As we continue examining the Puerto Rico Department
of Education pedagogical policy for preparing our students to comply with
the technological challenges and socio-cultural demands of the twenty first
century, it is evident that we have to rethink and re-orient the teaching
process. For instance, the teaching or Spanish and English must be re-oriented
to be less structural and more communicative, that is, the whole language
approach. It is a dire need to try new and diverse alternatives to equip
the students with this integral approach.
Language is intimately linked both to conceptual
development and social experience (Brown, 1973; Hakuta, 1990a; & Skutnabb
Kangas, 1981). It is a tool for processing information which the individual
receives as input about his, her surroundings and for organizing personal
perceptions of his/her self in relation to these surroundings (Vygosky,
1962). Language is a reflection of how human beings perceive and interact
with their world. In other words, language is the filter through which
ail sociocultural experiences and understandings must pass (Alexander,
Schallert, & Hare, 1991).
In a study conducted by Lladó-Torres (1994),
she noted that even though Puerto Rican students receive twelve years of
public school instruction they are not attaining a minimun proficiency
in English and cannot communicate in the target language. In his study,
Lloréns (1976) pointed out that the poor command of Spanish in many
Puerto Ricans is due not to the teaching of English but to the poor instruction
of the native language. He believes that the two languages can coexist.
Research in. bilingual education acknowledges the fact that two languages
It is clear, then, that to give the students more
exposure than 50 minutes to learning English will benefit the greatly.
The latest trends in school organizations suggest the block scheduling
of 90 minutes. By means of this, the students will develop faster simple
skills needed to develop complex ones and then practice all using the natural
As far as learning two languages, Brown (1994) states:
“It is clear that children teaming two languages simultaneously acquire
them by the use of similar strategies. They are, in essence, teaming two
First languages, and the key to success is in distinguishing separate contexts
for the two languages. People who learn a second language in such
separate contexts are referred to as coordinate bilinguals; they have
two meaning systems, as opposed to compound bilinguals who have one meaning
system from which both languages operate. Children do not generally
have problems with "mixing up languages", regardless of the separateness
of contexts for use of the languages.
Kenji Hakuta, whose main languages of research and
interest are Japanese, Spanish, and English has studied the various circumstances
under which these languages are learned, used, and lost. He has written
extensively on diverse aspects of bilingualism. In his article, Bilingualism
and Bilingual Education: A Research Perspective (1990 b), he sumarizes
research in second language teaming as follows:
In her book, Soto (1997) makes referents to Peal, B.
and Lambert's, (1962) study in which they found that bilingual children
in Montreal scored higher on intelligence tests than did their monolingual
counterparts. Furthermore, they concluded that the balanced bilingual (one
who has equal facility in two languages) has an advantage in terms of cognitive
flexibility, conceptualization, and diversification of cognitive abilities.
Lambert's Project, a Field study (Lambert and Tucker, 1972), was largely
responsible for confirming Peal and Lambert's (1962) findings. This
project let the way for the initiation and replication of controlled experimental
conditions by researchers (Soto, 1997). The examples of these studies,
as pointed out by Soto (1997), indicated that:
The native language and the second language are complementary rather than
mutually exclusive. There is no empirical support for the view that time
spent on the first language detracts from the development of the second
language. If anything, greater elaboration of native language results in
more efficient acquisition of second language: stronger first language
proficiency translates into better second language learning.
The structural patterns of the native language have minimal influence on
the patterns of second.
language acquisition, especially at the syntactic level.
Language proficiency is not unitary, but rather consists of a diverse collection
of skills that are not necessarily correlated.
The attainment of age appropriate levels of performance in the second language
can take four to seven years.
Age may be a factor that constrains the acquisition of certain phonological
and syntactic features of a second or foreign language, but not its academic
functions. Collier (1988) suggests chat children between the ages of eight
and twelve are the most advantaged second language learners, but age does
not limit the acquisition of a second language. Some claim that the earlier,
the faster they acquire both languages.
Bilingualism is associated positively with greater cognitive flexibility
and awareness of language. The comparisons made of bilingual and monolingual
children, as well as comparisons made of bilingual children of varying
levels of development indicate that bilingualism can lead to superior performance
on a variety of intellectual skills.
Skills transfer globally rather than piece by piece.
Expertise in translation exists in all bilingual children, demonstrating
considerable ability to transfer regardless of content. Walqui's (1989)
study, for example, has let a number of attempts to use translation as
a way of enhancing metalinguistic ability and amplifying bilingual skills.
Children raised bilingually were more attentive to semantic relationships
than monolinguals (Ianco-Worral, 1972).
Bilingual children indicated superiority in awareness of linguistic rules
and structures (Ben-Zeev, 1977).
Bilingual children outperformed monolinguals on a variety of measures of
metalinguistic awareness (Cummings, 1978).
Bilingualism has a positive effect on divergent thinking and creativity
(Torrance, Wu, Gowan, & Alliotti, 1970).
Bilingualism has positive effects on a variety of cognitive, performance
measures, such as concept formation (Cummins & Gulutson. 11974:Bain,
1974; Liedtke &Nelson, 1968).
There are positive effects of bilingualism on Piagetian conservation and
field independence (Duncan & De Avila, 1979).
Bilinguals demonstrated an ability to monitor cognitive performance (Bain
& Yu, 1980).