The English language now has a significant place in global and human interaction. It has evolved into a global language and a means of communication for many individuals from many cultures and backgrounds.
Non-native speakers learn English in two different ways or approaches. One is ESL (English as a Second Language) and the other is Bilingual Education. In both methods, English is added as a second language and as a tool for communication for non-English speakers.
The major differences between the two are the methods of teaching, the medium, or language of instruction and the composition of students or non-English speakers attending the classes.
The Submersion Method
ESL is also called as the submersion approach. In this type of teaching, there is only one language of instruction, which is English. The instructor speaks English and only English. The class or students can come from different non-native English countries. This means that the students speak different mother tongues or first languages. The classroom or learning area often prohibits the use of the mother tongue to encourage the students to speak only in English.
Since the teacher or instructor only speaks English, there is no need to communicate in a student’s mother language. The main emphasis in this type of English learning is to teach an acquisition of the English language only.
ESL can produce students that are fairly competent in English writing and speaking. However, one of the significant outcomes of ESL is that the students are lacking or becoming weaker in their first language or mother tongue.
The Dual Language Immersion
On the other hand, bilingual approach not only teaches English but also gives consideration to the student’s mother tongue. In a bilingual class or program, there are two media of instruction, the mother language and English. The main aim is for the students to learn English while still learning or without abandoning their mother tongue. This is called bilingual literacy wherein competence in both English and one’s mother tongue is expected.
The students in a bilingual education are usually speakers of the same mother tongue. The teacher is also a speaker of the first language. The teacher usually needs to communicate or teach students in both the mother tongue and English on every subject.
Which approach is better?
Though bilingual education has many benefits, it is not always the best option for students. For example, in some cases, English Language Learners may benefit more from an ESL program that focuses on developing their English language skills.
Discerning which type of program is best suited to a given student population is not difficult. It is important to consider all of the factors involved when making a decision about what type of educational program is right for the child. A simple inventory of students’ languages, available teaching staff and space will easily determine if an ESL or a bilingual program is necessary, and when done well, both are excellent ways to learn.