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Robert Phillipson (ed.)
forthcoming, 2000
New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
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Dual Language Models and Intergenerational Inspirations
By Joan Wink and Dawn Wink

This chapter is written as a tribute to the Tove we know and love: philosopher, professor, writer, speaker, gardener, farmer, challenger of assumptions, and loving friend.

The perspective of this article will be based on the spirit of all that we have learned from Tove. For example, pre-Tove:

The purpose of this chapter is two-fold: to articulate differences among the immersion models; and, to demonstrate how the human interactions with Tove fostered a passion which joins the personal and professional for a Mom (Joan) and her daughter (Dawn). This specific study was conducted by Dawn and led her to question her assumptions - some of which were learned from Joan and Tove.

The various immersion models are often confused. Simultaneous and contradictory meanings result in misinformation. When misinformation is deliberately spread with deadly consequences for many language minority students, it becomes disinformation (Cummins, 1996). This immersion confusion makes it is easy for some who have an English-Only agenda to use misinformation and disinformation to further their own political goals.

Dual Language Models of Immersion

Bilingual (dual or two-way) immersion is designed to serve majority and minority students. The goals are bilingualism/biliteracy, high academic achievement, and positive intergroup relations in seven (K-6) years. The bilingual teachers are credentialed.

French Canadian immersion is used in the US to refer to a dual language program which historically serves only language majority students. The goals and teachers' preparation is the same as in bilingual immersion. The French Canadian model is often cited as "that immersion program in Canada which works." It is effective for those enrolled: language majority students.

Structured English immersion is the opposite of the Canadian model. It is designed to serve ONLY language minority students. The goal is English dominance within one year.

With the growing awareness of linguistic human rights, dual language immersion programs are often cited as the best manner to provide minority students with equitable education, as well as creating bilingualism in language majority students. Ideally, minority and majority students exit the program fully bilingual and achieving high levels of academic success in both languages Gradually, researchers are beginning to challenge the assumption that all dual language immersion programs provide equity for minority students.

Reflecting on One Research Project

The following dialogue took place on a beautiful day as we were in the park with Dawn's two sons, Wyatt (age, 2 and 1/2) and Luke (age 6 months). As Wyatt came barreling down the slide, his pant legs rose above his hiking books and revealed his wool, homemade sock which were a mixture of various shades of greens, grays, and maroons. These socks triggered the following conversation.

"Mom," Dawn began, "can you imagine Tove taking the time to make these little socks for Wyatt? They have come to exemplify Tove for me. Think of all of the writing, speaking, and teaching she is doing internationally, and yet, she takes time to knit these socks for Wyatt."

This conversation of hand-knit socks and Tove, led to our reflections of Dawn's research project about dual language immersion. We are constantly amazed at the power of the interconnections between our personal and professional lives.

Assumption Number One: The One-Size-Fits-All Myth

Mom, you always taught me that bilingual immersion programs addressed the needs of both language groups: majority and minority. However, that was not true in my research project. Spanish was the medium of instruction, however the type of Spanish spoken was simplified to serve the English-dominant students. The data reflect that this modified Spanish did not foster development of high levels of literacies and cognitive development in the native Spanish-speakers. In the early grades, I found very few challenging language activities to meet the needs of the students who entered the program speaking Spanish as their first language.

Dawn, I also taught you that there are many ways to sabotage good pedagogy. Dual immersion is good pedagogy, but different groups of students have different sociocultural experiences and different academic needs at different times in their learning. Maybe the Spanish-dominan students in your study would have benefited from a more authentic and richer use of the language which demanded a higher level of proficiency? So, what did you recommend?

For true language enrichment and literacy development to occur, a dual language immersion program must have cognitively demanding and critically reflective processes built into the curriculum at the very beginning specifically for the language minority students (Wink, D., 1998, p. 72).

The data reflect that the Spanish-dominant students did not receive cognitively and linguistically demanding tasks in their own language from the very first day of school. Also, the Spanish-dominant students did not have access to oral language development in English. The parents' voice of the English-dominant students was more powerful with the decision makers at the district level, successfully silencing the wishes of the Spanish-dominant parents (Wink, D., 1998, page 76).

Dawn, it seems you are finding a couple of different things in the data. First, when it comes to curriculum and pedagogy, one-size-does-not-fit-all. Second, there are many hidden (and, not so hidden) factors which affect teaching and learning.

Assumption Number Two: The Equality Myth

Mom, I used to think that students act as peer language models for one another. However, the data reflect that even the Spanish-dominant students are so aware of the inequality of languages and power that they, too, begin using English as soon as possible, not only with the English-speaking students, but also with each other. This seems to be to be a perfect example of Tove's ideas about the hierarchy of languages. I also discovered that the Spanish-dominant students produced the least amount of writing in Spanish. Simply put: They knew more Spanish, and they wrote less than the English-dominant students.

Dawn, I also taught you that there are a lot of myths which drive pedagogy. In this case, let's call it the equality myth which goes something like this: This-is-America-and-all-kids-are-equal.

However, Dawn, what did you recommend in this particular study?

In my study, the Spanish-dominant students were very aware of the hegemony of English and could express it in multiple ways, but many adults involved with the program were unaware or, even more importantly, unwilling to acknowledge. I recommended that all involved sit down and talk about this. This reality must be acknowledged and discussed by all participants so that the necessary actions can be taken toward creating a program which meets the needs of both groups of students. Treating language minority and majority students the same is treating them unequally.

Mom, I know that Tove believes that the wrong choice of medium of education is the main pedagogical reason for "illiteracy" in the world. However, in my experience even the right choice can be sabotaged if bilingual immersion programs do not address the reality of the hierarchy of languages and power in the broader society in which the students live. It is exactly like Tove told me: Unless the needs of language minority students are specifically taken into consideration, even an 'ideal' program can reproduce unequal power relations through glorification, stigmatization, and rationalization.

In my study glorification of the dominant group took place as the parents of the English-dominant children were the main people involved in policy making which placed the needs of the majority over the needs of the minority. Stigmatization of the minority students was evident as Spanish-dominant parents were effectively excluded from active participation by sending home information in English and conducting family meetings in English. Even the Spanish-dominant students soon refused to speak Spanish with each other because of the stigmatization of their language and culture. Rationalization was seen as the language minority students' lack of academic success and their parent's lack of school involvement which is blamed on their own disinterest, socio-economic standing, and cultural stereotypes. Language majority policy makers prefer to 'blame the victim', rather than look at the true nature of the immersion program. The fact that language minority students receive education through the medium of their own language is used to rationalize the continuation of unequal power structures. However, we must reflect critically and take action so that language minority students aren't in dual language programs to (de facto) serve as language models for the majority students, rather than to enhance their own academic and social achievement.


Based on this research project and our combined lived-experiences, we recommend that these three concepts (glorification, stigmatization, and rationalization) serve as an ideal method for the deconstruction of hidden (and, not so hidden) hegemonic processes which glorify the language majority group; stigmatize the language minority group; and rationalize the actions of the majority so that it appears to help the minority.

Since Tove is the one who taught us to always seek our own utopias, we still believe that dual immersion programs have the potential to be a viable part of the academic agenda for the 21st century - but, only if there is courageous, moral leadership at the local level which will create a safe place where majority and minority together can challenge their own assumptions, speak honestly, and create a program which serves the diverse needs of both groups of students.


1) Previously, we avoided the use of the word, minority, because of the connotations of "less" which are inherent in the word. Freire (Freire & Macedo, 1987) called our attention to this initially by clarifying that in the US context "minority" often refers to the majority of people who are not part of the dominant class. In reality, as with many other words, the semantic alteration of the term "minority" serves to hide the many myths that are part of the mechanisms sustaining cultural dominance (pp. 124-125). However, once again Tove calls on us to challenge our assumptions. She cuts through "well-meaning intentions" by pointing out that by ceasing to use the word, minority, we actually rob minority students of their only protection under international law. Unlearning is not always easy (Wink, J., 2000). See Cummins (1996) for more on the use of majority and minority.

2) For a more thorough discussion on the latest research on dual language models of education, including the bilingual models, see Wink, J., 2000.


Cummins, J. (1996). Negotiating identities: Education for empowerment in a diverse society. Los Angeles, CA: California Association of Bilingual Education.

Wink, J. (2000, in press). Critical Pedagogy: Notes from the Real World. (2nd ed.). New York: Longman's.

Wink, D. (1997). Bilingual Immersion: Variables for Language Minority Student Success. Unpublished master's thesis, California State University, Sacramento, Sacramento, California.