Nowadays more and more kids are growing up bilingual. In school, however, they need to use only one of their languages, which is the official for the country that they live in, while at home they communicate primarily in their mother tongue. There are, however, some countries, which use both languages at school. As the idea of bilingual education is becoming more popular in the world and in the USA in particular, the e-learning industry should be able to answer a possible demand for bilingual online courses. Here is a short guide on how to do that and what are the overall benefits of bilingual education.
What is bilingual education?
The term bilingual education means that academic teaching is done in two languages – the native language of the students and a secondary language. The amount of each language used and the subjects covered in it varies in accordance with the educational model used. The two languages are used as part of the entire school curriculum. Students in such bilingual education programs are referred to as bilingual learners. The term bilingual learner, however, can also be used to refer to a student, who uses their first language at home, while their learning at school is done using a second language.
The curriculum at a school or university can be done in different ways to encompass bilingual learning. If a student is following such a program it means that they study some non-language subjects, such as history, math or geography through their first language and some non-language subjects – biology, physics, etc., through their second language. While this is the main principle used, it is also possible to study some of the subjects through both languages. Some educational institutions can also offer programs that use more than two languages – three or four but that is much rarer.
The main benefits of this type of bilingual education are as follows:
- Students acquire better proficiency in the second language
- Students can acquire the same level of academic knowledge as those who are on a monolingual program – regardless of whether they study through their first or second language
- Students get a better understanding of both the culture of their mother tongue and the culture of the second language that they use
As a result of this kind of education, students are perceived to have increased mental flexibility, better inter-cultural skills and are more prepared to enter the business world especially dealing with trade, cultural exchange or interpretation and translation.
Bilingual education comes with some challenges as well. The educational institution needs to decide whether it will offer such type of education for the entire institution or just for a certain stream. Afterward comes the question when bilingual education needs to start. There are pros and cons of both earlier and later introduction of bilingual education. Some of the challenges are financial or related to the overall provision of materials in both languages, finding, training and keeping teachers on those subjects, etc.
If a school decides to offer bilingual education, they can find support from similar institutions, receive training online and participate in exchange practices in order to gain the necessary knowledge and skills for the undertaking.
Building Bilingual E-learning Courses
Education is not limited only to the classroom, it is normal to expect bilingual online courses as well. In order to make a good online course you need to take the following three aspects into account:
- Consider bilingual requirements while planning the course
In your needs analysis you need to take into account that the course is going to be developed in a specific way – to incorporate bilingual training. This means that you need to be more careful with the overall design of the modules. Practically you are going to perform e-learning localization at the very beginning of the course design. You need to consider images and references that will be relevant to the cultures of both languages that will be included in the course. If you are going to include a video, you need to think which language you are going to do for the voiceover and which for the subtitles.
- Consider the scope of the bilingual content
You need to determine whether you are going to present the entire content of the course in two languages or only parts of it. Ideally, it will be good to have everything in both languages, however, if for any reason – financial, practical or other considerations, you decide to do just some of the elements, you need to think which one to include. Should you present only the on-screen text, the navigation menus, audio or video. This decision depends on the target audience and their educational needs.
- Hire a professional translator
The secret to creating a great online course is in using professional services. When it comes to creating bilingual modules, you need an experienced native translator, who will translate the course or parts of it into the desired language. It is also a good idea to work with e-learning experts that can help you with the very creation of the course or use an authoring tool that can help you create courses compatible with all mobile devices, such as Articulate Storyline 360.
Benefits of Being Bilingual
As a whole, it is considered that being bilingual has many benefits both for the mental and physical health of the person. While bilingual kids tend to start speaking at an older age, they develop into adults who are more creative, better in solving complex problems and very good at planning. Besides, knowing more than one language slows down aging and can prevent Alzheimer.
While bilingual education is not that popular across the world, even though it is introduced in many countries, it is interesting that only a handful of countries have just one indigenous language. For example, the Vatican State, Bermuda, North Korea, Maldives, and the Falkland Islands.
Whether you or your child will participate in bilingual education depends a lot on your personal situation and the country you live in. However, if you have the choice between monolingual and bilingual training, there is a good reason to consider the latter as it will offer more benefits.