening from Monday through Friday. Many programs are fully operational on Saturdays. Classes are offered at adult and continuing education centers, community centers, local elementary, middle and high schools. Program options include: General ESL, Academic ESL, and Workforce Preparation/Vocational ESL.General ESL programs focus on skills or competencies that adults living in our society must have on a daily basis In general ESL, adults develop the four language skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing. Academic ESL programs focus on skills and competencies that adults need to succeed in an academic program. Academic ESL and advanced levels of ESL training offer participants a transition between ESL classes and high school diploma classes in K-12 adult school and credit college classes in a community college. Workforce Preparation/Vocational ESL programs focus on skills those adult ESL students need to get, keep or advance on a job.

Adult and continuing education programs offer instruction based on levels of English as a Second Language (ESL) proficiency. Most programs offer Literacy to Advanced level classes during the day and in the evening from Monday through Friday. Many programs are fully operational on Saturdays. Classes are offered at adult and continuing education centers, community centers, local elementary, middle and high schools. Program options include: General ESL, Academic ESL, and Workforce Preparation/Vocational ESL.

General ESL programs focus on skills or competencies that adults living in our society must have on a daily basis In general ESL, adults develop the four language skills: listening. speaking, reading and writing. Academic ESL programs focus on skills and competencies that adults need to succeed in an academic program. Academic ESL and advanced levels of ESL training offer participants a transition between ESL classes and high school diploma classes in K-12 adult school and credit college classes in a community college. Workforce Preparation/Vocational ESL programs focus on skills those adult ESL students need to get. keep or advance on a job.

Adult and continuing education programs offer instruction based on levels of English as a Second Language (ESL) proficiency. Most programs offer Literacy to Advanced level classes during the day and in the evening from Monday through Friday. Many programs are fully operational on Saturdays. Classes are offered at adult and continuing education centers, community centers, local elementary, middle and high schools. Program options include: General ESL, Academic ESL, and Workforce Preparation/Vocational ESL.

General ESL programs focus on skills or competencies that adults living in our society must have on a daily basis In general ESL, adults develop the four language skills: listening. speaking, reading and writing. Academic ESL programs focus on skills and competencies that adults need to succeed in an academic program. Academic ESL and advanced levels of ESL training offer participants a transition between ESL classes and high school diploma classes in K-12 adult school and credit college classes in a community college. Workforce Preparation/Vocational ESL programs focus on skills those adult ESL students need to get. keep or advance on a job.

Adult and continuing education programs offer instruction based on levels of English as a Second Language (ESL) proficiency. Most programs offer Literacy to Advanced level classes during the day and in the evening from Monday through Friday. Many programs are fully operational on Saturdays. Classes are offered at adult and continuing education centers, community centers, local elementary, middle and high schools. Program options include: General ESL, Academic ESL, and Workforce Preparation/Vocational ESL.

General ESL programs focus on skills or competencies that adults living in our society must have on a daily basis In general ESL, adults develop the four language skills: listening. speaking, reading and writing. Academic ESL programs focus on skills and competencies that adults need to succeed in an academic program. Academic ESL and advanced levels of ESL training offer participants a transition between ESL classes and high school diploma classes in K-12 adult school and credit college classes in a community college. Workforce Preparation/Vocational ESL programs focus on skills those adult ESL students need to get. keep or advance on a job.


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