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Doug Mann LPN, LNC

No Bilingual Education in Minneapolis Public Schools?

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No bilingual programs in the Minneapolis Public Schools?
Three messages to the Minneapolis issues list
19, 20, 21 Feb 2006

Bi-lingual programs in Minneapolis Public Schools
19 Feb 2006
A parent informed me that Barton elementary school has about 90 Somali students, mostly English Language Learners, but there is not a bilingual program for those
students. ELLers need to learn the basics of reading and writing in their primary language, as well as to receive instruction in other subject areas in their primary language until they are proficient in English. With English language instruction and regular exposure to spoken English, in and out of school, it ordinarily takes about 3 years to pick up enough English to get by in an English-only school environment.
Re: [Mpls] Bi-lingual programs in Minneapolis Public Schools
20 Feb 2006
Ray M writes:
"WE must teach these kids the Somali language? Pray tell, what are all the older Somali's who can't find jobs but who are getting Social Security checks and food supplements doing? Some of them must be able to read and write."
[Doug Mann] Yes! We must teach these kids how to read and write in their native language if they are not already proficient readers / writers. I was really surprised to hear that the district didn't have a bilingual program for Somali students. English Language Learner classes and translation services are not enough. What would you want for your own child if put in a comparable situation?
Imagine that you moved to a city in France, with a 5 year old child who had not yet attended school here, who speaks English but has not yet learned to read and write in English. Let us also suppose that it is likely that your child will have ongoing contact with people who speak English at home and in the community, and that there is at least a remote possibility that you all might return to Minneapolis some day. Imagine that you enrolled your hypothetical 5 year old English speaking child in the French public school system. Would you be satisfied if that child received no instruction in reading and writing English? Would French Language Learner classes suffice?
Think about it.
Re: [Mpls] Bi-lingual programs in Minneapolis Public Schools
21 Feb 2006
Alberto Monserrate wrote
"...I worry that not completely immersing a kid in English may just delay that kid learning English, keep them further behind, and maybe increase learning gaps.
"...I think its a myth that students can't just immerse themselves in a new language to learn. Most kids will catch up in two to three years with native speakers if challenged properly."
Doug Mann writes:
I don't know of anywhere in the US where Spanish-speaking children are subjected to instant and total immersion in an English-only school environment without English language instruction before they learn any English. And I am opposed to making Minneapolis the exception to the rule in that respect.
It is true that, with few exceptions, people learn their first language simply by being exposed to it. And it is possible to learn additional languages in the same way. However, it does not logically follow that non-English speaking children are better off getting no effective instruction in any subject for their first 2 to 3 years in school.
Nor does it follow that school age children will learn a second language better and faster without expert instruction than with it.
I agree with Karen Cooper that students are going to learn to read much, much better (and much, much faster) in a language they already know than in a language they are just acquiring. Reading is a transferable skill, especially with languages as closely related as English and Spanish.
A lot of people in California have had concerns about Spanish-speaking students not learning enough English in bilingual programs to function in an English-only school environment at some point in their school careers. Some Spanish-speaking students who are enrolled in bilingual programs keep up with their English-speaking peers in subjects other than English and learn to communicate in English pretty well. However, for a majority of Spanish-speaking students, outcomes have not been so good. Within the past 10 years or so enrollment in bilingual programs in California public schools has been restricted, but the programs have not been eliminated. Bilingual-bicultural education is now an English-immersion strategy, and enrollment in bilingual programs is generally limited to 3 years: A goal of bilingual programs in California is to prepare students to function adequately in an English-only school environment within 3 years.

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