Beyond ESL


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Beyond ESL : the teaching of content other than language arts in bilingual education
Physical Description:
Jacobson, Rodolfo
Hardman, Martha J., Dr. ( donor )
Southwest Educational Development Laboratory ( Austin, Texas )
Publication Date:
9, [1] p.; 28 cm.


Subjects / Keywords:
Education, -- Bilingual -- United States

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University of Florida
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Resource Identifier:
oclc - 4694017
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211 East 7th Street
Austin, Texas 78701

The Working Papers in Sociolinguistics series is produced
by the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory
with funds from the National Institute of Education,
Department of Health, Education & Welfare. The content
of these papers do not necessarily reflect DHEW policies
or views.

Richard Bauman
Joel Sherzer
The University of Texas, Austin

James H. Perry
Southwest Educational Development Laboratory

For further information contact:

211 East 7th Street
Austin, Texas 78701


Rodolfo Jacobson, Ph.D.

University of Texas at San Antonio

Sociolinguistic Working Paper


January, 1979

Southwest Educational Development Laboratory

211 East Seventh Street

Austin, Texas



Rodolfo Jacobson, Ph.D.

University of Texas at San Antonio

Despite the recent pronouncements in regard to the role that ESL is

playing within the bilingual education program, its position is still unclear

and many teachers, as well as the general public, continue under the impression

that children are taught bilingually when they are offered second language

instruction. That ESL plays an important role in a school system where

children with limited English-speaking abilities (LESA) are enrolled cannot be

denied but a truly bilingual program only starts when children have acquired

enough L-2 proficiency so as to function comfortably in both languages. ESL,

then, is merely a preliminary stage, and one that is restricted to English

language arts, in the child's educational process. It is upon this platform

that the bilingual teacher must build to teach the child the subjects of the

school curriculum. When the child is ready, through his/her own experience or

second language training (ESL for the Spanish-speaking and SSL for the English-

speaking) to receive instruction of content in the two languages, the bilingual

teacher must already have at his/her disposal a set of techniques specifically

designed for the child to internalize and to retrieve the information given

to him. It is the objective of this paper to describe in detail how the

teacher can go beyond the ESL/SSL stage and teach the content of the school

curriculum to those who learn as well in their native language as they do in

their second language.

The Concurrent Approach

A technique that is most appropriate for teaching content to bilingual

children and therefore utilizing the full linguistic repertoire of these

children is known as the Concurrent Approach. This author has conducted abun-

dant research involving the development of the more theoretical characteristics

of this approach as well as its implementation and evaluation at the school

level. This technique of bilingual instruction may be defined as a strategy

through which the bilingual teacher teaches school subjects in both of the

bilingual's two languages by using the two languages concurrently except when

language arts is being taught. The teacher switches frequently from one to the

other language but only when such a codeswitching method is pedagogically

justifiable. The following four criteria must however be met to make the

approach a sound one:

(1) the two languages must be distributed equally, thus allowing
as much time to one as to the other language;

(2) the actual teaching of content must be continued regardless
of the switching from L-l to L-2 and the lesson shall be
carried on as planned.

(3) the bilingual teacher knows when and why s/he makes the tran-
sitions from one to the other language; and lastly

(4) the teacher must have in mind a specific learning goal for his/her
children, thus avoiding the randomness that is observed in other
implementations of the approach.

Prior research

Prior research on the topic is scarce. As a matter of fact, except for

the favorable treatment of the closely related free alternation approach de-

scribed by William Mackey in his fine monograph "Bilingual Education in a

Binational School," a study of the bilingual method implemented in Berlin's

J. F. Kennedy School, we only find a few general comments concerning the

approach in the work of Andersson and Boyer (1970), Cordasco (1977) and a few

others. The discussions of these latter do not reflect a deeper knowledge of

the goals of the approach nor are their evaluations based on any known

implementation of a program design where the Concurrent Approach had been

chosen as a bilingual teaching mode. Their criticism is mainly based on two

unproven assumptions, i.e., (1) that bilingual teachers, who usually are

dominant in either one or the other language, cannot control their language

choice and will speak more often in one rather than the other language; in

other words, they cannot achieve a 50-50 ratio and (2) teaching the child in

both languages concurrently will confuse him/her and ultimately contribute

to his/her mixing the two languages, thus making it too difficult for him/her

to speak in one language at a time. It is my contention that teachers can be

trained to distribute their two languages allowing equal time to both and

that children can learn to speak one language exclusive of the other when

their feeling for language appropriateness is properly developed (see below).

Although little research is available with respect to the switching of codes

by teachers and students, codeswitching as a community-related strategy has

recently become an attractive research topic. At one conference alone, in

Princeton, New Jersey, as many as eight papers concerning codeswitching were

delivered. If the importance of this community pattern is further stressed,

a greater concern also for the pedagogical side of the switching, the Con-

current Approach, can be predicted. As the desire to bring together the

community and its schools increases, we can also expect the attempts of many--

especially the sociolinguistically oriented program designer--to employ or

at least to adapt some of the societal patterns to the teaching of children

in a school setting in order to render school activities less artificial than

they presently are. The author's own research in both the societal and the

pedagogical perspectives of codeswitching may be familiar to some and consists

of a number of studies which, over the last three years, have been presented

at conferences or appeared in professional journals or anthologies. As a

consultant for a South Texas bilingual education program which had incorporated

in its design the "Concurrent Approach," he was fortunate enough to test out his

interpretation of the approach and refine it as a result of the input from

teachers, administrators, and professional agencies, a dialogue that eventually

led to the formulation, in more concrete terms, of what the Concurrent Approach

is and what the rationale for its implementation might be. A brief discussion

of this rationale may thus be in order.

A Rationale for the Concurrent Approach

The Concurrent Approach can be justified on the basis of a number of basic

assumptions or facts. They are either psycholinguistic or sociolinguistic in

nature and reveal inner or environmental factors that operate whenever bilinguals

engage in communication. Some of the psycholinguistic considerations concern

the ways that bilinguals store and retrieve information. It appears that they

can do so in either language and it is difficult to predict in which language

they would be more successful at a given moment. On the other hand, there

seems to be no problem, at least for the fairly educated speaker, to separate

the two languages when the situation requires it. Both of these facts indicate

that the concurrent use of the two languages in a bilingual program may be the

most appropriate technique to reach the bilingual child, as s/he internalizes

information in both languages. There is very little danger in that the joint

exposure to two languages will hurt him in any way. The sociolinguistic

considerations refer to the interactional norms of the bilingual society and

the role that the teacher should play in his/her class as s/he becomes socio-

logically more sophisticated. It is, without any doubt, the result of deeper

sociological insights, that we are today trying to correlate school programs

and community patterns as well as objectives and that we expect our teachers

to be more sensitive to the social problems of our children. As for the

latter, we may wish to find in our teachers the talents of a sociolinguistic
investigator, so that s/he may analyze his/her class as if it were a social

situation at large. If the interactional norms of the bilingual society, on

the other hand, permit a certain degree of language alternation, then it may

be worth considering whether a similar degree of codeswitching might be

acceptable as a teaching strategy. The sociolinguistic considerations, then,

equally seem to favor the joint use of the two languages, as this would reflect

the community's language behavior more effectively and, at the same time, would

require the bilingual teacher to analyze his/her students in a sociolinguisti-

cally more meaningful way.

General Theme and System of Cues

Once it is agreed that the concurrent use of the two languages is the best

strategy to reach the bilingual child it behooves us to determine in what way

the two languages shall be distributed in order to match the definition that

is given above of the Concurrent Approach. No balanced distribution of the

two languages can pertain, unless the individual grants equal prestige to both.

Hence the general theme that permeates the whole approach is the "Prestige of

Codes," that is, the belief that each language is an equally effective and

valuable medium of communication. Thus, the attitudinal perspective is at

the heart of the matter and the success of the approach is contingent on the

self-awareness of both the teachers and the students. The actual decision,

however, when one or the other language should be chosen is ruled by a series

of cues to which the individual participants in the school experience are

expected to respond. These cues are grouped within four broader areas: inter-

personal relationships, language development, curriculum, and classroom strategies.

Each of the cues marks a specific source that may trigger a language switch

at a given moment, and the inventory of the cues serves as a guideline for the

teacher to follow in order to balance out both linguistic codes. Four class-

room strategies seem to benefit from intersentential switching. A concept

taught in language A can be reinforced more effectively if this is done in

language B. A lesson taught in language A can be reviewed in language B to

add a new perspective to the review lesson. The switch from language A to

language B is an effective strategy, just like Gumperz' metaphorical switching

(Gumperz, 1971: 294-96), in order to recapture the attention of one or more

children whose mind(s) wandered off unexpectedly. To praise a child or to

reprimand him/her is often done more convincingly in the child's dominant

language. Hence, conceptual reinforcement, review, capturing of attention

and approval/disapproval are being suggested as strategies where the switching

from one to the other language is very effective.

The bilingual child is expected to become sensitive to those switches

that occur because one language is more appropriate than the other at a given

moment. By the same token, s/he can, regardless of school subject, react more

enthusiastically to certain areas in content in, say, Spanish and to others in

English. Finally, bilingual children must be encouraged to read about the same

subject in both languages. They will do better in class discussion, if they

are allowed to talk in Spanish about what they read in that language and, in

English about what they read in the mainstream language. In sum, language

appropriateness, content, and text are three important cues that trigger

switches whenever curricular matters are of concern. Language is not only

developed in the language arts class but also at other moments of the instruc-

tional process. Whereas the language arts class is restricted to the language

that is being taught, the various school subjects allow the teacher to have

the child who needs more proficiency in one language express him/herself in

that language. Furthermore, s/he may wish to help the child in expanding

his/her vocabulary range in the weaker language as well as have him/her

acquire some expertise in rendering in language B what was just said in

language A. Variable language dominance, lexical enrichment, and transla-

tability are therefore thought of as powerful goals in the language develop-

ment of the bilingual child. Not everything in the class is geared to the

acquisition of information. There also occurs a great deal of interpersonal

relationship between teacher and students that require of the former to make

some meaningful decisions as to which language is more appropriate during

the verbal interaction. Is this interaction rather intimate or is it formal?

Is the preference of one over the other language a matter of courtesy or one

of free choice? Is the child fatigued or does his/her self-awareness need to

be strengthened? Are we talking about the usual teacher-student relationship

or one where the teacher wishes to establish an almost peer-like rapport with

one or more of his/her students? The presence of any one of these cues may

suggest a language switch to achieve a more satisfactory bilingual performance.

Therefore, intimacy-formality, courtesy, free choice, fatigue, self-awareness,

and rapport have been proposed as cues under "Interpersonal Relationships" in

order for the teacher to react to them by making a language choice decision

that is most conducive to producing a truly bilingual atmosphere.

Implementation of Approach

To implement the Concurrent Approach as here described, I have recently

conducted a workshopI which was attended by 22 bilingual teachers of a South

Texas school district. The school subjects Mathematics, Science, and Social

Studies were found to be most appropriate in demonstrating the effectiveness

of the approach. After viewing several video demonstration lessons using the

cited technique, workshop participants were trained to develop bilingual

lesson plans in which they would plan their language alternations in advance,

so that some portions of the lesson would be taught in English and some other

portions in Spanish and would, in addition, specify at each switching point

what pedagogical objective was to be accomplished by it. As these lesson

plans were actually carried out in a number of mini lessons, teachers would

make last minute adjustments to their plans, depending on the children's actual

responses. Where teachers, for example, had planned in advance for the child

to respond in the language in which they were asked, they realized that the

child would perform contrary to their expectation. It now became a matter of

the teacher's resourcefulness to mentally reorganize the structure of the

lesson to achieve the intended goal of the language switch. Each one of these

lessons was also videotaped and could then serve as basis for discussion to

participants and facilitators in order to explore the potentials of a creative

bilingual class. Pilot studies of this nature will eventually be incorporated

in teacher training modules for large scale implementation. These modules are

intended to contain five segments: theory and application, demonstration classes,

experimentation and critiques, limited implementations, and full implementation.

The participating bilingual teachers must understand the underlying theory and

how this theory is applied before s/he can appreciate the demonstration lessons

taught by a master teacher. His/her own experimentation must be accompanied

by critiques either from peers or instructors. Once the teacher feels confi-

dent, s/he is encouraged to implement it at a limited scale. The full imple-

mentation in all bilingual classes of a teacher, a school, or even the school

district will often be contingent upon the success of the limited scale imple-

mentations of the preceding segment. Reactions from teachers in our region

* have been most encouraging and there is great expectation that the "Concurrent

Approach" will find many supporters in the time to come.


It has been the objective of the paper to define what is known as the

"Concurrent Approach" and to describe it as the technique that is most appro-

priate when bilinguals--or quasi-bilinguals for that matter--are taught content.

Except for the teaching of language arts, the bilingual child should be reached

and taught to function in his/her two languages because only this way will the

child be able to internalize and to retrieve the information that s/he is

exposed to in his/her childhood and adolescent years. It has also been the

objective to specify the steps through which the bilingual teacher can acquire

the expertise to teach through the approach recommended here; i.e., sociolin-

guistic sensitivity, identification of socio-pedagogical cues, conscious

manipulation of his/her own (and the child's) switching practices, and adap-

tation to this approach of his/her bilingual teaching methodology. It is hoped

that the meaningfulness of the approach for an area like San Antonio, where

bilinguality can be achieved at a very early age, has become clearer and that

steps can soon be undertaken to make our bilingual programs more compatible

with the setting of our highly bilingual school population.


Iln conducting this workshop, I was competently assisted by Ms. Olga Rubio,
education specialist of IDRA (Intercultural Development Research Association),
San Antonio, Tx., who during the workshop as also elsewhere, has greatly
contributed to the development and the implementation of the "Concurrent
Approach." My gratitude also goes to Mr. Don G. Hughes, Superintendent,
Laredo United Independent School District, and Mr. Guadalupe Puente, Director,
Bilingual Education Program, Clark Elementary School, Laredo, Texas, for their
support of the approach developed by Ms. Rubio and myself.


1. Andersson, Theodore and Boyer, Mildred, Bilingual Schooling in the
United States. Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, Austin,
Texas, 1970.

2. Cordasco, Francesco, Bilingual Schooling in the United States: A
Sourcebook for Educational Personnel, McGraw Hill Book Company, New
York, 1977.

3. Duran, Richard, ed. Proceedings of the National Conference on Chicano
and Latino Discourse Behavior, Princeton, New Jersey (to appear).

4. Gumperz, John J, Language in Social Groups, Stanford University Press,
Stanford, California, 1971.

5. Jacobson, Rodolfo, "How to Trigger Codeswitching in a Bilingual Class-
room," B. Hoffer and B. L. Dubois, eds. Southwest Area Linguistics Now
and Then, Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas, 1977a.

6. __________ "The Social Implications of Intrasentential Code-
switching," R. Romo and R. Paredes, eds. New Directions in Chicano
Scholarship, Chicano Studies Monograph Series, University of California,
San Diego, California, 1977b.

7. ______, "Anticipatory Embedding and Imaginary Content: Two
Newly Identified Codeswitching Variables," A. G. Lozano, ed. Bilingual
and Biliterate Perspectives (SWALLOW VII Proceedings), University of
Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, 1978a.

8. ______, "Codeswitching in South Texas Sociolinguistic Con-
siderations and Pedagogical Applications," The Journal of the Linguis-
tic Association of the Southwest, Volume III, Nos. 1 and 2, 1978b.

9. Mackey, William. Bilingual Education in a Binational School, Newbury
House, Rowley, Massachusetts, 1972.


This paper outlines a concurrent approach to the teaching of con-

tent other than language arts in bilingual education, a strategy in

which the bilingual teacher teaches school subjects in both of the bi-

lingual's languages by using the two languages concurrently, exc pt

when language arts is being taught. The author specifies the steps

through which the bilingual teacher can acquire the expertise to teach

by means of the concurrent approach, calling for sociolinguistic sen-

sitivity, identification of socio-pedagogical cues to guide the shift

from one language to another, conscious manipulation of his/her own

and the children's switching practices, and adaptation to the approach

of his/her bilingual teaching methodology.