The Official Language Movement in the United States

Subject: Linguistics
Pages: 3
Words: 571
Reading time:
3 min
Study level: Undergraduate

Bilingual Education

Bilingual education involves the practice of teaching of non-English students in their native language. The program was developed in the 1960s to help students perform better in other subjects. Accordingly, subjects such as science, mathematics, and social sciences are taught in the native language of the students while English is taught as a subject in a different class. The Spanish language is most frequently used in bilingual education. There are misconceptions that bilingual education begun in the 1960s but the fact remains that earlier immigrants to the United States took their children to schools that taught in their native languages. Such states as embraced bilingual education as early as 1839. Here, learning instructions were given in both German and English. English and French were taught in Louisiana in 1847 while Spanish and English were taught in New Mexico in 1850 (Amin, 2009, par.5).

A majority of the states had already embraced bilingual education by the end of the nineteenth century. The use of bilingual education became extensive and by the turn of the twentieth century; over half a million of students in primary schools were already receiving their instructions in two languages. The two languages used in the schools included English and the native language of the students. The most common languages used were German, French, Spanish, Norwegian, Polish, Italian, Cherokee, and Czech. During the First World War era, the political winds shifted and the individuals born in the United States started fearing about the loyalty of the immigrants in using their native languages. This led to the formation of the English-Only instruction laws that required instructors to exclusively use English in the classroom. By 1920, the study of foreign languages was already banned in many states and this led to many immigrants’ children dropping out of school.

English-Only Language

English unites all the individuals in the United States as a nation. The language allows individuals from different backgrounds to communicate and thus eliminates differences (Crawford, 1997, par.7). For example, the Japanese and Chinese immigrants in California had poor relations before and during the Second World War but when the two groups learnt using the English language, the begun to communicate and socialize (Hayakawa, 1989, par.2). Today, the two groups form the Asian-American society. The assimilation of linguistics and cultural groups into the American society has been instrumental in enhancing the social, economic, and political unity of the country. The success of the non-English communities means a risk of political disunity and even potential disintegration in the United States. Countries such as Canada, Belgium, and Sri Lanka have experienced ethnic conflicts and demands for political autonomy as a result of language. The only way to avoid such incidences in the United States is by discouraging the development of these many languages.

Current policies such as bilingual education and bilingual ballots are deterring people from learning English. In addition, the current bilingual education programs violate the original intent of the Bilingual Educational Act of 1968 (Pedalino, 1998, par.13). Bilingual education has not produced the desired results in class. Research done reveal that students taught in their native languages do not have self-esteem and those children who use English language instead of their native language do not have high levels of stress as might be expected. Students can be taught using their native languages but only to a certain extent. All other students should be given instructions in the English language.

Reference List

Amin, H. (2009). Bilingual Education in the United States. Web.

Crawford, J. (1997). Issues in the English Language Policy: The Enhlish-Only Movement. Web.

Hayakawa, S. I. (1989). Bilingualism in America: English Should Be the Only Language. Web.

Pedalino, R. P. (1998). The Case against Bilingual Education. Web.