Bilingual education

Other Names:
Faulty second language policy
Mandatory second language training
Bilingualism and regional linguistic controversies
Use of two or more official languages within a country or regional federation, creates considerable difficulty because of the rivalry and the friction between the two linguistic communities and their concern to ensure that no minor advantage to one be used as a basis for progressively eliminating the other. As a result, every official communication must be made in two or more languages, and excessive attention is given to the linguistic balance within the governmental or intergovernmental bureaucracy.

The situation is further complicated when countries are divided into language zones, because of the implications for speakers of the minority language in any such zone, and particularly for the language in which their children will be educated in schools funded by the government. Bilingual education teaches any single course in one of two languages so a student might take maths, reading, grammar, history and geography in one language and social sciences, science, music, art and physical education in the second language. For those students who are not very bright and extremely competitive end up with a superficial knowledge of both languages and cultures. They end up without sufficient references in either.

The teaching of an important foreign second (or third) language, such as French or English, may be offered with one objective in the lower school system, another objective in the university, and still another objective in evening schools for adults, or in commercial schools. Thus, in the same country, where the foreign language may be used socially, a number of people may experience a social handicap arising from a linguistic problem due to different pedagogical approaches. These approaches simply may have favoured some standard form of the language to be attained at university, while language policies for expected school leavers, and for adult education are neglected or allowed to achieve sub-standard outcomes.

The teaching policy for English in Sweden exhibits insensitivity to the social needs of English-speakers, as do the policies for French teaching in Italy, for example.
Official bilingualism is the limit of accommodation for three or more languages in a country or regional federation. It is unrealistic to attempt to perpetuate equal usage for more than two languages, but political sensitivities prevent an early agreement on language limitation (at least for diplomatic and other external needs). For example, an impediment to closer cultural and political integration in western Europe is the number of languages spoken. Only a common language can bridge the gap, which would need to be official in each country and taught to school children as a second language. Unofficially English, French or both, have fulfilled the 'second language' requirement.
Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Date of last update
27.12.2003 – 00:00 CET