Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 7th Edition
reviewed by Margarita Huerta - September 13, 2021
Title: Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 7th Edition
Author(s): Colin Baker & Wayne E. Wright
Publisher: Multilingual Matters, Clevedon
ISBN: 1788929888, Pages: 538, Year: 2021
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The 7th edition of Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism is meant to be a comprehensive and modern introduction to bilingual education, bilingualism and multilingualism (Baker & Wright, 2021, p. ix). The purpose is worthwhile, as it is important for educators and researchers who are or will be working with bi/multilingual learners to be informed about the topics covered in this text. The authors include Colin Baker, Emeritus Professor at Bangor University in the United Kingdom, and Wayne E. Wright, Associate Dean, Professor, and the Barbara I. Cook Chair of Literacy and Language at Purdue University in the United States.
The book accomplishes its purpose in that it is comprehensive, covering many topics related to bilingual education and bilingualism. The reader should be aware of a couple of critical points. First, as the authors warn the readers, there may be conclusions and dominating perspectives throughout the text (p. x). The text is indeed very much embedded with politics and current social issues surrounding bilingual education. For example, the book covers pro-raciolinguistics, anti-racist education, and critical post-structural sociolinguistics. The book also includes in-depth coverage of topics such as multilingualism, codeswitching, and translanguaging. Second, the text is long, with each chapter covering varied information. Readers should carefully think about how this book would best be used in an academic course (more suggestions below). Last, the book includes research from the U.S. and other countries, providing perspectives on the application of theory and research in differing contexts.
The book is organized into 19 Chapters. In the Introduction, the authors group the chapters into subsections, though the subsections are not used within the actual text or table of contents, likely because they are too encompassing or too specific: (1) Chapters 18, Foundational issues that precede and influence discussions about bilingual and multilingual education (p. xii); (2) Chapters 916, the many aspects of bilingual and multilingual education (p. xii); (3) Chapters 1718, the political and cultural dimensions that surround bilingualism in society (p. xiii); and (4) Chapter 19, [a look at] the present and future, with themes of multilingualism and the internet, employment, mass media, economy and tourism (p. xiii). The chapters include summarizing key points, suggested further readings, website links, and helpful discussion questions and study activities for designing courses on the topics presented in each chapter. Chapter tables and figures are useful, but chapter Boxes have a very small font and are difficult to read. A nice feature of the text is terms that are bolded when first introduced, corresponding to a useful glossary.
STRENGTHS AND LIMITATIONS
The books strengths and limitations lie in its inherent characteristics. First, as already noted, it is a long text. The strength is that the text is comprehensive and serves its purpose in being a foundational text on the topic of bilingual education and bilingualism. The limitation is that the text does not balance topics well. For example, some chapters read too densely. Chapter 1 provides good information on the topic of bilingualism and multilingualism, but the topics presented could have been paced out. Other chapters, such as Chapter 2, leave the reader thinking about standardized language tests and census questions when there is more to discuss regarding assessment and learning for bilingual individuals. The chapter topics do not always flow smoothly within themselves and from one to another. For example, Chapter 4, on language endangerment and revitalization, reads as an attempt to justify bilingual education, with the authors finally arguing that cultural diversity, like biodiversity, is essential. Chapters 5 and 6 then make an abrupt switch to developmental topics on bilingualism, including nonetheless utile and intriguing chapters with updated research on bilingualism and the brain (Chapter 7), ending with critically updated theories of bilingualism and the curriculum (Chapter 8).
Second, this is a text strongly situated in the present. The strength is that the authors contextualize bilingual education in present politics. Chapters 10 and 11 provide a nice overview of types of current education for bilingual students while Chapters 12 and 13 provide a good balance of research on the effectiveness of bilingual education and what effective bilingual education looks like in the classroom today. Chapters 1416 provide important considerations for bilingual students with special and/or exceptional needs and deaf-signing people. Lastly, Chapters 1719 circle back to more theoretical and political topics similar to the initial text chapters. The limitations of the text being situated so much in the present is that it provides little sense of the richness of bilingual education and bilingualism (with the exception of Chapter 9, on a brief historical discussion of bilingualism only in the United States), and of language in general. For example, the authors state: The spread of English, like that of other prestigious languages throughout time, has come about in a variety of ways, including political domination, the subordination of vernacular languages (p. 63). While the statement may be accurate, there is no acknowledgment of the long cultural and historical development of languages such as English (e.g., English was once a vernacular language and once the minority language in Latin/English bilingual education) or of any self-reflection (e.g., this book is written in the standard English language primarily by two individuals from the U.S. and England). These limitations make it difficult for readers to critically think about language and bilingualism.
In summary, the 7th edition of Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism accomplishes its purpose of providing a comprehensive overview of topics related to bilingual education and bilingualism. As noted, its strengths and weaknesses lie in its very form: The text attempts to cover many topics while also trying to situate the topic to modern day politics. Readers considering using the text in a classroom should think about how to use it in terms of assigned readings; that is, chronological order as presented in the text and assigning each chapter may not be the best way to use the text. Lastly, the suggested further readings and resources at the end of each of the chapters are excellent tools and activities to spark a balanced and critical class discussion on the topics presented.
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