Jump to content
The Education Forum

Monolingualism vs Bilingualism


Guest Iftikhar Ahmad
 Share

Recommended Posts

Guest Iftikhar Ahmad

Established 1981

London School of Islamics

An Educational Trust

63 Margery Park Road London E7 9LD

Email: info@londonschoolofislamics.org.uk

www.londonschoolofislamics.org.uk

Tel/Fax: 0208 555 2733 / 07817 112 667

Monolingualism vs Bilingualism

British society is no longer monolingual; it is multilingual with at least 200 languages spoken by its citizens. Most of the world is bilingual. All those who are Monolingual are in the minority. There are more than 500,000 bilingual pupils in the school population. State schools are very unwelcoming and intimidating institutions for those with less or no English. According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, all children must be allowed to speak their own language and practice their own religion and culture. Schools must recognize bilingualism as positive learning resource. Bilingualism should be explicitly valued as a special achievement. The opportunity to use first language will help development in English. Language is a very important symbol of cultural identity and schools should ensure that they value the linguistic diversity.

According to Professor Colin Baker of the University of Wales, the advantages of bilingualism have been identified by research projects around the world. Bilingual children have more fluent, flexible and creative thinking. They can communicate more naturally and expressively, maintaining a finer texture of relationships with parents and grandparents, as well as with the local and wider communities in which they live. They gain the benefits of two sets of literatures, traditions, ideas, ways of thinking and behaving. They can act as a bridge between people of different colours, creeds and cultures. With two languages come a wider cultural experience, greater tolerance of differences and less racism. As barriers to movement between countries are taken down, the earning power of bilinguals rises. Further advantages include raised self-esteem, increased achievement, and greater proficiency with other languages.

Young children benefit from learning to write in more than one language at the same time, according to a research study at London University’s Institute of Education. Learning to read in three languages at the age of five is very common practice in Britain today, according to Watford to Watford-based Ph.D. study, and for the children this result s in social, emotional and cognitive advantages. Tri-lingual 11 years old in Hackney outperforms monolinguals in reading tests. Children attending mother tongue classes have a much higher probability of obtaining grades A. They have a positive sense of identity. Promoting the teaching of mother tongues fosters a positive sense of hybrid identity among children. A study in Leicester found that bilingualism improved a child’s overall educational performance by instilling a more suitable use of language and better communication skills. Bilingualism is an asset in the long run. Multilingualism is wholly positive thing in any child’s life. It is best to start teaching a child a second language from birth. Studies carried out last year, concluded that children who speak two languages do better at school than those who speak only one. Such children display greater comprehension when reading English. They tend to be in higher ability groups; because the skills they acquire and develop in their language use is transferred to other subjects. Biculturalism and bilingualism are increasingly becoming the norm of US society and are also being recognized as part of British cultural diversity. Trilingual children are doing better at school than monolingual peers, according to Dr. Raymonde Sneddon of University of East London. DFEE and the LEAs should make sure that community-languages classes are given resources and support. The price of ignoring children’s bilingualism is educational failure and social exclusion.

Those results support the Government’s aim of introducing more languages learning into primary schools. Young children are very capable of learning different writing systems and this is an excellent age at which to find out how language works. A study in Watford primary schools found that all Pakistani children learnt to read in English, in Urdu and in classical Arabic (the language of the Quran). In Pakistan

Bilingual Muslim children need state funded Muslim Community schools with bilingual Muslim teachers as role models. The number of Muslim schools is on the increase but majority of Muslim children are in state schools and they are not in a position to educate bilingual children. There are hundreds of state schools where Muslim pupils are in majority, in my opinion all such schools may be designated as Muslim community schools, under the management of Muslim educational Trusts or Charities. This demand is in accordance with the law of the land because there are state schools and LEAs under the control of private companies.

Iftikhar Ahmad

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The experience from Sweden certainly tends to back up what you say. As soon as children with Arabic or Somali as a first language began receiving Maths and Science lessons in their first language, their test results improved greatly.

However, the problem people here face is the question of which language is to be the first language, Swedish or the native tongue of the parents? Recent research here suggests that children's peers are at least as great an influence on them as their parents. This is why the children I used to teach in Bradford, whose parents had come from India and Pakistan, grew up speaking English with a broad Yorkshire accent (as well as the languages of their parents, although I'm not qualified to say whether they had an 'English' accent in those languages).

Perhaps the problem with faith-based schools in the UK is precisely that they run the risk of reducing the diversity of the pupils' experiences. The equivalent in Sweden is the schools in areas where there are very large numbers of children who don't come from a traditional Swedish background. There is a certain amount of evidence that those children end up speaking two 'half-languages', since the amount of linguistic diversity in each of their languages isn't enough for them to develop any of them fully. What I mean by this is that we all learn to speak our native languages from a wide variety of sources (as well as our peers). If you grow up never having heard baby-talk in Swedish, but only 'teacher-talk', then your Swedish will lack something. Similarly, if you've only ever spoken Serbian to people in your home and to other teenagers, you're likely to be missing other dimensions (such as the Serbian you might need in order to apply for a driving licence).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...