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Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism (6th Edition)

reviewed by Deborah K. Palmer & Kimberly A. Strong - June 07, 2018

coverTitle: Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism (6th Edition)
Author(s): Colin Baker & Wayne E. Wright
Publisher: Multilingual Matters, Clevedon
ISBN: 1783097205, Pages: 560, Year: 2017
Search for book at Amazon.com

“As I was reading Chapter One, I started to think about how I teach and what kind of teacher I am in the classroom… am I really meeting the needs of all my students?”

- Patty Foley, Middle School Teacher, Adams 12 Five Star Schools, Colorado


“Language is so much more than words… it's that connection to who you are... where you came from... who you are connected to. Through the readings this week I got a whole new appreciation and respect for the idea of language and how it is so much deeper than just written and spoken words.”

- Kristi Boddy, Middle School Teacher, Adams 12 Five Star Schools, Colorado


“Over the last few years as I have watched my Spanish for Native Speaker program dissolve into almost nothing... I have honestly felt like I had no ground to stand on because I could not articulate to our building leaders the academic value and educational and social benefits that my program provides our Spanish-speaking population at our school… Now, however, in reading Chapter Ten in Baker and Wright, about the types of bilingual education, I will be advocating for my students and presenting my administration with facts and evidence about how my program promotes additive bilingualism.”

- Heather Wimmer, Middle School Teacher, Adams 12 Five Star Schools, Colorado


We just used the new 6th edition of Colin Baker’s well-known textbook, Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, this time co-authored by Wayne Wright, as the primary textbook for our survey course on bilingual education for a group of sixth to twelfth grade teachers in Colorado public schools seeking master’s degrees. Agreeing wholeheartedly with these quotes from our students, we were inspired. Chock full of details, comprehensive, and up-to-date in its coverage of the field, the book reads smoothly. It is most appropriate for master’s level students or above, especially K-12 teachers working with or hoping to work with emerging bilingual students. This textbook is so rich with information that it actually would not make an ideal introductory text for undergraduate students or even preservice teachers. It is just a little too dense and technical for younger audiences who do not yet have the teaching experiences necessary to contextualize all that the book has to offer. It would, however, make a wonderful supporting text for a survey course at the doctoral level; its references alone make the text worth the purchase.

We particularly appreciated the authors’ open approach to controversial topics. They do not shy away from naming systems of power and privilege, even examining the role of nationalism in language policies and ideologies. While such frank discussion of politically charged topics might seem risky, their inclusion is evidence of the authors' intentionality in providing a multifaceted exploration of bilingualism and bilingual education. For example, they link bilingualism to issues of “power, identity, ideology, and politics” to premise their argument that it is “minority language children who often suffer devaluation of identity, added subordination and disempowerment in their schooling experience” (p. 397).

However, their engagement in controversial topics is not one-sided. The authors are careful not to dismiss any position out of hand. For example, although throughout the book they appropriately adopt a pluralist stance toward bi(multi)lingualism, during their discussion of language ideologies they paint the presence and role of assimilationist ideologies with a nuanced, thoughtful brush, describing them as “partly based on equality of opportunity and a meritocracy that enables each individual to have a fair chance of economic prosperity” (p. 390). By giving due and respectful space to all viewpoints, the authors clearly prioritize inviting all readers, regardless of politics, to join a reflective, research-based investigation into bilingualism and bilingual education.

The organization of the text is meant to facilitate this investigation. After an introductory chapter that defines key terminology and overarching ideas, the book begins with foundational issues related to understanding bilingualism, including the social, political, and cognitive dimensions of bilingualism for individuals and communities both in the United States and throughout the world. They then move into, as they describe in the introduction, the “many aspects of bilingual and multilingual education.” This includes analysis of historical and contemporary educational theories and practices for bilingual students relating to the divergent goals of either suppressing or cultivating bilingualism. The book finishes with a consideration of “the political and cultural dimensions that surround bilingualism (and bilingual education) in society,” including language ideologies and rights. With the breadth of coverage that this text offers, connecting such disparate themes is certainly a challenge, but we do not doubt that the organization of the chapters will serve many instructors well.

However, for several reasons, we found this organization to be a challenge. Our master’s students will actually be using the text for two of their courses: “Introduction to Bilingual/Multicultural Education,” which is more concerned with bilingual education, and “Second Language Acquisition,” which is more concerned with bilingualism. Approximately half the chapters are suited to each course, but they are not necessarily in order.

In our case, for instance, we began with Chapter One, but then jumped to Chapters Eight and Nine to offer our students foundational information about the theories that undergird bilingual programming and the history that led to our current context. Then, as we were introducing the range of program models and their effectiveness (which followed logically in Chapters Ten through Twelve), we wanted to ensure our students had an understanding of language orientations and language ideologies. These topics appear in Chapters Seventeen and Eighteen. Chapters Thirteen through Sixteen, covering topics such as bilingual education program types and effectiveness, biliteracy development, issues related to special needs and exceptional bilingual students, and deaf education, all followed logically both in the book and in our syllabus. However, before the semester ended, we again jumped back to include Chapters Three and Four, which explored issues of language endangerment and language shift. The topics covered in the book, which are all crucial and supportive of students’ understanding of the field, seem to travel from theory, to practice, to history and policy, back to issues of practice and program implementation, then back to theory.

Of course, what we are describing as a potential challenge of this text is in reality a strength. So long as instructors apply their own logic and creativity to the order of chapters, the book lends itself to individual customization depending on each instructor’s students, goals, and context. And with nineteen meaty chapters, there is more than enough content for (in our case) two semester-long courses.

We highly recommend this book for instructors looking for the most comprehensive treatment of this topic. While we supplemented each week’s readings with articles to offer students some examples of research, the text itself shares so many rich examples from the field that it hardly requires supplementation.


Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: June 07, 2018
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22402, Date Accessed: 10/21/2021 8:19:00 PM

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About the Author
  • Deborah Palmer
    University of Colorado Boulder
    E-mail Author
    DEBORAH K. PALMER is a professor of educational equity and cultural diversity at the University of Colorado Boulder. She is a qualitative researcher who explores issues of equity and justice in bilingual and dual language education programs, and teacher leadership/agency. Her book, titled Teacher leadership for Social Change in Bilingual and Bicultural Education, will be published in August 2018.
  • Kimberly Strong
    University of Colorado Boulder
    E-mail Author
    KIMBERLY A. STRONG is a doctoral student in educational equity and cultural diversity at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her research interests are in discourse analysis and critical theory as applied to bilingual education and multilingual contexts.
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