Bilingualism Effects on Student's Academic Achievement

Bilingualism affects the education and academic achievement of children as they progress through school. Bilingual Education involves the instruction of two different languages in a single classroom setting (Azeen, 2009). Bilingual Education is common throughout the United States and most, if not all, high schools offer a range of bilingual classes for their students. Although bilingual classes have grown popular among high schools, there is still a large concern on the affects that bilingualism plays in children's learning process.

Bilingual children face advantages and disadvantages in learning that monolingual learners do not experience. There is a divided opinion among educators that proclaim bilingual children differ from monolingual children in academic achievement. Many studies have been conducted to demonstrate the influence of bilingualism upon children’s achievement in school. Some studies have shown positive correlation among bilingual children and academic achievement while others have revealed negative correlation between bilingualism and academic achievement (Tsushima & Hogan, 1975).

Advantages of Bilingualism on School Achievement

Research indicates various numbers of advantages among bilingual children and their school achievement. Studies have reported positive effects of bilingualism on children who have proficiency in both languages (Tsushima & Hogan, 1975). As these children continue to develop, their ability to analyze and become aware of their two distinct languages aid in their overall academic language skills. Cummins (1981) stresses the importance of children gaining control over their two language systems and how bilingual children have learned to decipher much more language input than monolingual children. Therefore, bilingual children have more practice in analyzing meanings than monolingual children.

Race Specific Advantages

Bilingualism has a positive effect on the academic achievement of immigrant children (Tsushima & Hogan, 1975). Studies have shown that immigrant children whom grow up speaking two languages are at a higher advantage than monolingual children because learning both languages stimulates cognitive development (Malim, 2002). In addition to advanced cognitive development, bilingual immigrant children are able to maintain their cultural heritage through the use of their native-language (Mouw & Xie, 1999).

Bilingualism Affects on Asian-Americans

  • Cognitive perspective of Asian-Americans show a beneficial mental development because the children can switch easily between two linguistic mediums (Mouw & Xie, 1999).
  • Asian-American bilinguals demonstrate a positive effect on their intellectual development.
  • Cultural perspective of bilingual Asian-Americans demonstrate better access to their ethnic and cultural roots compared to their monolingual counterparts (Mouw & Xie, 1999).
  • Since Asian-Americans are connected to their cultural values through language, these Asian-American bilingual students hold higher achievement expectations for themselves and are more motivated to succeed in school (Wong & Wong-Hernandez, 2002).
  • Parents of bilingual children also benefit since their children incorporate more English language into the family household (Mouw & Xie, 1999).
Bilingualism Affects on Hispanic-Americans
  • Hispanic-Americans praise the role of community in their education and bilingual children are able to incorporate their environmental surroundings to succeed in their academic achievement (Wong & Wong-Hernandez, 2002).
  • The increase of bilingual Hispanic-Americans academic achievement contribute to the increase advancement of labor jobs for Hispanics (Wong & Wong-Hernandez, 2002).
  • Bilingual education gives Hispanic immigrants a safe environment to rely on.
  • Bilingual education also helps raise the percentage of Hispanic dropout rates (Krashen, 1998).

Disadvantages of Bilingualism on School Achievement

Although bilingual children may exhibit areas of strengths, their acquisition of a second language can leave them impaired in other areas of schooling. Many bilingual children are not equally skilled in both languages. Often times, bilingual children will understand more in one language but speak more in the other language. The major disadvantages bilingual children exhibit remains in their reading and language art skills. Research insists that bilinguals demonstrate weaker language abilities than monolinguals (Tsushima & Hogan, 1975).

The development pattern of bilingual children becomes prominent during their later stages of elementary school. Bilingual and monolingual children progress equally through the 3rd and 4th grade. However, by 5th grade, bilingual children show a significantly lower standard test scores compared to monolingual children (Tsushima & Hogan, 1975). The difference in academic achievement between bilingual and monolingual children tends to increase as the students progress onto higher grade levels. In 3rd grade, bilingual children show a slightly higher test scored than monolinguals. The only subset that differs significantly among the two language group was spelling, with the bilingual children producing better scores (Tsushima & Hogan, 1975). However, by 4th grade, the direction in academic achievement is reversed among the two language levels and by 5th grade, the monolinguals prevail in clear superiority over bilingual children. The largest bilingual difference was found in 5th grade with bilingual children performing significantly poorer than monolingual children in vocabulary, reading, language usage, total study skills, and composite comprehension (Malim, 2002). Their main struggles involve reading comprehension and vocabulary (Tsushima & Hogan, 1975). But the most striking trends occur in language usage. Continual research reveals distinct patterns of increasing verbal difficulty among bilingual children as they become older (Tsushima & Hogan, 1975). As children continue onto higher grades, their progress is impaired due to the increasingly complex language functions required of them. Bilingual children school achievement begins to regress after 5th grade due to the increase in reading and verbal problems.

Race Specific Disadvantages

Although bilingual education can provide advantages to immigrant children, they can also hinder the learning habits and developments of students (Tsushima & Hogan, 1975). Asian-American bilingual students show a smaller degree of disadvantages compared to Hispanic decent bilingual immigrants.

Bilingualism Affects on Asian-Americans
  • One of the biggest concerns for Asian-American bilingual students is the limited number of Asian-American bilingual classrooms. A majority of bilingual classrooms are designed for Hispanics and Asian immigrants are placed in these classrooms. Since there is not a large number Asian-American fluent bilingual instructors, the students face more difficulties in asking for help in their native language or understanding the instructor (Wong & Wong-Hernandez, 2002).
  • Asian-Americans have difficulties coping with culture-conflict. Their culture-conflict is basically defined by their pride and self-esteem on how to assimilate into the American society (Wong & Wong-Hernandez, 2002).
  • As a result of their culture-conflict, some Asians view their ethnicity as a handicap that may lead to continuous discrimination by our society (Wong & Wong-Hernandez, 2002).
Bilingualism Affects on Hispanic-Americans
  • Bilingual education programs do not sufficiently aide the students in mastering the English language (Porter, 1998).
  • Upon graduation, Hispanics exhibit poorer reading skills in both English and their native language (Cromwell, 1998).
  • Doubts that bilingual education programs hinder Hispanic students by retaining them in bilingual courses longer than necessary and short-ending the students from taking more rigorous courses in school (Porter, 1998).