Bilingual Education: Speaking in Tongues

Subject: Linguistics
Pages: 10
Words: 1555
Reading time:
6 min
Study level: Bachelor


Bilingual education is comprehensively addressed in the documentary “Speaking in Tongues” with different tutors handling toddlers at different levels. In essence, this notion exposes children to a world of different aspects about people from different parts of the world. On the one hand, those who promote bilingual education argue that the context teaches learners about the views of societies. On the other, those against the practice argue that foreign languages may force new aspects on young ones within the learning environment. The discussions provide an opportunity to understand both aspects of bilingual learning among young ones.

The content of “Speaking in Tongues” is a documentary on the journey of several kids struggling to become bilingual learners at school, each speaking their first language. Accordingly, with each speaking their language, it becomes hard to understand each other. Thus, English is advocated as the formal language for communication in schools: everyone needs to be bilingual to progress in education and become a professionally educated American. Through this film, one can learn that some parents and tutors fear speaking second languages at home because their families will lose their traditions and culture. Such assertions represent the argument of those opposing bilingual education as a strategy in schools. One of the ethical and social responsibility concerns is the protection of people’s way of life. Their mother tongue, cultural background, and contextual application of language in day-to-day learning tend to play a central role in decision-making within the education systems. Parents are concerned that their children may compromise aspects of the language as they learn. For instance, people with Chinese culture may argue that adopting these programs may subject their children to the delusion of social values because their brains are vulnerable to permanent change. For instance, a child with Spanish background may struggle with knowing English, yet, become more obsessed with mastering the new language than their mother tongue. At the same time, there may be rising concerns about people comparing different languages

Ethical and Social Responsibilities and the Benefits Associated With Dual Language Learning

Dual language learning has several benefits for toddlers at different levels. The key importance realized from these videos includes elevated cognitive agility and problem-solving skills. Bilingual learners tend to have hands-on experience on how to solve different problems in their daily lives and use that experience to grow their expertise at various stages. At the same time, the learners can embrace communication skills, including verbal and non-verbal cues that help to maneuver their ways within the learning environment. In the documentary, youngsters exposed to this procedure tend to have a comprehensive awareness of ways to express themselves, either through positional language or facial expression. In each case, the dynamics of the lingual environment matter a lot for toddlers because the tutor can utilize their surroundings to make the students master their language.

The other aspect of advancing social responsibility involves the personal development of strengths, perceptions, and identity. The learner can identify objects to use in learning about a language and use them for personal growth. The dual-language programs seem to be helping toddlers to understand and learn various skills in new and more effective ways within their curriculum scopes. For instance, some may fear losing their culture. The children undertaking the immersion programs showcase variances in understanding language and academic content. Those who managed to learn more than one language seemed to have a better mastery of curriculum content as compared to their counterparts who focus on one language.

The improvement in academic performance has a major boost in self-awareness and consciousness across the entire career development. Throughout the documentary, there are multiple illustrations of how having bilingual programs can have implicit implications on the learner’s environment. In this context, several toddlers were engaged in different activities to help them learn different aspects of language and culture. Also, watching the short clips about different child-specific scenarios provide an understanding of how both teachers and learners benefit from learning two or more languages. As a result, educators need to endorse learning systems where the learners use non-verbal cues, position language, and content learning to help each student understand bilingual contexts within an immersion program in schools.

Barriers and Cultural Contexts in Language Learning

Throughout the movie, I realized that the key barriers and concerns affecting dual language learning include the choice of instructor, discipline, and ethnic and social diversity. For instance, some of the characters in the movie assert that they fear teaching English or Spanish at home because their children may lose track of their mother tongue. At the same time, the diversities in cultural dynamics also seem to pose critical concerns among many learners and teachers from different backgrounds (May 2017). Some of these barriers are dependent on the complexity of teacher-learner relationships. Some children tend to engage in their ways of making meaning in learning systems both at home and school.

The other barriers may include parental guidance toward learning new ways of life. The need to engrave learning in the mother tongue at home, alongside the value of traditional perceptions of social justice and equity may deter many learners from approaching the second language with an open mind. Tackling these barriers may require both parents and teachers to use the available resources to ensure that their children new skills and languages every day. A good parent, for instance, may opt to monitor the behaviors of the young ones using signs and clues to help the toddlers learn new names in a bid to explore new languages. In response, the learner becomes acquainted with the names of things and places as they interact with their caregivers and parents at home. Parents, caregivers, and other adults as the key stakeholders have fundamental roles to play as a community.

Teaching/ Learning Techniques

There are several developmentally-appropriate learning or teaching approaches used by teachers in this case. The first strategy is to enhance critical reflection through promoting culturally competent learning techniques. The other strategy is to use an individual-based approach to teaching. Culturally competent learning should strive to understand the needs and backgrounds of each learner at all levels. Ideally, cultures are diverse and specific to each learner, implying that whatever they learn at home matters a lot in their academic journey. Teachers should always focus on ensuring there is a balance between the native beliefs and their values in external language learning. Moreover, teachers should ensure that the activities and curriculum contents are designed to intentionally include a relevant message within the learning environments.

Immersion programs are aimed at ensuring that students learn new foreign languages in a friendly way. The interaction with teachers in every single activity fosters the learner’s ability to master a second language because they are not taught in their mother tongue. According to Polanco and Luft de Baker (2018), the immersion method programs provide beneficial opportunities for elementary students to close the achievement gaps in their career ladder and the realization of curriculum implementation. At the same time, the programs seem to elevate the chances of realizing better academic achievements among elementary learners across different settings. In the United States of America, for instance, those in the early stages of learning can be able to explore various cultures, including Chinese and English ways of life. At the same time, using these programs can embrace new cultures and values while embracing their cultures. Moreover, languages taught in immersion programs are not taught as subjects but as a tool for communicating and learning different aspects of curriculum content. In addition, the video shows individuals arguing over why they fear learning a new language aside from their mother tongue. In essence, the need to protect traditional beliefs and cultures requires the tactical use of immersion and bilingual education.

Immersion programs are overly different from bilingual education, although they can be combined for the holistic development of learners. Bilingual implies instructing learners in two languages while immersion programs implicate situations where learners who are not native English speaking join classes where programs are run in English. When working with DLLs, immersion program teachers used their interactive and interpersonal skills to engage the students in learning new skills that promote the understanding of the English language in classes. At the same time, the approaches used to determine the success of teaching students languages alongside their longevity in the learning centers.


To conclude, language development has a critical role in the overall performance of students. Some of the major aspects include better problem skills because when a student learn two or more languages at a time, they must learn new content and practice their application in real life. Such skills enable them to become better problem solvers and ensure progressive development of personality and career in diverse contexts. However, understanding the differences between bilingual and immersion programs is important in helping policy-developers to generate better models for sustainability in the education sector. Learners need to understand the values of multi-cultural facets of educational content using language as a tool of communication and learning at the same time. Watching the documentary “Speaking in Tongues” provides an opportunity to understand how various individuals perceive bilingual education alongside immersion programs. Several elements of culture and environment play fundamental roles in shaping the way both learners and educators approach the learning of languages in various instances.


“Speaking in Tongues.” Films On Demand, Films Media Group, 2009, Web.

May, S. (2017). Bilingual education: What the research tells us. Bilingual and Multilingual Education. Encyclopedia of Language and Education. 3rd ed. Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 81-100.

Polanco, P., & Luft de Baker, D. (2018). Transitional Bilingual Education and Two-Way Immersion Programs: Comparison of Reading Outcomes for English Learners in the United States. Athens Journal of Education, 5(4), 423-444.