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Becoming Bilingual in Colombia Myths and Realities

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1 Becoming Bilingual in Colombia Myths and Realities
Anne-Marie de Mejía Ph.D Centro de Investigación y Formación en Educación Universidad de los Andes (Sponsored by Centro Colombo Americano)


3 “Bilingüismo es un nombre muy amplio que puede significar cosas diferentes para distintas personas, según el contexto particular, según el uso de las lenguas en contacto y su interacción” (Rosa María Cely, 2007)

4 Do you consider that being bilingual means being equally proficient in two languages (in our case, English and Spanish)? Do you think that being bilingual necessarily involves knowledge and use of the four language skills (traditionally referred to as “listening, speaking, reading and writing”)? Do you consider yourself bilingual?

5 Bilingualism as a continuum
Rather than concern ourselves with “polar opposites, . . .in order to understand any particular instance of biliteracy [or bilingualism] we need to take account of all dimensions represented by the continua” (Hornberger, 1989: 273)

6 Standards for English A common language to talk about different proficiency levels Possibility of sequencing and integrating teaching Grades 4-5: Understand simple authentic texts about concrete happenings related to cultural traditions that they know (birthdays, Christmas, etc) Grades 6-7: Identify in simple texts cultural elements such as customs and celebrations Grades 10-11: Identify the elements that allow them to appreciate the values of the culture of English-speaking countries

7 “There are consistent signs that the CEFR is susceptible to being misused in a number of ways:... misunderstandings regarding the CEFR´s status which, where no contextualization takes place, may result in a homogeneity contrary to this instrument´s goals; shortcomings in the training process and in the explanations given to...users, which may result in superficial use and even poor understanding of the tool, sometimes leading to its rejection” (Intergovernmental Forum of the Council of Europe, 2007:13)

8 Criticism of the Standards in Colombia
Contextual aspects - remote rural areas, (Cárdenas, 2006) Decisions based solely on the results of CERF examinations rather than other indicators of the process of language learning (Cárdenas, 2006) Imposition of policy demands on teachers (Valencia Giraldo, 2007)

9 Pre-service preparation - teachers not prepared to face classroom realities
Teachers´ low self esteem in relation to the gulf with ´native speaker´ models (Valencia Giraldo, 2007) Standards as conceived for “an imagined and ideal group of students who differ greatly from the real students who attend schools” (Guerrero, 2008:42)

10 The journey towards bilingualism in majority languages in Colombia
17-18 centuries-Spanish colonisation of Colombia – private schools Catholic mission schools taught Latin, Greek and Spanish Sons and daughters of the wealthy studied in France and England French was considered the language of culture and society (Zuluaga, 1996)

11 1810-Independence from Spain
Escuelas de Primeras Letras set up, based on liberal principles derived from the French Revolution - primary schools Escuelas Superiores de Artes Liberales - secondary schools

12 After the Second World War
English - most important foreign language in Colombia (economic expansion, social, political and economic influence of US) English taught at high school level, alternating with French 1979 Decree - English compulsory for Grades 6 and 7 - French mandatory for Grades 10 and 11 - Choice of either English or French in Grades 8 and 9

13 “The Colombian Ministry of National Education has no firm foreign language policy for the secondary school curriculum concerning the place of English and French, with decisions being made as a result of political pressures rather than educational considerations” (British Council, 1989:7)

14 Recent policy and curricular reforms in Colombia
Ley General de Educación (1994: Article 21, m) “The acquisition of elements of conversation and reading in at least one foreign language” Lineamientos Curriculares: Idiomas Extranjeros (MEN, 1999) Estándares Básicos de Competencia en Lenguas Extranjeras: Inglés (2006) Programa Nacional de Bilingüismo (PNB) ( )

15 Importance of the Colombian National Bilingual Programme
High profile of bilingualism in Colombia Bilingualism as a state policy Inclusive vision of bilingualism (MEN, 2006:6) “Tener ciudadanos y ciudadanas capaces de comunicarse en inglés, de tal forma que puedan insertar al país en los procesos de comunicación universal, en la economía global y la apertura cultural, con estándares internacionalmente comparables” Emphasis on development of human resources “The BCP has had a positive effect on the increase of in-service teacher education, an area that had not been prioritised in the last years” (Cárdenas, 2006:4)

16 Myth 1: Being bilingual means being equally proficient in two languages, in other words, a “balanced” bilingual In Colegio Cundinamarca, in Ciudad Bolivar, 79.5% of the staff interviewed expected that students would be able to “perform at a similar level in English and in Spanish” (López et al., 2008:44)

17 A bilingual person An individual with “a unique and specific linguistic configuration”(Grosjean, 1985:471) A bilingual is more than the sum of two monolinguals (holistic vision) “a speaker-hearer… who has developed competence in his [her] two languages …according to his [her] needs” (ibid) Bilingual and monolingual speech modes

18 Myth 2: The use of the first language in bilingual programmes is counterproductive to the attaining of high levels of proficiency in the foreign language A high level of development of the FL involves developing and enriching the student´s L1 (additive bilingualism) “A new language is learnt in addition to the mother tongue, which continues to be developed. The learner´s total linguistic repertoire is extended” (Skutnabb-Kangas & McCarty, 2008:4) Monolingualism in the second or foreign language (subtractive bilingualism)

19 Research Project on Bilingual Schools 2006 (Universidad de los Andes/MEN)
36 private schools in six regions of Colombia: Bogotá, Cali, Antioquia, Atlántico, Eje Cafetero and Santander International bilingual schools National bilingual schools Intensified English programmes

20 7 schools said they were International bilingual schools
16 schools said they were National bilingual schools 13 schools said they had Intensified English programmes

21 School language use “No hay Spanglish, no hay codeswitching. Hay unas clases en inglés, otras en español, con diferentes maestros, precisamente para que los niños también, especialmente desde chiquitos, identifiquen la lengua con la persona” (bilingual coordinator of a school in Cali) “Incluso hay momentos en los que uno puede usar lengua materna en las clases de inglés; muy raramente lo hacemos, cuando es estrictamente necesario. Por ejemplo, que un niño diga “níspero”, eso en la lengua materna no es prohibido que se hable, pero procuramos al máximo no hacerlo” (teacher in a bilingual school on the Atlantic Coast)

22 “Codeswitching …is important and it´s necessary and… although we… try to …enhance [sic] our students to use the English language during our classes and during the regular activities, there is also a moment…when we privilege the use of Spanish as a reference for them to understand…especially when we are doing structures and grammar” (primary bilingual school teacher in Bogotá) “Si hablamos de la parte del área de inglés, la clase se desarrolla en un cien por ciento en la segunda lengua… Hemos tratado de que las alumnas traten de comunicarse fuera del aula en inglés. Es muy difícil” (teacher in intensive English programme in Santander)

23 Separation or bilingual language use ?
'Bilingualism through monolingualism' (Swain 1983) “Is there a role for bilingual usage ... in bilingual education? In other words, should the languages always be kept separate and if not, how can they be used co-extensively to promote language learning?” (Genesee, 2004:574)  Strategic use of L1 may facilitate L2 reading development, based on evidence of significant cross-linguistic transfer of skills related to reading, especially decoding (Genesee 2008)

24 Bilingual story telling
Study on storytelling events with young preschool children in immersion classrooms in Cali The use of two languages in teaching and learning revealed a sophistication and complexity of language development often ignored by educationalists (de Mejía, 1998; 2002; 2004)

25 Codeswitching and identity
“The students at the American School of Asunción (ASA) have their own language. When we speak English, we speak ASA English and when we speak Spanish, we speak ASA Spanish” (Spezzini, 2005: 87)

26 Myth 3: A true bilingual school has all subjects in the curriculum (or almost all) taught in the foreign language (English) Do bilingual schools have to have more than 80% of their curriculum in the foreign language? How do parents and teachers understand the term “a bilingual school”?

27 Six of the seven International Bilingual Schools associated bilingual education with 80% of the subjects in the curriculum being taught in English (de Mejía et al, 2006) “El colegio es totalmente bilingüe porque primero de todo es inmersión total y se ven casi todas las áreas en inglés desde preescolar, como matemáticas, ciencias, en bachillerato, historia universal, geografía; hay pocas áreas que son en español y a los niños se les habla todo el tiempo en inglés.” (de Mejía et al, 2006:49)

28 “[el colegio no es bilingüe] porque tenemos un 25 y 28% de las clases dictadas en inglés. No llegamos a la meta de 60 o más que necesitamos para tocarnos el rango de bilingües” (de Mejía et al, 2006:61).

29 “bilingual education is defined as education that aims to promote bilingual (or multilingual) competence by using both (or all) languages as media of instruction for significant portions of the academic curriculum” (Genesee, 2004:548) “Bilingual competence is defined as “the ability to use the target languages effectively and appropriately for authentic personal, educational, social, and/or work-related purposes”. The criterion for defining significant portions of the academic curriculum is “at least 50% of the prescribed non-language-related curriculum of studies for one or more years” (Genesee, 2004:549)

30 Myth 4: Bilingual school graduates are able to communicate fluently in their everyday life in English “El rector nos dijo que acá en Bogotá iban a hacer dos colegios bilingües;…que afortunadamente nosotros habíamos salido beneficiados con el de acá del Sur y que nuestros hijos iban a salir hablando perfectamente el inglés y que eso eran garantías para mejores oportunidades en un futuro para nuestros hijos” (López et al., 2008:44)

31 Basic Interpersonal Communicative Skills (BICS)
Cognitive and Academic Language Proficiency (CALP) (Cummins, 1981)

32 Context embedded and context reduced communication
Context embedded communication exists when there is a good degree of contextual support in communications, e.g. body language, gestures, intonation Context reduced communication there are very few clues to meaning outside language (Cummins, 1984)

33 Development of context embedded second language fluency

34 El rol del maestro frente al desarrollo de hablidades de pensamiento superior en la enseñanza del inglés María Fernanda Castillo Sánchez (2009) Research question How can students be guided from cognitively undemanding, context embedded situations towards cognitively demanding, context reduced situations during the process of teaching English?

35 Context: Colegio Tilatá, Bogotá
Private, mixed, bilingual 560 students (Preschool - Grade 11) 60 teachers Colombians, Spanish L1 Grade 1 Primary English 8 hours per week Science, Art, Physical Education in English

36 Taken from Castillo (2009) based on Cummins (1984)

37 Conclusions of study Movement from cognitively-undemanding, context-embedded situations towards cognitively-demanding context-reduced situations is not linear Gradual student transition from quadrant to quadrant is facilitated by teacher - knowing existing level of student skills and abilities - identifying the gap existing between these and those expected - tracing the path so that at each stage students can face the challenges posed by the teaching-learning situations they are involved in

38 The degree of student success in their final project (Quadrant 4) derived largely from the confidence they developed during their previous work to take on the challenges posed by the demands of the final project and the clarity they had about what they had to do

39 Recent interest in hiring “new” Colombian bilingual teachers
Myth 5: Bilingual schools which employ native speakers of English as teachers are better than those that hire Colombian bilingual teachers Hiring native speaker teachers (of English) were favoured by many schools in the study (accent, L2 language proficiency, cultural knowledge). Yet transient status and lack of knowledge of Colombian idiosyncracies (de Mejía et al., 2006) Recent interest in hiring “new” Colombian bilingual teachers

40 “Irrelevance of native speakers
“Irrelevance of native speakers...Native speaker norms are becoming less relevant as English becomes a component of basic education in many countries” (Graddol, 2006:14) Hiring native speakers of English as teachers is more expensive and may lead to difficulties in training teachers and equipping classrooms (Graddol, 2006) “Native speaker accents may seem too remote from the people learners expect to communicate with” (ibid:114) “Native speakers may not possess some of the skills required by bilingual speakers, such as those of translation and interpreting” (ibid) Revaluing importance of hiring native speakers of English as teachers due to changing needs and aspirations of learners (Graddol, 2006)

41 Ways forward for the development of bilingualism in Colombia
Development of pre-service and inservice professional development programmes which deepen teachers´ understanding of principles and practices of bilingual education and bilingual processes

42 Avoid creating false expectations

43 Consider the principled use of code-switching as a pedagogical resource in the bilingual classroom in the light of a currently generally-accepted separationist approach to language use in Colombian bilingual schools Problematize the automatic acceptance of native speakers of English as teachers in bilingual educational contexts

44 Conclusions Recognition of the value of bilingualism and multilingualism in relation to increased competitivity “Ser bilingüe es tener más conocimientos y oportunidades para ser más competentes y competitivos y mejorar la calidad de vida de todos los colombianos” (Al Tablero, 2005: 3)

45 Role of bilingualism and multilingualism in creating more understanding, more tolerant societies in Colombia and in the Americas “No es suficiente reconocer `el otro` en aquella dimensión que nos interesa o que nos parece correcta, urgente o similar. En este caso, estamos mirándonos y proyectándonos en el otro, pero no estamos mirando al otro como diferente” (Green Stocel, 1998)

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