The Reading Matrix
Vol. 4, No. 3, November 2004

Dual Language: Teaching and Learning in Two Languages
Soltero, S.W. (2004)
Boston : Pearson

Pp. xiv + 177
ISBN: 0-205-34381-3
Cost: $22.59
Reviewed by Carmen-Pilar Serrano-Boyer
Torreón del Alcázar Secondary School, Ciudad Real, Spain

 

To receive dual language education is a privilege in our multicultural society, where language skills are becoming more and more important; nevertheless this type of education has not always been understood or implemented in the right way, that is the reason why, in some cases, it has not succeeded. Sonia White Soltero, the author of the book under review, has been involved in dual language education from different perspectives: as a teacher, as a school administrator, as a researcher and, maybe the furthest back in time but not the least important, as a student in a dual language programme. She writes Dual Language: Teaching and Learning in Two Languages for anyone interested in this topic, however the most appropriate audience for her book could be people in professions to do with planning, implementing or evaluating dual language education programmes.

This interesting book, which takes an objective look at dual language education in the USA, is divided into seven chapters and four appendices; at the end of the book the author includes a glossary of terms and acronyms, a reference section and an index. Each chapter opens with a quotation that makes you reflect on a specific point related to what is going to be expounded in the next pages; below the quotation we can see the key concepts employed by the author. Soltero also includes a helpful summary at the end of every chapter; this summary is followed by discussion questions, a section called ‘field-based inquiry’ (the reader is encouraged to obtain specific information by means of interviewing teachers, visiting schools and so forth ), as well as another section which includes an up-to-date bibliography related to the chapter in question.

These are the different chapters of Sonia White Soltero’s book:
Chapter 1, “Dual Language and Bilingual Education,” offers the reader an interesting overview of the most important programme models for language learners in the USA. The author gives us a clarifying definition of dual language education, classifies it among additive forms of bilingual education and highlights the benefits it can have for language learners. As an EFL teacher in Spain I found this chapter quite enlightening and it gave me a greater understanding of dual language education, its controversies and advantages.

In Chapter 2, “Dual Language Program Models and Features,” Soltero points out that in dual language education there are two main programmes (total immersion and partial immersion), the choice of which depends on aspects like school teaching staff, students’ mobility, parents’ expectations and so forth. The most important requisites for dual language education to produce the intended results are: family-school collaboration, a similar number of students from the two languages and six to eight years of programme participation; bilingual instruction has to be organized in such a way that on the one hand permits limited English proficient (LEP) students to develop their L1 and reach proficiency in English, and on the other hand allows native English speakers to develop their mother tongue and reach proficiency in their L2 -which is the LEP students’ L1.

Chapter 3, “Theoretical Constructs,” deals with language acquisition theories, literacy in the two languages and bilingualism, all of them related to dual language education. In this chapter the author discards some of the negative myths about bilingualism and makes clear that researchers, educators and parents should work together for the benefit of the children’s education.

In Chapter 4, ‘Planning Considerations’, Soltero explores how important planning becomes when a school is trying to implement a dual language education programme. The first steps are crucial if we want the programme to work properly. No doubt exploring and reviewing current theory and research literature is very important, but we cannot forget other essential aspects like visiting dual language programmes, consulting knowledgeable agencies, parent and community involvement, writing a strategic plan, and, obviously, admission procedures; they all become a sine qua non for implementing an effective dual language education instructional design. I especially liked the last three pages of the chapter since the author brings to the fore the fact that we all should bear in mind something occasionally obviated: that teacher preparation is one of the most relevant aspects of any programme.

Chapter 5, “Dual Language into Practice,” focuses on learning and teaching components of dual language programmes. The author also provides examples of how some language teachers use different strategies and activities to accomplish academic, linguistic and affective objectives. The main learning components are: second language and literacy development, content areas in both languages (the curricular content is never repeated -what has been learned in one language is continued in the other one), development of beneficial and constructive intercultural relationships, as well as positive attitudes to diversity. Amongst teaching components the book includes communicating and cooperating with parents, grouping techniques, cooperative learning, integrated and literature-based curricula, effective assessment and so forth.

Chapter 6, “Instructional Practices and Resources,” describes some productive strategies that are being used in dual language programmes; as in the previous chapter, the author includes the positive experiences of several teachers. The main purpose of the strategies suggested in this chapter is to make students progress academically, linguistically and socioculturally since their performance is supposed to be at or above grade level in the two languages. Dual language education integrates insights from constructivist, transactional and learner-centred theories; therefore cooperative grouping, partner strategies and total physical response are some of the strategies recommended by Dr. Soltero. She also presents useful instructional resources like bilingual and multicultural children’s literature, computer-based technology and multimedia tools that have a positive effect on dual language education.

In the last chapter, “Building and Maintaining a Model Program,” the author does not evade controversial issues related to dual language education; on the contrary, she confidently expounds her views on delicate themes or situations: teachers who do not believe in dual language education and who can sabotage the programme, parent and community skepticism, a shortage of qualified teachers, imbalance of students from each language group and so forth. This chapter is written as a kind of constructive conclusion that emphasizes the fact that building and maintaining an effective dual education programme requires the effort, commitment and willingness of all parties, i.e. students, families, administrators, teachers, institutions and the broader community.

The information provided by the four appendices can be very helpful for teachers involved in dual language education. Appendix A includes a list of children’s bilingual books in English and Spanish, cross-cultural and multicultural books in English, publishers of children’s books in other languages, as well as five web sites related to children’s literature. Appendix B presents an annotated list of videos for professional development. Appendix C offers a list of professional organizations, information and research centres, as well as dual language education conferences and seminars. Finally Appendix D provides an annotated list of educational software programmes.

The book also contains a quite complete glossary of terms and acronyms that help the reader understand the technical words occurring in the seven chapters, a reference section where the author gives evidence to support her findings, and an extensive index.

I really appreciated the author’s suggestions for further reading and a clear effort on her part to make the book accessible to beginners and yet still a useful resource for schools already participating in dual language education programmes.

In short, Dual Language: Teaching and Learning in Two Languages is one of the best guidebooks available for dual language instruction. While it is obvious that no book can prepare teachers and administrators for all the challenges they will come across before, while and after implementing a new programme; this book succeeds in addressing the main difficulties they will find and their possible solutions.

I particularly recommend this book for those schools that are considering the possibility of implementing a dual language bilingual education programme. A noticeable merit of the book is that in spite of being devoted to dual language education in the USA, most of the information provided can be very useful for any other country interested in implementing dual language education programmes.

 

Carmen-Pilar Serrano-Boyer is an EFL teacher at IES Torreón del Alcázar, a state secondary school in Ciudad Real, Spain. She has been teaching English for thirteen years.