What are some of the challenges you face as a bilingual coordinator?
The main one is to make teachers conceive bilingualism as a hard job which demands the best from everyone and that the only way to solve the problem is working in groups and being well organized. A bilingual coordinator has to check that everyone has support and is working in the same way. Dealing with Assistants’ timetables and their interaction with students and teachers is another important task.
In your opinion, what are some of the main benefits of bilingual education?
There are lots of benefits… Pupils learn English contents in a meaningful way and in context. From the very beginning they are naturally using language strategies so the acquisition of L2 is richer. These strategies will permit our kids not only to use a second language to explain processes but also to link them to their mother tongue and other languages in secondary school.
How do pupils tend to respond to learning other subjects in English?
This depends on how we teach a subject, the atmosphere created in the classroom and how we encourage them. We are in the most stimulating period of Earth´s history so if they receive enough motivation they can give us more than we can imagine. They consider these subjects dynamic and enjoyable. The participation required by these subjects make them part of processes that they control and in which teachers are guiding them through.
What are some of the challenges that teachers face when teaching other subjects in English?
The first and the most important one is understanding that bilingualism is teaching English through the contents of a subject. Another one is the use of the language as a reference. For a long time we used translation to explain what students did not understand. We have to keep speaking in the language vehicle, avoiding the double job of translation. Visual support and participative activities will be helpful. Children should know we speak in English and only accept English as the language of communication.
What are some things that schools that hope to embark on bilingualism should keep in mind?
Bilingualism is a school project in which all teachers have to know about the way it works and support it. It is also essential for teachers to figure out that how we teach is more important than what we teach. It means re-starting a school, in other words preparing teaching plans in advance.
Any other comments?
I recommend all teachers to extend their didactic units making them longer and teaching the contents in depth only once every cycle. It gives the pupils enough time for production.
Many thanks to Willy for sharing his ideas and experience with us!!