Home | News | Analysis | Help Us | E-Mail | Your Stories | Texts | People | Links

International Methods for Language Instruction

Supporters of bilingual education attack the method of Sheltered English Immersion as experimental and untested. Exactly the opposite is the case. Short-term immersion programs along the general lines of the "English for the Children" initiative are almost universal throughout the world for young children not fluent in the national language. By contrast, our system of native-language-based so-called bilingual education is almost non-existent outside the United States.

These international comparisons are exhaustively discussed in the recent book Educating Immigrant Children
by Charles L. Glenn (Garland, 1996, 741pp), which focuses on the educational policies of a dozen European and other countries containing large immigrant populations, including Canada, Australia, France, Germany, and Britain. Important conclusions reached by Glenn include:

  • The overwhelming majority of the educational systems used in these countries are either short-term (usually one year) language immersion programs or sink-or-swim submersion.

  • Use of home-language is generally restricted to a small fraction of the school day or is made available in after-school programs as cultural enrichment.

  • Intensive native-language programs like American bilingual education are almost non-existent. Worldwide, the largest single instance of native-language instruction has been the establishment of some Turkish-language government school programs in the Bavarian region of southern Germany. These programs are regularly denounced by the German Left as racist, xenophobic attempts by the right-wing Bavarian government to maintain educational segregation of ethnic-Turkish children, and there seems to be considerable truth in this.

Within the U.S., intensive immersion programs are the preferred method whereby children from English-speaking upper-middle-class families are taught foreign languages at a young age (the so-called "double immersion" programs). Immersion has been the method successfully used for more than a decade by initiative co-proponent Gloria Matta Tuchman and the other teachers of her elementary school.