To best demonstrate her assertion that multilingualism is achievable in the United States, Dr. Potowski presents two graphs: the first illuminates the various multilingual educational models used by teachers in the US, the second elucidates the overwhelming benefits (and performance results) of two-way immersion programs versus its contemporaries alternative.
Students whose native language is English did not suffer academically from two-way immersion, but rather achieved bilingualism “at no cost to their native language” and performed, as demonstrated in the graph, as well in school as their monolingual peers. While parents of English speakers wish to “cure” their children of monolingualism, oftentimes children of non-English speaking parents are told not to speak their home language because it may confuse the children or inhibit their learning in US school systems. This is not true. Dr. Potowski quells any apprehension when she states that there is “no evidence that abandoning home language at home accelerates English language learning” and that the fear that children who are multilingual will become confused “contradicts what 65% of the planet has been doing for hundreds and hundreds of years.”
Additionally, native English speakers who wish to “cure” their children of monolingualism should start earlier rather than later. Cognitive research shows that significant language learning occurs before the ages of 8-10 because we use different parts of the brain; therefore, the average age in the US to learn a foreign language (which is 14 or when children start high school) makes learning a language much more difficult and more inefficient than learning in a two-way immersion program in primary schools. Bilinguals also have better cognitive skills, are faster at problem-solving, and have been known to delay the onset of dementia by an average of 10 years.
Dr. Kim Potowski’s invigorating discussion reflects what we here at the TWIN-CS wish to accomplish for all students: bilingualism, or multilingualism, by two-way immersion will result in a more culturally tolerant and more culturally aware world.
-Melissa Hoppie, Roche Center for Catholic Education Graduate Research Assistant