“Every black American is bilingual. All of them. We speak street vernacular and we speak ‘job interview.'”
Dave Chappelle, Comedian
Pros and Cons of Bilingual Education
Bilingual education has become increasingly popular over the past decade. Bilingual education means that academic content is taught in more than one language. This includes teaching kids in their native language as well as in a secondary foreign language.
Although there are several advantages related to bilingual education, it also implies some shortcomings.
In this article, the pros and cons of bilingual education are examined.
Advantages of Bilingual Education
- Cultural awareness
- Makes it easier to learn a secondary language
- Automatic adaption of the new language
- Can be quite beneficial for your travels
- Better career opportunities
- Semester abroad
- You may be able to work abroad
- May improve our mental capacities
- Learning languages can be fun
- May just be the start
- Easier to participate in exchange programs
- Personal development
- Students may be more willing to learn new things
- You may be able to work as a private language tutor
- May boost confidence levels of kids
- Quite important in a globalized world
One main advantage of bilingual education is that it gives us the opportunity to raise the cultural awareness of children. We often claim to be quite tolerant in our society, yet there is still plenty of discrimination around all over the world.
By teaching children in more than one language, we will be able to improve their level of tolerance since children will become more aware of the fact that there are many different cultures and languages on our planet and that it is important to preserve all this knowledge.
Therefore, through bilingual education, the overall level of tolerance towards other cultures might be increased in our society.
Makes it easier to learn a secondary language
Since children in bilingual schools will simply have no choice regarding whether they want to learn a secondary language or not, chances are that they will simply take accept it and see it as a sort of normal education behavior for them.
In turn, it will become quite easy for them to learn this language since it is part of their regular education. Moreover, it might also be quite nice for children to be educated in a foreign language since it makes the whole education process more interesting.
Automatic adaption of the new language
After some practice, it will also become quite easy for children to learn new languages since they are so used to it. At a young age, children are willing to learn many new different things and therefore, the bilingual education should start at early as possible in order to make it easy for children to adapt to this alternative education framework.
Can be quite beneficial for your travels
Another advantage of bilingual education is that it can greatly benefit you later on in your life when it comes to traveling. Especially if you travel to quite exotic places on our planet, chances are that locals will not speak your native language from your home country and you may have a pretty hard time to communicate.
Moreover, even though some people in foreign countries may speak your mother tongue, they will still be much friendlier and cooperative if you know how to speak their local language since you show some interest in their culture by doing so.
Therefore, if you love traveling, chances are that bilingual education will greatly benefit you also in this regard.
Better career opportunities
If you speak more than your native language, chances are that you will also have better career opportunities. Especially if you work for a big international corporation, chances are that you will frequently talk with colleagues and clients from all over the world and it will be a necessity to excel in foreign languages.
Thus, if you aspire to a demanding career in the corporate world, learning foreign languages can be a great way to improve your chances to get one of those jobs.
If you are taught in a bilingual manner, chances are that you will also have it easier when it comes to making a semester abroad. Many students want to spend a semester abroad in a foreign country in order to get to know the different culture and to make new experiences.
Yet, many undergraduate studies are only taught in the local language and therefore, you will have a quite hard time to study abroad in case you do not have any knowledge about the respective local language.
Hence, if you want to study abroad, bilingual education in school may also be a great way to prepare yourself for your future studies.
You may be able to work abroad
Bilingual education can not only help you in case you want to study abroad, it can also help you in case you want to work in a foreign country. Quite often, if you work in a foreign country, you need at least a minimum amount of the local language in order to get employed.
Moreover, having some knowledge of the local language will also make it much easier to succeed in your job abroad. Therefore, especially if you aspire to a corporate career in a foreign country later on in your life, bilingual education may be perfect to enable you with the language skills that are required for this path.
May improve our mental capacities
Our brain is a quite complex system and quite little is still known regarding how exactly it works and how we can improve our mental capacities.
Yet, many scientists believe that learning a secondary language can help us improve our mental capacities since our brain will learn to adapt to those foreign languages and may build up some new capacities in order to process all this information.
Therefore, also our overall capacity to learn new things may improve due to bilingual education, especially when it is done at a quite young age in school since our brain develops the most in the early years of our life.
Learning languages can be fun
Some people also find it quite interesting to learn new languages. While it might feel like a burden to some school kids, it might feel rather like a hobby to others and for kids who really enjoy learning new languages, bilingual education might greatly improve their overall quality of life.
Some kids will also be quite proud of themselves and may brag among their family and their friends regarding what they have learned in school.
Therefore, if your kid likes to learn languages, you might seriously consider sending your child to a school that offers bilingual education.
May just be the start
For children who really enjoy learning new languages, bilingual education can be regarded as some kind of entry to much bigger opportunities.
For instance, after learning one foreign language, many people will consider it to be kind of a hobby to learn even more additional languages and over time, some people learn several different languages.
This is not only quite applaudable, it also gives those people a great edge regarding their future career prospects as well as in several other parts of their daily life.
Easier to participate in exchange programs
Many bilingual schools also offer school exchange programs with schools in foreign countries. Therefore, by attending schools that offer bilingual education, chances are that you will also get to know a different culture at a rather young age, which may greatly benefit you in later parts of your daily life.
Therefore, also the opportunity to engage in those exchange programs may be another benefit of bilingual education.
Bilingual education can also greatly benefit the personal development of children. For instance, due to the different cultural influence and the higher level of acceptance towards other cultures that is implied by bilingual education, children will also learn much sooner that there are many different ways to live and that our cultural norms should not necessarily be considered as a gold standard.
Consequently, the overall personal development in schools with bilingual education may be fostered much more compared to attending regular schools.
Students may be more willing to learn new things
Since students will be forced to learn a foreign language, they will likely also be more willing to learn new things in their daily life. This could mean that they will be more open towards meeting new people or also to learn many new other skills.
This is quite important for several parts of our daily life since connections are quite important to succeed in the corporate world and we also all have to adapt on a regular basis since technology evolves and we also have to evolve in order to avoid becoming obsolete.
Therefore, the ability to learn new things is quite important and this skill is promoted through bilingual education.
You may be able to work as a private language tutor
If you are privileged to benefit from bilingual language education, you might also be able to work a tutor and earn some money during your school career. Many children need tutoring since they have difficulties in school and since you will acquire foreign language skills, you can use those skills to work a tutor.
Apart from money you will earn, you can also improve your interpersonal skills since you will be forced to adapt to the learning patterns of your clients. In turn, you will have it easier afterward to work in a team since you learned important soft skills early on in your life.
May boost confidence levels of kids
Bilingual education may also be quite beneficial in terms of improving the confidence levels of our kids. Many kids nowadays are quite insecure since they suffer from mobbing or other unpleasant things.
Bilingual education can help those kids since they will learn new language skills and over time, they will get really good at it. In turn, chances are that this will boost their confidence levels since they realize that they can get really good at several things in life.
Quite important in a globalized world
Language skills are more important than ever in our current state of the world. Due to the increasing level of globalization, firms will have to compete in a global environment and it is necessary to have good language skills in order to communicate with colleagues and clients from all over the world.
In many jobs, it is even a necessity rather than a nice-to-have to have basic skills in the main global languages. Therefore, if you want to compete in our nowadays job market, chances are that bilingual education can be quite beneficial in this regard.
Disadvantages of Bilingual Education
- May be hard at the beginning
- Bilingual education may require more time to learn
- Less time for other important activities
- Students may have problems to understand certain topics
- May increase the stress levels of students
- Not many schools offer this kind of education
- Bilingual education can be costly
- Lack of qualified teachers
- Higher administrative and planning efforts
- Children may burn out
- Quality of bilingual education greatly varies across schools
May be hard at the beginning
Apart from the many important advantages of bilingual education, there are also some issues related to it. One problem with bilingual education is that it might be quite hard for children to learn a language at the beginning.
Not only do they have to learn the foreign language, they also have to understand what’s going on in terms of the actual subject material that should be taught.
Therefore, the first months or years of bilingual education might be quite hard for children and some kids may not be willing to take this effort.
However, over time, it will become far easier since children will have learned the basics and can operate from there.
Thus, if your kid struggles with bilingual education, you should help him or her to get through this period since it will get easier over time.
Bilingual education may require more time to learn
Another disadvantage of bilingual education is that it may also be quite time-consuming for children. It usually takes much longer to understand and to study a subject in a foreign language compared to learning the same things in a native language.
Hence, many children may have to study quite hard to achieve their educational goals. However, in turn, this may also imply that there will be less time for other important things left.
Less time for other important activities
If children have to learn for long hours every day, chances are that they will have less leisure time to spend with their friends or for other hobbies they like. In turn, the motivation for bilingual education may significantly suffer over time and many kids may no longer be willing to participate in this kind of education.
In turn, they might either switch school or may just sit in school in an unmotivated manner and wait until the school day is over. Therefore, the lack of time for other important activities may be another significant downside of bilingual education and parents should evaluate whether they want to force their children into such a strict learning environment.
Students may have problems to understand certain topics
With bilingual education, students may have to focus on learning the language instead of actually focusing on the topic that is taught. For instance, many children have problems with math, even if it is taught in their mother tongue.
However, if you teach those math classes in a foreign language, chances are that kids will understand even less and therefore, the overall quality of education and the overall learning experience might be quite poor.
Therefore, also for rather difficult subjects, bilingual teaching methods may do more harm than good.
May increase the stress levels of students
Since they not only have to learn the actual school subject but also have to learn a foreign language at the same time, chances are that children that are educated in a bilingual fashion may also suffer from serious stress over time. In some cases, these high stress levels may even turn into mental issues.
Hence, for children who are rather sensitive to stress, bilingual education might not be the right way to go in order to protect them from developing serious mental health issues.
Not many schools offer this kind of education
Depending on where you live, there may also be a significant lack of bilingual schools. In many countries, the concept of bilingual education is not popular enough yet and in case you want to send your kid to a bilingual school, you might simply not be able to do so since there might be not enough schools around that provide this kind of education.
Therefore, in regions where there are not enough bilingual education facilities, governments may want to set incentives to change this as soon as possible.
Bilingual education can be costly
Bilingual education can also be quite expensive, both for parents who want to send their kids to a bilingual school as well as for the respective municipality. This kind of education often requires much more educational efforts and also smaller class sizes in order to work properly.
Thus, more teachers and other resources are needed, which in turn translates into higher overall costs for this form of education.
Lack of qualified teachers
Since teachers need to be skilled both in the subject as well as in the language they teach, chances are that there will not be too many teachers around who fulfill those high requirements and school kids may therefore suffer from a lack of education.
Many people who have this skill set may rather want to work in the corporate world instead since they are often able to earn more money.
Hence, it might be quite hard to find enough suitable teachers for bilingual schools, which may translate into a rather poor overall teaching quality in those schools.
Higher administrative and planning efforts
Also the overall planning and organizational efforts regarding bilingual education tend to be much higher compared to regular education. It is often quite difficult to schedule and to coordinate classes so that there is a healthy balance between teaching kids in their native and in a foreign language.
Moreover, some teachers may not be able to teach in a foreign language in a proper manner and due to that, it might be quite hard to figure out a working schedule, especially in case some teachers get sick and are therefore unavailable for teaching purposes.
Children may burn out
Burnout is not only an issue in the corporate world for adults, it can also be an issue for kids if they have to work too much in school. We all have some mental limits and in case we stress ourselves too much on a regular basis, chances are that we will suffer from serious mental problems like burnouts.
Therefore, especially for kids who have rather limited mental capacities, bilingual education may not be the way to go since they might suffer from additional stress since they also have to learn a foreign language in addition to the actual content.
Thus, for some children, bilingual education may do more harm than good and you as parents should carefully evaluate whether your kid will be able to deal with the additional pressure from bilingual education in a healthy manner or not.
Quality of bilingual education greatly varies across schools
Moreover, also the quality of bilingual education might greatly vary across schools. While some schools may offer quite good education, others may be quite bad and you should make sure to choose a bilingual school that offers high-quality education for your kid.
Top 10 Bilingual Education Pros & Cons – Summary List
|Bilingual Education Pros||Bilingual Education Cons|
|Can help to learn about different cultures||Learning languages can be hard|
|Bilingual education can be good for traveling||High levels of motivation needed|
|May help to improve our brain capacities||Bilingual education may imply serious stress|
|Can help to accelerate your career||Mental problems|
|Learning foreign languages can be fun||Lack of suitable teachers|
|May improve confidence||Can be expensive|
|Good for personal development||Burnout is a real problem|
|Important in a globalized world||Significant organizational efforts|
|You can work as a language tutor later||Education quality greatly varies across schools|
|Good in case you want to study abroad||May not be offered in your region|
As we can see from the previous discussion, there are several advantages and disadvantages related to bilingual education. In the end, you have to decide for yourself whether you want to send your kid to a bilingual school or not.
In order to make a profound decision, make sure to evaluate all the pros and cons of bilingual education. You should also take into account the preferences of your kid in order to make sure that your child will not be forced into something he or she actually does not want to do at all.
About the author
My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people of all ages about our environmental problems and how everyone can make a contribution to mitigate these issues.
As I went to university and got my Master’s degree in Economics, I did plenty of research in the field of Development Economics.
After finishing university, I traveled around the world. From this time on, I wanted to make a contribution to ensure a livable future for the next generations in every part of our beautiful planet.
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