Bilingual education for all?

It seems that bilingual education may finally become the norm in Canada’s only officially bilingual province, according to CanadaEast:

“We have immersion for people who like bilingualism, and for those who don’t like bilingualism there is Core French, and don’t worry, your child won’t really be learning French in Core French,” said Lamrock [NB Minister of Education] with an ironic tone.

“Maybe bilingualism isn’t accepted with unanimity, but we have a resolution: bilingualism is here to stay and maybe it is time to say bilingualism is a competence that everyone must have in New Brunswick.”

The official announcement should occur in a couple of weeks and then we can get on with other important issues in public education.

12 Responses to “Bilingual education for all?”

  1. Daniel Lemire

    The tone might have been ironic, but people really do not learn French (or any other foreign language, for that matter).

    In fact, I did not learn English in High School. I learned English on my own by reading Scientific American with a dictionary. It would take me 5 hours to read an article. But I wanted to be a scientist and I knew that I needed to be able to read scientific papers, and Scientific American was all I could get my hands on.

    All I can remember from my High School English was “get got gotten”. That and a loony might buy you a cheap coffee.

    If there is one thing I know is that our schools do not know how to teach languages.

  2. Chris

    Harold, was RMC bilingual back in your day? If so, was it to the extent that it is today (alternating language weeks, paired roommates, etc.)?

  3. Harold

    Yes, we had French week and English week, when all “official” stuff had to take place in the language of the week. I was CWPMC in 1980/81 and I decided to have a general mess meeting during French week [note that mess meetings were notoriously long with a few people standing on their soap boxes]. At the time, it was the shortest meeting on record because all discussion had to take place in French, and many anglophones (the majority at RMC at the time) were not bilingual 😉

    I was there during the beginning of integration of language/culture, and vividly remember a visit to CMR in 1977 as well as the Quebec Referendum of 1980, when I was still a cadet. I arrived at RMC during my third year, so I didn’t have a roommate. I have many good friends from RMC, and one close francophone friend in my Squadron who died several years ago in an accident.

    I was a unilingual anglophone from RRMC who was able to become bilingual at RMC, due to several unique circumstances, including a lovely young lady in Quebec.

  4. Karyn Romeis

    At least you guys only have to aorry about two languages. Imagine, if you will, the problem facing the South African government, with no fewer than 11, eleven, ELEVEN official languages (and several other languages not accorded official status!

    The official languages in order of number of first language speakers are:

    Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans, Northern Sotho, Tswana, English (yes, English is only 6th!), Sotho, Tsonga, Swati, Venda and Ndebele.

  5. Gilbert

    If I had a say in this I would start by teaching universal sign language to everyone. Then I would develop a methodology to move people from sign language to other non-gestual languages.

    Sign language would become the underlying layer over which other languages are learned. Learn communication first.. then move on to tongue exercices.

    Don’t mind me… I am the guy who says that mathematics should be “enseigner” only in the gym class.

  6. Karyn Romeis

    Ah, Gilbert, perhaps that would work, if there were only one sign language, but there are many. I recently met a guy who works as a signer for hearing impaired people, and he was explaining the difficulties of a deaf audience from a variety of different spoken language communities. There are apparently even enough differences between the forms of English sign language for it to cause problems. From what he had to say, I would suggest that the signed languages generate just as many issues as their spoken counterparts.

  7. Gilbert

    It wouldn’t bother which sign language you learn.

    Sign language abilities should highly increase the ability to learn other languages. It has to do with muscular learning…

  8. Dave Ferguson

    It’s my impression (as someone who doesn’t know sign language) that not only are there several, as Karyn points out, but that deaf children learn sign language from signing parents in the same way that hearing children learn spoken language.

    As Steven Pinker says in The Language Instinct, deaf children who learn sign language only as adults “must struggle with sign language…much as a hearing adult does in a foreign language class.”

    I think that early language instruction (e.g., in elementary school, still very rare here in the U.S.), combined with frequent use of whatever language that is, offers great promise.

  9. Karyn Romeis

    Dave: While researching an asignment, I spoke to Gemma Calvert (Reader in Cognitive Neuroscience, Department of Psychology, University of Bath) about this very point. She directed me to some papers by Mairéad MacSweeney, who says “the left posterior perisylvian cortex is of fundamental importance to language processing, regardless of the modality in which it is conveyed.”(MacSweeney et al, 2004)

    I had known for some time that blind and sighted people map their worlds using the same areas of the brain (according to the research of John Geake), and now I had learned that the brain processes sign and spoken language in the same way, so I’m not convinced that learning sign will make it any easier to learn a spoken language.

    However, I recognise that I have now taken this conversation deep into “anorak territory” where there be nobody but us geeks, so I shall cease and desist at this point 😉

  10. Dave Ferguson

    Karyn, dinna fash yersel’. I’ve been reading a lot about the brain (in actual books, too, not just blogs). If you haven’t read Sharon Begley’s Change Your Mind, Change Your Brain, I think you’d enjoy it. (As I always say, bad title but great book.) For one thing, she explains how areas of the brain normally used for vision or for hearing are used in blind or deaf people.

    Way further down at the cellular level, though just as interesting to me: Eric Kandel’s In Search of Memory. You’ll learn a hell of a lot about the sea slug Aplysia, but you might enjoy the trip.


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