Home > Education > Must-Read Book: Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism

Must-Read Book: Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism

51ychk4hhxlA new online friend that I met on twitter recently asked me about the best book to read regarding bilingual and multilingual education. I told her without hesitation that a must-read book is Colin Baker’s Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. The book is currently in its fourth edition and I just can’t get enough of the book. I have read each edition, and the fourth edition is absolutely the best!! This book has invaluable information to both bilingual ed neophytes, as well as experts in the bilingual education community.

The book has nineteen chapters and an extensive bibliography. Each chapter is extremely detailed and provides suggested reading as well as activities to develop your understanding of the information in each chapters. The topics include the following information:

  • Chapter One: Bilingualism and Distinctions. The first chapter discusses distinctions of bilingualism (i.e., balanced bilingualism, etc) as well as the topic of levels of communicative competence (e.g., Does the bilingual have conversational or academic proficiency?).
  • Chapter Two: The Measurement of Bilingualism. The chapter title sums it all up. Baker discusses the purposes of measuring bilingualism, forms of assessments, and the limitations in assessment.
  • Chapter Three: Endangered Languages: Planning and Revitalization. Chapter three details the current state of endangered languages, as well as language planning and policies that can endanger or revitalize languages. 
  • Chapter Four: Languages in Society. Chapter four discusses language shift and maintenance, as well as language decline, death and resurrection. The topics of language conflict and nationalism is covered as well.
  • Chapter Five: The Early Development of Bilingualism. This chapter is a must-read for any parent who desires to raise a bilingual child. Various models are discussed (i.e., “one parent-one language”), as well as the types of childhood bilingualism and trilingualism. This chapter also reviews the bilingual child case-study literature. There is also an interesting little section on codeswitching, when bilingual children and adults mix the two languages.
  • Chapter Six: The Later Development of Bilingualism. Chapter six details the various societal and individual reasons for learning a second language, as well as individual differences in attitude and motivation regarding second language learning. The chapter also makes some interesting points of identity formation of bilingual individuals, something that I have also started to write about here and here
  • Chapter Seven: Bilingualism and Cognition. This chapter discusses the following aspects of bilingualism: 1) intelligence; 2) brain research; 3) creative and divergent thinking; 4) metalinguistic awareness (i.e., thinking about language); and, 5) communicative sensitivity. 
  • Chapter Eight: Cognitive Theories of Bilingualism and the Curriculum. Chapter eight focuses on the theories of the balance theory, iceberg analogy, and the thresholds theory. If you don’t know these theories about second language education, then read the book!!
  • Chapter Nine: Historical Introduction to Bilingual Education-The United States. This fascinating chapter provides a brief overview of the history of bilingual education in the United States, as well as the Proposition 227 (i.e., “English for the Children”) policy designed to eliminate or restrict bilingual education. The federal “No Child Left Behind” legislation is also discussed. The issue of the achievement gap is also discussed. 
  • Chapter Ten: Types of Bilingual Education. Baker compares and contrasts the various forms of subtractive (i.e., taking away a student’s primary language while adding a second language) and additive (i.e., developing and maintaining students’ primary language while adding a second language) bilingual education programs. 
  • Chapter Eleven: Education for Bilingualism and Biliteracy. Chapter eleven reviews Dual Immersion/two-way immersion/dual language programs, heritage language bilingual education programs (e.g., development and maintenance of heritage languages, as in the case of Native American languages), and immersion bilingual education (e.g., Canadian immersion programs which develop French-English biliteracy).
  • Chapter Twelve: The Effectiveness of Bilingual Education. Chapter twelve clearly delineates the research base on the effectiveness of bilingual education, including Dual Immersion programs, immersion bilingual education programs, and heritage language programs. This chapter is a must-read for everyone, because it dispels many of the myths regarding the ineffectiveness of bilingual education which are perpetuated by the media as well as people without a background in bilingual education. 
  • Chapter Thirteen: Effective Schools and Classrooms for Bilingual Students. The title sums it all up. Chapter thirteen details the various components that are necessary for effective schools and classrooms in the education of bilingual and trilingual students. 
  • Chapter Fourteen: Literacy, Biliteracy and Multiliteracies for Bilinguals. This chapter discusses the various viewpoints of teaching reading to bilingual students, as well as how to best foster biliteracy development.
  • Chapter Fifteen: The Assessment of Special Educational Needs of Bilinguals. In this chapter, the following topics are covered: 1) gifted multilingual and bilingual children; 2) language delay issues; 3) assessment of struggling learners; 4) causes of special needs and learning difficulties; and, 5) special education for bilingual students.
  • Chapter Sixteen: Deaf People, Bilingualism, and Bilingual Education. This chapter explores the concepts of deafness and bilingualism. Fostering bilingualism with sign language is also discussed. 
  • Chapter Seventeen: Bilingualism as a Problem, Resource, or a Right. This chapter summarizes Ruiz’s notions of bilingualism as a problem, resource or right. The chapter describes how bilingualism has been characterized in the past as a “problem”, such as the former notion that bilingualism retards intelligence. In addition, the chapter describes that bilingualism can also be viewed as a “resource”, one of the main premises of Dual Immersion programs. In addition, Colin also discusses that bilingualism is a “right”, that language minority populations have the linguistic human right to be bilingual.
  • Chapter Eighteen: Bilingualism and Bilingual Education: Ideology, Identity and Empowerment. Chapter eighteen covers the topics of assimilation, linguistic and cultural pluralism, and  bilingual-bicultural identity construction. 
  • Chapter Nineteen: Bilingualism in the Modern World. Chapter nineteen provides an overview of bilingualism and the following topics: 1) mass media, 2) the workplace; 3) the internet; 4) the economy; and, 5) tourism. There is an interesting brief section on the economic benefits of biliteracy in the global economy. 

I can’t reiterate enough how valuable this book is. I consider myself to be extremely knowledgeable about the field of bilingual education, and this book is a resource that I frequently return to in order to look for future reading topics. The citations that Baker uses are abundant, and the book points you in the direction of additional readings on each of the topics. I just can’t live without this book.

Buy it for yourself! Trust me–you won’t regret it!!

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Categories: Education
  1. July 10, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    I agree that this is a great book! I have never come into anything comparable.

  2. July 13, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    I’m reading this book for one of my bilingual ed. masters classes right now. I’m glad to hear it’s a good one!

    • multilingualmania
      July 14, 2009 at 9:52 pm

      It is the best!!

  3. louise
    September 12, 2009 at 11:10 am

    It’s an excellent resource! I am glad I bought it and preparing for my BCLAD exam.

    • multilingualmania
      October 6, 2009 at 9:11 am

      Good luck on the BCLAD exam! It will definitely help you! Let me know if you would like any other suggestions.

  4. metty
    March 4, 2010 at 2:48 am

    How could I get this book? This will be very important for my research proposal topic, thanks.

  5. multilingualmania
    March 4, 2010 at 7:40 am
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