Common Bilingual Education Terms

Additive bilingual education: Bilingual education program models that develop and maintain students’ primary language while simultaneously adding a second language. In additive bilingual education programs there is no loss to students’ primary language or culture.

Balanced bilingual: A bilingual learner who has equal proficiency in both languages. Some bilingual scholars believe that balanced bilingualism is a theory because bilingual learners may never achieve equal proficiency in both languages.

Biliteracy: The ability to speak, read and write in both languages at an academic level.

Code-switching: The act of switching and mixing languages within a sentence or longer conversation. Code-switching is different than using “Spanglish”, Spanglicized words in English such as “baika” in place of  “bicicleta”.

Developmental bilingual education: An additive form of bilingual education where students continue to maintain their primary language while learning a second language. Common forms of developmental bilingual education may be Dual Immersion/two-way immersion or one-way immersion programs. Development bilingual education program are also sometimes referred to as maintenance bilingual education.

Dominant language: The stronger language of a bilingual learner.

Dual Immersion: Dual Immersion programs are an additive form of bilingual education where language minority and language majority students are integrated during the instructional day and are taught two languages. Dual Immersion programs are also sometimes referred as two-way immersion or dual language education.

Early-exit transitional bilingual education: A bilingual education model that provides primary language instruction for a short amount of time until students are transitioned into English instruction. Students in early-exit transitional programs are typically transitioned into English instruction in second or third grade.

ELD: An acronym which stands for English language development. A critical component of bilingual education is the component of English language development, an instructional time allocated to teaching English as a second language. ELD can also sometimes be referred to as ESL.

English immersion: An English-only program where instruction is provided exclusively in English. English immersion is not to be confused with immersion bilingual education. English immersion is sometimes also referred to as submersion education, or “sink-or-swim”, where students are completely immersed in English and are provided little to no language support.

English learners: Students who are acquiring English as a second language. English are also sometimes referred to as English language learners, English as a second language (ESL) students, or ESOL students.

Immersion bilingual education: An additive bilingual education program where language majority students are immersed in a second language. Immersion bilingual education programs promote the use of two languages.

Language majority students: Students who speak the majority, or dominant, language. In the United States, English is the majority language although other languages are predominant in certain parts of the country.

Language minority students: Students who speak a minority language in a country. In the United States, Spanish, Mandarin, and other languages are considered to be minority languages although they may be predominant languages in certain areas of the country.

Language separation: A practice that promotes clear separation between languages in order to ensure student practice with the language during designated times.

Late-exit transitional bilingual education: A bilingual education model that provides primary language instruction throughout fifth and sixth grades at the elementary level before students are transitioned into English instruction.

Majority language: The dominant language that is spoken in a country. In the United States, the majority language is English, even though there are communities where other languages might be predominately spoken.

Minority language: The language or languages that are not the dominant language in a country. In the United States, Spanish and other languages are considered to be minority languages although in some parts of the country they might be frequently spoken languages.

Primary language: The language that students acquire naturally as a child since birth. A primary language is sometimes also referred to as a learner’s native language or mother tongue.

Subtractive bilingual education: Bilingual education program models that provide primary language instruction on a temporary basis before students are provided instruction exclusively in English. Transitional bilingual education programs are subtractive in nature.

Target language: The minority language that is taught in a bilingual program. In a Mandarin/English program, the target language would be Mandarin.

Transitional bilingual education: A bilingual education program model that provides instruction in students’ primary language before being transitioned into English instruction. Transitional bilingual education programs may be early-exit or late-exit transitional programs. The ultimate goal of transitional bilingual education is eventual monolingualism in English.

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