Sunday, June 1, 2008

Mainstream Education (With foreign Language Teaching)

Today, I would like to discuss the idea of 'drip feeding' within mainstream education (Baker 2006), as it relates to what happens here (Japan) in Junior high schools and senior high. Unfortunately, here in Japan the focus is on English as a language, and not English as a byproduct of studying some kind of content.
Baker gives the example of 1/2 an hour language teaching per day for 5-12 year of education, not/rarely producing functionally bilingual children. I guess the situation in Japan with English language instruction is even worse, as mainstream schools only devote 1 hour per week to English instruction as a subject, which if you go with Baker's example, will mean even worse results.
Looking at it from a subjective standpoint, I can agree that many of the high school graduates leaving senior high are not competent in their communicative competence, but their academic literacy is quite high. The drip feeding in this kind of situation has given these students (over a 6 year period) a strong foundation in passive receptive forms, but has not enabled them to develop an ability to speak up.
Many Ss seem to come out of this kind of English language exposure, not confident speakers, and either having a desire to improve their ability (which explains the popularity in English language schools here) or negative about the whole experience because they have spent so long trying to learn, but are still are not competent.
There is a whole mentality here in Japan, that people can take one 60 min. lesson, once a week, without doing any homework, and still being able to improve one's language ability. I had thought that an answer would be to have shorter and more frequent lessons, which would help consolidate and keep the language fresh and alive in Ss heads, would be an answer...but it seems that it may be in vain (may not improve)...
I still believe that regular lessons in English for majority language Ss will improve competence in a foreign language, and may be the thing that Japanese schools need to improve their Ss English ability, especially with having stronger feelings of success in their learning.
Even at my school (a mixture of EFL language school and immersion type classes), we have tried to increase the number of English content based lessons (shorter time), and our focus has been on reading (input) and writing (output), and in the initial stages, we are having some success. Ss are tending to think in English more, I mean on a constant basis. English is more a part of their lives, and they are being required to use it on meaningful tasks, such as blogs to communicate ideas about content.
Does anyone out there have any positive or negative experiences with a drip feeding type of situation (language taught through minority language for a limited time, as a subject like Math or Science)?
Steven Mondy

Dual Immersion

Hi there everyone,
Today I did quite a bit of reading out of Baker (2006) on different types of bilingual programs. I have to say that the number of different programs really amazed me, but what was even more interesting was the aims or goals behind each of them.
I kinda think that if we hold on to the idea of static maintenance, we are doing the students a great dis-service. We need to actively promote the development of linguistic diversity and cultural pluralism, if we want our students to take full advantage of all that they can be, linguistically, and socially. That is why I tend to favor 'dual immersion', in that languages are allowed to flourish along side each other and with various enrichment programs that help to support the child's experiences in language.
I did a quick search on Youtube under 'immersion education' and discovered a promotional video for a dual immersion school.
You can find it in a search on Youtube under 'Flowery Dual Immersion (part 1 & 2) I think the link is as follows...
It's kinda a promotional video for the school, but it covers many of the ideas that I read in Baker(2006), to do with immersion programs. Actually, it was great to see how a program actually works, as I am not involved in Bilingual education as such, here in Japan (more EFL SL learning).
I was particularly interested in the breakdown of percentages over the years of primary education. They start with 90/10 (Spanish/English) in kindergarten, but end with 50/50 in year 6. They introduce English literacy in the third grade (as with many of the articles I've read), and support with enrichment programs.
I am guessing that Spanish and English are languages that support each other (ie; more similar), but I wonder how a Japanese-English program might work, where the languages are very different in form.
Not only that, but Japanese seems to come from a very high~context culture (people tend to pick up clues from their surroundings and less is explained through words) and English low-context (tend to speak more). Would this provide added challenges?
In addition, the learning of Kanji (Chinese characters) may make the above percentages change, as the Japanese writing system is quite time intensive compared to English, at least initially.
Please watch the Youtube video, and tell me what you think...
Steven Mondy

Baker(2006), Foundations in Bilingual education and Bilingualism
Wikipedia, High context Culture,