They Found a Common Language: Community Through Bilingual Education

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9780060684020: They Found a Common Language: Community Through Bilingual Education

The "melting pot" concept to create a homogeneous language group and culture in the US has clearly failed, with the tragic result of mass illiteracy for minority language groups. To restructure America's proverbial Tower of Babel, the author argues for the systematic application of bilingual education in areas where numerous languages are spoke. On his trip to the four Republics of the Caucasus in the USSR, Dr. Townsend found a remarkable model of bilingual success. He sees in its achievement a realistic and hopeful alternative. In the tiny Republic of Daghestan alone, at least 87 distinct languages are used. Before the program was put into effect, people from one village could barely communicate with individuals from a neighboring town, and not at all with the majority of Soviet citizens who spoke exclusively in Russian. In the short span of 50 years, these once illiterate and isolated peoples learned to read and write, first in their local tongues and then in the national Russian. Now, they retain the native language and culture yet participate actively as citizens of their nation. The first step in bilingual education is the creation of a phonemic alphabet in which one symbol represents one sound and one sound only. As the members of the community attain literacy in their native tongue, this same phonemic alphabet is used to teach the people to speak and write phonemincally in the national language. The use of the identical alphabet for both languages encourages an easy transition from one tongue to another. In this way can the doors to cross-cultural and intranational community be opened for a two-way, mutually beneficial exchange. This method contains the seeds of a major community breakthrough for the US. For the purpose of bilingual education is not to supplant the minority language and culture with the nationally predominant one, but to create a structure whereby the two language and culture groups will progressively supplement one another.

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Townsend, William Cameron
Published by Harper & Row (1972)
ISBN 10: 006068402X ISBN 13: 9780060684020
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Townsend, William Cameron
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William Cameron Townsend
Published by Harper & Row (1972)
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