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Date: Mon, 9 May 2005 22:20:54 +0400 From: Dmitry Gerasimov Subject: Bilingual Education in South America
AUTHOR: Mejia, Anne-Marie de TITLE: Bilingual Education in South America SERIES: Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 50 PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters YEAR: 2004
Dmitry V. Gerasimov, ILI RAN (Institute for linguistic research of the Russian Academy of Sciences), St. Petersburg, Russia.
With its notable linguistic diversity, intensity of language contacts, and a wide spread of multilingualism, South America has always been an extremely interesting area for anyone specializing in the domain of sociolinguistics and multilingual studies. The book under review comprises eight essays on different aspects and issues of bilingual education in the sub-continent, preceded by an introduction by the volume's editor. The contents of this volume first appeared in the Special Issue of International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, Vol. 7, no. 5, 2004. All eight papers were written especially for this Special Issue. No changes were made to the text when republishing the journal issue as a separate volume, save for removal of the Book Reviews section.
Although the book is not divided into any sections or chapters (in fact, such internal organization is hardly necessary for so thin a volume), it obviously falls into two parts. The first five essays (contributions by King, Garcia, Skliar & Muller Quadros, de Mejia and Buffy & Day) take wide-raging linguistic and historical perspectives in addressing general tendencies and problems of bilingual education in different regions of South America. The remaining three contributions (those by Spezzini, Simpson and Ordonez) represent more specific case studies, each based on author's own fieldwork in some bilingual educational institution. In the following paragraphs I will briefly describe and discuss each article.
In the Introduction Anne-Marie de Mejia, the editor of this volume, gives a short synopsys of the eight following essays and outlines the problematics to which the volume is dedicated. Traditionally in South America, as elsewhere, debate on bilingual education has been conducted in two separate spheres. On the one hand, there is a widespread practice of education in international languages like English, the students usually being native speakers of Spanish from upper- and upper-middle class backgrounds. On the other, there are community-based bilingual projects aimed at maintaining and enriching the use of indigenous Amerindian languages by ethnic minority groups. These two facets of bilingual education raise different sets of problems and give birth to two different traditions in bilingual education studies. The goals of the present volume are to show convergences and interrelations between majority and minority language contexts, give the reader an integrated perspective on the issues of bilingual education on the sub-continent and try to bridge the gap between the two traditions. The tone for the first "survey- oriented" part of the volume is set by "Language Policy and Local Planning in South America: New Directions for Enrichment Bilingual Education in the Andes" by Kendall King. The paper starts with the discussion of bilingual education model types in South America, referring to Hornberger's (1991) typology of bilingual education programme types and models. The latter distinguishes between enrichment models (aimed at the acquisition of additive bilingualism in English or French by Spanish-speaking students from upper-class backgrounds) and transitional models (aimed at students dominant in indigenous language and resulting in a subtractive form of bilingualism). The paper then focuses on the recent planning decisions by the Saraguro ethnic group to formally instruct Quichua as a second language in community schools. The author comes to the conclusion that this instance of localized planning, though not without its weaknesses, represents a completely new type of bilingual education which integrates best sides of both enrichment and transitional models; this type of language planning is claimed to be "one viable avenue" towards maintaining linguistic diversity and cultural identity in the face of globalization. The case of Saraguro is also analyzed in the today context of heritage language programmes in the USA. It is shown that the former is made possible by the same shifts in language policy and general attitude towards bilingualism and, on the other hand, shares the same challenges and flaws. The overall composition of King's paper doesn't seem very successful to me; the author could have arranged her material in another way to make her main claims sound more supported. Anyway, the observations on Saraguro bilingual education program and the insights derived from it are very enlightening and the paper is very interesting.
The focus on bilingual indigenous education is maintained by Maria Elena Garcia in "Rethinking Bilingual Education in Peru: Intercultural Politics, State Policy and Indigenous Rights". After a brief but very informative historical survey of Peruvian multilingualism starting from as early as the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century, the author presents her analysis of changes in bilingual education policy in Peru during the 1990s. Both government-initiated educational reforms and indigenous activist groups' discourses are considered and critically evaluated. What seems important is that the paper outlines and criticizes numerous gaps between intercultural education rhetoric and the real state of affairs. Garcia clearly demonstrates that the problems of intercultural education implementation and inclusion of indigenous groups are manifold and serious. She concludes her essay with valuable suggestions to future policy-makers in the region.
The third paper in this volume, "Bilingual Deaf Education in the South of Brazil" by Carlos Skliar and Ronice Muller Quadros introduces a very special minority context -- that of Deaf bilingual education. After a comprehensive discussion of various methodological, linguistics and psycholinguistic perspectives on the concepts of "Deaf Identity", "Deaf Culture" and "Deaf Bilingualism" the authors present their analysis of Deaf Education in Brazilian Sign Language and Brazilian Portuguese in the specified region based on research carried out over the last 5-7 years. They provide a reader with a concise survey of existing education policies and practices, especially focusing on those cases when they suffer from being derived from the "Hearing" perspective and can be improved by undertaking the genuine "Deaf" view. I hesitate to give this essay any evaluation, being absolutely ignorant in the complicated field of Deaf education. Again, as in the case of King's paper, the composition looks somewhat fuzzy, but the material and the discussion presented seem very interesting to me.
The next paper, "Bilingual Education in Colombia: Toward an Integrative Perspective" by Anne-Marie de Mejia, is again concerned with the opposition of minority and majority contexts in bilingual education, this time in Colombia. Having presented a brief historical survey of bilingual education both in ethnic minority contexts (in Amerindian as well as Afro-Caribbean communities) and in majority language contexts, the author compares the two traditions and shows some notable points of convergence. She then discusses the situation in English-Spanish bilingual schools in more detail, thus focusing mainly on the bilingual education in majority language context. She concludes that the two traditions of bilingual education have many areas of convergence and some problems previously attributed exclusively to the bilingual education in ethnic minority groups (e.g. loss of cultural identity, underestimation of the importance of L1 proficiency, lack of concrete guidelines to be adhered to in classroom practice, etc.) apply to the bilingual education in majority language contexts as well. The central conclusion, as it seems, is that the two types of bilingual education should be treated within a single integrated perspective and that they both can benefit considerably from interchanging experience.
In "The Evolution of Bilingual Schools in Argentina" Cristina Banfi and Raymond Day provide a preliminary descriptive account of bilingual schools within the Argentine education system. The authors discuss similarities and differences among Argentine bilingual schools and demonstrate that institutions that are traditionally unified under this label in fact show a high degree of diversity, despite the common perception of bilingual education in Argentina as a homogeneous system. They also track the history of the development of these institutions and argue that bilingual schools have undergone several important transformations since they were first founded in the 19th century. While their origins should be traced back to Heritage Schools founded for the needs of particular immigrant communities, they have changed to Dual Language Schools with programmes aimed mainly at monolingual Spanish speakers, and, finally, to a new type of bilingual education institutions, for which the authors employ the term "Global Language School". The latter model is characterized by a cluster of features, all of which stem from the advance of globalization and weakening of ethnicity-based cultural links and traditions. The paper concludes with some suggestions for future research, pointing out that detailed and systematic analysis of bilingual schools and their role in the society has not yet been conducted.
The next paper in this volume modulates to a very different tonality. "English Immersion in Paraguay: Individual and Sociocultural Dimensions of Language Learning and Use" represents Susanna Spezzini's field-based investigation of processes of learning English in immersion classrooms in one particular American overseas school, the American School of Asuncion (ASA), Paraguay. Spezzini explores mechanisms of L2 acquisition, patterns of language use and levels of comprehensibility among 34 predominantly Spanish-speaking 12- graders, relying both on qualitative data from students' language learning histories and taped interviews and quantitative data from questionnaires and comprehensibility rating tests. Students' introspection reveals many interesting facts about their motivations in language learning and patterns of language use in different kinds of situations. It is worth noting that some students describe their language use in peer-to-peer communication as a unique "ASA talk", Spanglish with some words from Guarani. In spite of apparent homogeneity for L2 programs at ASA, the students have shown considerable variability in their L2 output and perceived comprehensibility. The author discusses various factors responsible for this variability, such as gender (girls doing better than boys), age at which a student has entered ASA (transfer students doing better than those whose English input was limited to ASA only), motivation, etc. Linguistic features that influenced the perceived comprehensibility, such as intonation and fluency rate, are treated in detail in a separate section. Finally, the author provides suggestions for future practice and research. I would dare to state that implications from Spezzini's study would be of great value and interest to anyone concerned with L2 immersion programs, not only in South American context.
The study presented by JoEllen Simpson in "A Look at Early Childhood Writing in English and Spanish in a Bilingual School in Ecuador" examines the written production of first-graders. The author's aim is to see whether the differences between Spanish and English writings reported in earlier studies for elder bilinguals can be observed at this age as well. Starting with a brief survey of existing literature on Spanish-English contrastive rhetoric, Simpson points out that no previous study has ever taken into account the writing production of younger schoolchildren. To fill this gap she analyzed physical characteristics (number of T-units, words, errors and error types, connectors) and topical structure of 20 short Spanish and English narratives written by first-graders from a private English immersion school in Quito. The results show that the children have a similar syntactic ability in both of their languages, though they are still more fluent in Spanish. The greater complexity and elaborateness of Spanish writing style as compared to English is not reflected in the results, most likely because the writers are very young and are just learning to write. In terms of the topical structure analysis, it is shown that the children employ the same amount of sequential progression and extended parallel progression in both languages, but more parallel progression in English. Finally the author points at promising directions for future research, noting that it would be especially interesting to follow the same children throughout their primary education in a longitudinal study.
Finally, "EFL and Native Spanish in Elite Bilingual Schools in Colombia: A First Look at Bilingual Adolescent Frog Stories" by Claudia Lucia Ordonez takes a general look at the type of bilingual education adopted in Colombian English immersion schools and its effects on the Spanish and English oral narrative proficiency. The data consist of 72 narratives told following a picture-book. 18 Spanish and 18 English stories from 15-year-olds with 10 years of bilingual education in a Colombian bilingual school constitute the main sample. The other 36 stories, 18 from 15-year-olds in Colombian monolingual schools and 18 from comparable English-monolingual adolescents from a high school in the Boston area, are used to compare the bilingual stories to monolingual productions. The range and variability of the stories in the bilingual group are discussed, as they are compared to the monolingual stories. The results are somewhat unexpected and potentially worrying: while bilingual productions exhibit a similar level of variability to monolingual stories, they are sparse in several linguistic variables that reflect narrative proficiency (i.e. complex representation of events, evaluative expressions, logical connections). Thus, bilingual stories in both languages show clear evidence of underdevelopment in comparison to monolingual stories. The author calls for further research in order to find out what are the costs of an early foreign language acquisition for the first language proficiency and how can they be minimized.
The contributions to this volume vary in terms of content, methodology and perspective, and also in terms of quality. Anyway I must admit that all authors show a considerable depth of expertise in their respective topics. The perspectives and methodology adopted are always well supported by references to existing literature. Statistical calculations presented in the case studies are accurate and convincing, and can be easily verified by anyone familiar with the statistical apparatus. Unfortunately, general composition of some papers lacks cohesiveness and is sometimes difficult to follow. The book fails to provide the reader with the whole picture of the problematics of bilingual education in South America (thus, to my personal disappointment, an interesting problem of bilingual Spanish-Guarani education in today's Paraguay (see Gynan ms.) is not addressed). Of course, it can hardly be considered a fault, as it is obvious that the volume doesn't really aim at this goal. In fact, the choice of subjects seems to be rather successful: while not all issues are covered, those that are are fairly representative and able to give even an unprepared reader the general notion of main problems and tendencies. The combination of general discussions and more specific case studies under one cover seems to be a very good idea. The only minor sin the book may be accused of in this respect is that it too strongly focuses on the majority language contexts of bilingual education. While the first part of the volume is mainly concerned with interrelations between bilingual education in minority and majority language contexts, it is the latter on which more information is given. And all three case studies in the second part are dedicated exclusively to the issues raised in relation to teaching of one and the same international language (namely, English) in elite bilingual schools. I would dare to say that the volume could considerably benefit from inclusion of a case study carried out in a minority language context. Nevertheless, the volume certainly reaches its goal specified by de Mejia in the Introduction: "to provide the reader with an integrative perspective on the issues raised in relation to bilingualism and bilingual education in the sub-continent, and to try to bridge the divide between the different traditions". Despite any flaws mentioned above, this volume is a valuable contribution to the study of bilingual education. Some articles contain important observations on the today state of affairs in the planning and organization of bilingual education in particular South American countries and are thus an absolute must for teachers, activists and policy makers involved into respective bilingual education programs.
Gynan, Sh. N. (ms.) Single Design and Differentiated Modality: Bilingual Education in Paraguay. Ms., Western Washington University [available at http://www.ac.wwu.edu/~sngynan/Single%20Design.html].
Hornberger, N. H. (1991) Extending enrichment bilingual education: Revisiting typologies and redirecting policy. In: O. Garcia (ed.) Bilingual Education: Foccusschrift in Honor of Joshua A. Fishman (Vol. 1), pp. 215-234. Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Dmitry Gerasimov is a post-graduate student/assistant of ILI RAN (Institute for linguistic research of the Russian Academy of Sciences), St. Petersburg. He is currently working on a typologically oriented study of the Tense-Aspect system of Paraguayan Guarani with special emphasis on aspectual composition. Other academic interests of his include typology of word classes, syntax of sentential complementation and the phenomenon of split intransitivity. He is involved in an extensive field-based study of complementation strategies in Adyghe (West Caucasian).