Academic journal article HOW - A Colombian Journal for Teachers of English

Elite vs. Folk Bilingualism: The Mismatch between Theories and Educational and Social Conditions/ Bilinguismo Elite vs. Popular: El Desacople Entre Las Teorias Y Las Practicas Educativas Y Sociales

Academic journal article HOW - A Colombian Journal for Teachers of English

Elite vs. Folk Bilingualism: The Mismatch between Theories and Educational and Social Conditions/ Bilinguismo Elite vs. Popular: El Desacople Entre Las Teorias Y Las Practicas Educativas Y Sociales

Article excerpt

Introduction

The field of bilingualism is very complex and that, in part, makes defining what it is more difficult. Definitions come from different disciplines including linguistics, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, educationists, and international studies. The expected outcome is that each discipline places emphasis on one aspect and neglects others (Romaine, 1989), thus making any definition incomplete.

Within each field there are different perspectives, too. De Mejia (2002) reports how sociolinguists like Fishman and Hornberger are interested in relating the concept of bilingualism to the context of situation; psycholinguists like Grosjean and Cummins are interested in how bilinguals acquire and process their languages; and educationists like Baker, Collier, and Ovando explore how children and adults become bilingual in educational settings.

Besides the interdisciplinary nature of the field, another issue that contributes to the difficulty of defining bilingualism is that it has multiple dimensions and depending on which dimension is considered, there are different types of bilinguals. There are balanced or dominant bilinguals (depending on their proficiency in each language); compound, coordinate,or subordinate (according to the organization of linguistic codes and meaning in the brain); early, simultaneous, sequential,orlate (age of acquisition); incipient, receptive,orproductive (functional ability); additive or subtractive (effect of L1 on learning of and retention of L2); and elite/folk, circumstantial/elective (language status, circumstances leading to bilingualism) (Baker, 2001; Baker & Jones, 1998; Butler & Hakuta, 2004; Grosjean, 1994; Valdes & Figueroa, 1994). It is important to mention that these classifications do not constitute clear cut dichotomies but rather a continuum in which all the taxonomies interplay in endless ways (as illustrated by Hornberger, 1991 and Hornberger & Skilton Sylvester, 2003).

In Colombia, the Ministry of Education is running its National Bilingualism Plan (henceforth PNB for its initials in Spanish) and a common concern among various Colombian academics is the absence of a definition of what bilingualism means for this program (Cardenas, 2006a, 2006b, 2010; Escobar, 2010; Guerrero, 2008; Lastra, 2009; Usma, 2009) This absence brings as a consequence a great confusion of what institutions should do and how to do it. The size of the confusion is such that during an interview, when asked if taking an hour a week of English class at school could be called "bilingualism", Rosa Maria Cely, one of the academic advisors for the PNB stated the following:

   Bilinguismo son muchas cosas, si ves la
   relacion aca (senalando la cartilla y la
   ultima edicion de la revista Magisterio)
   dice lo que se entiende por bilinguismo;
   no se esta hablando de ciudadanos
   absolutamente bilingues, esa no es la
   pretension del programa. Dentro del
   concepto de "Bilinguismo" que el
   Ministerio viene manejando caben
   diversas formas de "bilinguismo":
   bilinguismo para sordos, con comunidades
   indigenas, trilinguismo en el
   Archipielago, el bilinguismo de la
   comunidad gitana, principalmente. (2011)

   Bilingualism is many things if you see
   the relationship here (pointing to the
   handbook and the latest edition of the
   journal Magisterio) it says what is
   understood by bilingualism; we are not
   talking about completely bilingual
   citizens, that is not the intention
   of the program. Within the concept of
   "bilingualism" that the Ministry is
   managing, various forms of "bilingualism" fit:
   bilingualism for the deaf, indigenous
   communities, trilingualism in the
   Archipelago, the bilingualism of
   the gypsies, mainly. (2011)

Her answer shows a lack of understanding of the MEN in terms of the Project they are implementing nationwide. This situation has consequences in terms of what is expected from students and teachers proficiency-wise and, accordingly, what society in general expects from its nationals. …

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