Archived Content from Conference Held in October 2004
2004 Immersion Conference: Pathways to Bilingualism
Bilingualism in the Global VillageFred Genesee McGill University
In many communities around the world, competence in two, or more, languages is an issue of considerable personal, socio-cultural, economic, and political significance. For some, the issues surrounding bilingualism are viewed as “problems” to be overcome; for others, they are viewed as “challenges” that, once mastered, benefit the individual, the community, and even the nation in which they live. Globalization of the world’s economies along with the revolution in electronic communications has enhanced the importance of bilingual competence beyond local and regional borders. Communication between individuals with different languages and cultures and in different regions of the world has become easy, commonplace, and essential. Schools have an important role to play in providing the bi- and multilingual skills and cross-cultural knowledge that are becoming increasingly necessary in the modern world. The educational programs that have been developed to provide such competencies are varied. This presentation will focus on bilingual immersion programs for majority language speakers as one piece in the mosaic of alternatives that are available. It will begin by emphasizing the importance of additive forms of bilingualism in the success of bi- and multi-lingual education. Drawing on research on bilingual programs for majority language learners around the world, I will review some of the lessons we have learned about effective programs. I will review the state of our knowledge with respect to a number of issues that can impact both the form and effectiveness of bilingual education; namely, issues related to (a) focus on form or meaning during second language instruction, (b) age of learners, (c) amount of exposure to the first and second language, (d) students who are at risk for academic difficulty, and (e) language typology.
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