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Review of  Bilingual and Multilingual Education in the 21st Century


Reviewer: Olivia L Amzallag
Book Title: Bilingual and Multilingual Education in the 21st Century
Book Author: Christián Abello-Contesse Paul M Chandler María Dolores López-Jiménez Rubrén Chacón-Beltrán
Publisher: Multilingual Matters
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Book Announcement: 25.2238

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Review:
SUMMARY

This collection of essays, edited by Christian Abello-Contesse, Paul M. Chandler, María Dolores López-Jiménez, and Rubén Chacón-Beltrán, is a comprehensive overview of bilingual education (henceforth BE) addressing current issues and research on a variety of related contexts. As a collective, the essays provide some historical background of BE internationally; however, they focus on the most recent work in the field. The fourteen contributions are divided into four parts, all under the thematic umbrella of personal experiences in BE, as the subtitle of the collection ‘Building on Experience’ suggests. Part 1, ‘Lessons from Accumulated Experience in Bilingual and Multicultural Education’, provides background information on BE through research-based insights into the field. Part 2, ‘Issues in Language Use in Classrooms’, explores current issues facing language education from a classroom perspective, and Part 3, ‘Participant Perspectives on Bilingual Education Experiences’, provides additional perspective from various classroom participants such as instructors and teaching assistants. Finally, Part 4, ‘The Language Needs of Bilingual and Multilingual Students’, examines two specific non-traditional student groups in BE programs.

The Introduction and Overview section provides information on the collection as a whole. Originally a culmination of two components, chapters are divided between contributing scholars from various European, North American, and Latin American universities, and a collection of papers whose authors are related by professional affiliation as a select group of applied linguists based at the University of Seville in Spain in 1995. This section also provides a brief description of each essay, and a short summary of the relationship between the four parts of this volume: Part One, setting BE in its current context; Part Two, centering on controversial issues in BE; Part Three, exploring aspects of human resources as related to BE; and Part Four, dealing with non-monolingual students in monolingual educational models.

Part 1, ‘Lessons from Accumulated Experience in Bilingual and Multicultural Education’, provides a historical context for current issues facing BE. In ‘Bilingual and Multilingual Education: An Overview of the Field’ (Chapter 1), Christian Abello-Contesse situates BE as a broad term that encompasses many linguistic and pedagogical phenomena, resulting in a deeper understanding of the nuances in BE. The author describes four specific instances of BE implemented internationally to: a) maintain a minority language; b) learn how to use a majority language; c) learn to read and write in a majority language; and d) learn an international or prestigious non-native language. The author also explores the essential principles of content-based instruction (henceforth CBI): a dual focus on content and language instruction, cognitively demanding content, thoughtfully sequenced language components, the second language (L2) as the principle language for in-class communication, simultaneous improvement of two disciplines, and the applicability of the content model to a wide range of topics. The author then raises the following six concerns with the current state of BE: the degree of CBI implementation, the manner of CBI integration, skills encouraged through BE, classroom language distribution, level of instructors’ L2 proficiency, and culture in BE. In ‘Insights into Bilingual Education From Research on Immersion Programs in Canada’ (Chapter 2), Fred Genesee contributes a historical perspective of BE through a discussion of Canadian immersion programs dating back to 1965. He briefly describes the various models of immersion education (i.e., early immersion alternatives/ early total immersion, early double immersion, delayed immersion and late immersion) and looks at empirical evidence to evaluate their effectiveness. He then turns his attention to general research conducted on immersion programs, considering the effectiveness of content-based language instruction in several contexts. In ‘Bilingual Education in Colombia: The Teaching and Learning of Languages and Academic Content Area Knowledge’ (Chapter 3), Anne-Marie de Mejía discusses content and language integrated learning (henceforth CLIL) in Latin America. She describes the various types of bilingual schools in Colombia: international bilingual schools, national bilingual schools, and schools with an intensified English foreign language program. She examines a monolingual bias in favor of the foreign language and demonstrates a need for more accessible bilingual school initiatives, as the majority of successful foreign language initiatives in Colombia are currently found in exclusive private institutions. In ‘Perspectives and Lessons from the Challenge of CLIL Experiences’ (Chapter 4), Carmen Pérez-Vidal provides a comprehensive overview of CLIL in Europe, including a discussion of the linguistic policies leading to CLIL initiatives, and their various successes, with an emphasis on the Spanish language. She argues that CLIL alone is insufficient for effective language acquisition, utilizing the Barcelona Study Abroad and Language Acquisition (SALA) project’s data, contrasting CLIL, study abroad experiences, and formal instruction to support her argument.

Part 2, ‘Issues in Language Use in Classrooms’, explores current issues facing language education from a classroom perspective. In ‘From Bilingualism to Multilingualism: Basque, Spanish and English in Higher Education’ (Chapter 5), Jason Cenoz and Xabier Etxague discuss BE in university instruction, noting how English is increasingly becoming an instructional language in certain parts of Europe. They also explore minority languages, with a focus on several specific BE initiatives in university programs in the Basque language, and provide a discussion of the challenges facing these initiatives. The authors argue in favor of multilingual education, and support its effectiveness through these examples. In ‘100 Bilingual Lessons: Distributing Two Languages in Classrooms’ (Chapter 6) Gwyn Lewis, Bryn Jones, and Colin Baker describe the various models of language division in bilingual schools, as collected from 100 lessons observed in the following types of elementary and secondary Welsh schools: monolingual use of one language (L1 Welsh), monolingual use of one language (L2 Welsh), monolingual use of one language in mixed L1/L2 classrooms, translanguaging, translation (whole class), translation of subject-related terminology, translation for L2 learners, combinations of concurrent two-language use, and teacher responses to student’s language. The authors raise several issues related to multiple language use in classrooms by exploring translanguaging and translation. In ‘Native Language Influence in Teaching Subject-matter Content Through English in Spanish Tertiary Education’ (Chapter 7), Elena Domìnguez Romero and Jorge Braga Riera focus on English as an emerging instructional language in Spanish universities, concentrating on issues related to a lack of instructor training and English language proficiency. The authors explore the instructors’ linguistic influence on the classroom and on the students, finding evidence of non-target-like linguistic features. In ‘From Diglossia to Transglossia: Bilingual and Multilingual Classrooms in the 21 Century’ (Chapter 8) Ofelia Garcìa explores the multilingual classroom, with a focus on New York State. She notes the presence of translanguaging in seemingly diglossic classroom models (a two-way bilingual kindergarten, an English-only third/fourth grade, a fifth grade two-way bilingual classroom, high schools for emergent bilinguals), pointing out that functional distribution models of language in the classroom are contrary to the reality of fluid language use in practice.

Part 3, ‘Participant Perspectives on Bilingual Education Experiences’, focuses on the human component of BE. In ‘The Students’ Views on their Experience in a Spanish-English Bilingual Education Program in Spain’ (Chapter 9), Marìa Dolores Pérez Murillo documents a 3-year attitudinal survey project with 382 students attending bilingual schools in Spain. Achieving her goal to gain insight into students’ outlook on their BE, she reports predominantly positive student attitudes. In ‘The Use of Native Assistants as Language-and-Cultural Resources in Andalusia’s Bilingual Schools’ (Chapter 10), Nicole Tobin and Christian Abello-Contesse give an overview of BE and CLIL programs in Spain at the elementary and secondary levels, which is followed by a discussion of the Multilingualism Promotion Program, where native speaking teaching assistants serve as cultural and linguistic representatives in the classroom. This program is implemented to develop students’ intercultural competence. The authors explore a case study involving participants in the program with a focus on how the assistant was used in the classroom, with results supporting frequent inefficient use of the teaching assistant’s time. In, ‘Student-teachers and Teacher-educators Experience New Roles in Pre-service Bilingual Teacher Education in Brazil’ (Chapter 11), Fernanda Liberali notes a lack of effective bilingual teacher training in Brazil, and discusses the Multicultural Education Project, a socio-cultural project geared at pre-service bilingual teachers, requiring them to reflect on their teaching practice in a directed peer group. Activities were designed to transform participants’ perceptions by creating new realities, moving them towards a more central participatory role. The author reports on the findings from this case study and discusses a variety of the program’s issues and strengths. In ‘Potential Drawbacks and Actual Benefits of CLIL Initiatives in Public Secondary Schools.’ (Chapter 12), Miguel Garcìa López and Anthony Bruton contrast two perspectives of CLIL, providing a comprehensive overview of the issues as supported through research, along with a discussion of the actual observed practices of CLIL initiatives in schools. Although discrepancies in CLIL models were voiced, the results indicate overall successes in achieving bilingualism when programs are adopted voluntarily.

Part 4, ‘The Language Needs of Bilingual and Multilingual Students’, examines two specific non-traditional students in BE programs. In ‘International School Students: Developing their Bilingual Potential’ (Chapter 13), Maurice Carder focuses on International Schools where English is the predominant instructional language, drawing attention to the limited opportunity for the study of mother tongue languages. He cites examples to support the importance of maintaining mother tongue proficiency. In ‘Heritage Spanish Speakers in School Settings: Are their Needs Being Met?’ (Chapter 14), Jaime Espinoza Moore and Emilia Alonso Marks explore the subject of heritage speakers of Spanish in language classes designed for monolingual learners by surveying Spanish teachers in an Ohio school district. Results of this survey indicate the need for awareness and training to meet heritage speaker needs.

EVALUATION

This collection contains observer opinions and insights into BE, thus demonstrating diverse viewpoints, attitudes, practices, and issues. Although many languages appear in discussions throughout the volume, the essays are largely focused on English as a foreign language, readily accepting it as the lingua franca. Several perspectives are presented, with some conflicting viewpoints across essays. Topics cover a wide range of subjects in diverse settings, with a focus on the bilingual classroom, and progressing from wider to narrower concepts.

Engaging with this collection necessitates some familiarity with the subject of education or language acquisition, as the historical background provided is insufficient to contextualize all of the topics covered. Rather, due to the chosen format and style, this volume provides a current perspective of BE, and appears not to be intended as a holistic view of the field, since the focus is on specific instances of BE in a few select countries. Although organized into four parts, the volume’s thematic cohesion is fragile due to the vast range of topics and large quantity of essays. Conversely, across these four parts of the collection, CIL and CLIL emerge as reoccurring themes. With frequent discussion of these topics, and with an occasional overlap in information, the collection contributes a healthy understanding of content learning. This frequency also provides a deeper understanding of the importance of the topic to the field of BE across national educational models. By engaging with the sheer variety of perspectives and initiatives in BE contained in this volume, this contribution delivers a wealth of information and provides the reader with a thorough grasp of BE and the options available to professional educators.

Though this collection addresses an international audience, the essays focus predominantly on Europe and South America, with fewer North American contributors. Nevertheless, it is an exceptional resource for those seeking research topics in BE, and raises several questions at the forefront of the field, thus providing concrete topics for discussion. The volume achieved it’s purpose of drawing on experiences in BE to highlight current issues in BE and is significant for those seeking to further their understanding of recent international research, and for those seeking trends in bilingual and multilingual pedagogy. Well-suited as a textbook for language students, applied linguists and language educators alike, the volume provides valuable current state of BE.
 
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Olivia Amzallag is an Applied Linguist specializing in foreign language teaching methods, instruction, and curriculum design. With over a dozen years of classroom experience, she encourages innovative curriculums with a focus on community building and student connection to the subject through communicative teaching methods. Her current research in French language acquisition studies the aural comprehension of object pronouns, broadening the understanding of paucity of exposure to problematic forms, demonstrating the impact of avoidance during instruction in SLA.

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