Is the English Language in Danger of Extinction?


As people think about presidential candidates and their positions, we are asked to reflect on issues related to education.  One candidate favors English immersion over bilingual education.  The favoring of English-only education has come to the fore many times in US history and therefore should not surprise us.  Typically, fears around what will happen to our shared language of English if we allow other languages to be taught in schools are the foundation of the condemnation of bilingual education.  But if we can remember the dominance of English and it's prevalence world-wide, we need not be concerned about the extinction of English. Even in bilingual education programs, veteran teachers and administrators know the struggle it can be to make sure students are learning the non-English language.  Media, texts, the Internet, and society at large pressure students into spending more time in English than in their other languages.  The real danger is if our schools produce monolingual English speakers who do not know how to navigate our incredibly linguistically and culturally diverse nation and world.  The evidence is overwhelming - we must teach our population at least 2 languages and strong bilingual programs are an effective way to do this.


Hakuta, K., & Diaz, R. (1985). The relationship between the degree of bilingualism and cognitive ability. In K. E. Nelson (Ed.), Children’s language. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. 

Nettle, D., & Romaine, S. (2000). The extinction of the world’s languages. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ovando, C.J., Collier, V.P., Combs, M.C. (2003). Bilingual and ESL classrooms: Teaching in multicultural contexts (3rd ed).  New York, NY: McGraw Hill Higher Education.

Ramírez, J. D., Yuen, S. D., Ramey, D. R., & Pasta, D.J. (1991). Longitudinal study of structured English immersion, early-exit and late-exit transitional bilingual education programs for language minority children (Final report to the U.S. Department of Education, Executive Summary). San Mateo, CA: Aguirre International. 

Tricia Gallagher-Geurtsen
Tricia Gallagher-Geurtsen


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