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What Is Bilingual Education?

Bilingual education began in the 1960s as a method to teach non-English-speaking students. The term bilingual education may also be used in reference to teaching English-speaking students a foreign language. Continue reading to find out more information about bilingual education and how to enter this career.

Forms of Bilingual Education

Bilingual education most often refers to the practice of teaching students English proficiency. There are a few different types of bilingual education programs and methods. The following list comprises the four most common types of bilingual education programs:

Transitional

In a transitional bilingual education program, children not fluent in English are taught some subjects in their native language. Other subjects are taught in English. Bilingual education was originally intended to be only a transitional program, but in some cases students remain in this program for an extended period of time.

Two-Way

Also known as dual language or bilingual immersion, a two-way bilingual education program employs two teachers in a single classroom. Instruction in the subject is given in both English and another language at the same time. It is believed this type of bilingual education program can be effective in teaching English to non-English-speaking students.

Immersion

Immersion refers to a type of bilingual education program wherein non-English-speaking students spend the entire day learning subjects taught in English. Teachers may attempt to simplify the language for these students if needed. Immersion might also refer to the practice of English-speaking students being taught another language.

English as a Second Language

English as a Second Language (ESL) is a bilingual education program that places students in specific classes that teach them to speak and write English. These students may take classes in other subjects, but the majority of their day is spent in ESL classes. Some programs have students attend only ESL classes for a certain period of time, possibly for up to one year, before beginning in academics.

Becoming a Bilingual Educator

Degree programs in bilingual education, ESL or in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) are commonly offered at the master's degree level. These programs may be targeted to individuals who are already working as teachers of ESL or EFL (English as a Foreign Language) who want to improve their skills, or for those who hold any type of teaching degree and want to focus on this aspect of education. Some programs may just require an undergraduate degree. Courses in these programs may include cross-cultural linguistics studies, language acquisition and curriculum development.

Also, bachelor's degree programs in education may offer a track in bilingual education, and there are post-bachelor's and post-master's certificate programs in bilingual education and TESOL. PhD programs exist as well, though these are focused on bilingual academic research.

All states require public school educators to hold state certification in teaching. Some states have professional bilingual education certification or endorsement requirements.