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Review of  Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism

Reviewer: Michael Pasquale
Book Title: Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism
Book Author: Colin F. Baker
Publisher: Multilingual Matters
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Issue Number: 17.2533

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AUTHOR: Baker, Colin
TITLE: Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism (4th edition)
SERIES: Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 54
PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters
YEAR: 2006

Michael D. Pasquale, Humanities Division, Cornerstone University, Grand
Rapids, MI

''Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism'' by Colin Baker, has
become a classic in the field and has been updated and released in a fourth
edition. The text offers a wealth of information for graduate students and
researchers wishing to be kept up-to-date with current topics and
controversies in the field. The book is also accessible to the student
reader, which is somewhat remarkable given the breadth of its content. An
accompanying text of readings is also available (Garcia 2006).


As the title suggests, the book is divided into chapters on Bilingualism
(chapters 1-9) and on Bilingual Education (chapters 10-16). Chapters 17-18
look at political and cultural aspects that underlie the understanding of
bilingualism and bilingual education. Chapter 19 concludes the book with a
look at key issues for the future.

Chapter 1, “Bilingualism: Definitions and Distinctions,” gives definitions
to key terms that are important to understanding the issues included in the
book such as the difference between “individual” and “societal” bilingualism.

Chapter 2, “The Measurement of Bilingualism,” discusses the issue of
measuring bilingualism in terms of language proficiency and use. The
chapter includes a look at communicative language testing and the political
nature of language testing in general.

Chapter 3, “Endangered Languages: Planning and Revitalization,” gives
compelling evidence on the seriousness of language loss and the need for
language planning and revitalization. Baker recommends Fishman’s model of
reversing language shift to be put into place to restore languages in danger.

Chapter 4, “Languages in Society,” gives an overview of sociolinguistic
topics including diglossia, language shift, language maintenance, and
language death. He also covers the topic of English as a Global Language
and its spread and influence as a lingua franca.

Chapters 5 and 6, cover the early and later development of bilingualism.
Chapter 5 discusses early childhood bilingualism and distinguishes between
simultaneous and sequential bilingualism. Code-switching and code-mixing
are also defined within the context of how bilinguals differentiate and
store languages. Chapter 6 covers the reasons for learning a second
language after early childhood. Age and language acquisition is discussed
along with a key section on identity and language acquisition.

Chapter 7, “Bilingualism and Cognition,” analyzes the research on the link
between bilingualism and intelligence. Research from the early twentieth
century seemed to support the view that bilingualism led to lower IQ scores
while more recent research showed a distinct advantage for bilinguals.

Chapter 8, “Cognitive Theories of Bilingualism and the Curriculum,” delves
into research on the different theories of cognition and how these theories
have an impact on curriculum design.

Chapter 9, “Historical Introduction to Bilingual Education: The United
States,” examines the historical development of the bilingual education
debate in the US culminating in the passage of the No Child Left Behind
(NCLB) act in 2001.

Chapter 10, “Types of Bilingual Education,” is an introductory survey about
the different types of bilingual education ranging from weak forms such as
“submersion” within a mainstream class, to stronger forms such as
transitional and dual language models which seek to maintain the student’s
heritage language.

Chapter 11, “Education for Bilingualism and Biliteracy,” further delves
into an examination of the strong forms of bilingual education. The
chapter includes many illustrative examples of dual language education
programs. Immersion bilingual education programs are also surveyed
including an in-depth look at those used in Canada.

Chapter 12, “The Effectiveness of Bilingual Education,” discusses the
effectiveness of bilingual education programs. Literacy and proficiency in
both languages are the desired outcomes of “strong” bilingual education
programs. Chapter 13, “Effective Schools and Classrooms for Bilingual
Students,” shares strategies for making bilingual education classes
effective. Strategies such as translanguaging and scaffolding are discussed.

Chapter 14, “Literacy, Biliteracy and Multiliteracies for Bilinguals,”
surveys the different approaches to literacy in the classroom. The
approaches covered include construction of meaning, functional literacy,
sociocultural literacy, and critical literacy. Literacy as a means to
empowerment for bilingual students forms a major theme in the chapter.

Chapter 15, “The Assessment and Special Education Needs of Bilinguals,”
challenges the pervasive notion that bilingual children belong in special
education solely because of their language proficiency in a second
language. The author presents research to show that bilingualism is not
the cause of language and communication disorders and that other factors
need to be taken into consideration (e.g. social and economic conditions).

Chapter 16, “Deaf People, Bilingualism, and Bilingual Education,” discusses
the similarities and differences deaf bilinguals have with hearing

Chapter 17, “Bilingualism and Bilingual Education as a Problem, Right and
Resource,” scans the current political situation regarding language rights.
Particular focus is placed on the English-only debate in the US and its
influence on the political movement against bilingual education.

Chapter 18, “Bilingualism and Bilingual Education: Ideology, Identity and
Empowerment,” focuses on the ideologies of assimilation and pluralism in
relation to bilingual education. The aspects of identity and empowerment
in relation to language use surfaces several times in the text and gets
further treatment in this chapter.

Chapter 19, “Bilingualism in the Modern World,” forms the conclusion to the
text and looks to the future of bilingualism. The benefits of bilingualism
are discussed from an economic standpoint. Other areas covered are
bilingualism in relation to the internet, information technology, and the


This text continues to be an excellent source for introducing students to
the field of bilingualism and bilingual education. Its use of an
introductory outline, highlighted key terms, visual aids, and concluding
summary are invaluable to the reader who needs to navigate through the
text. It is also enhanced as a textbook with a good study activities
section. Perhaps it may have also been helpful to have a glossary but that
would have added to the bulk of an already hefty book.

Baker covers much new ground in the fourth edition. He lists new and
expanded topics in the introduction (pp. vii - ix) including politics and
language testing, language planning and revitalization, the globalization
of English, identity and multiple identities, recent US political debates
surrounding bilingual education and the passage of No Child Left Behind,
and much more. From a North American perspective, the book covers many
critical issues facing teachers and students in the US and Canada.
Reviewers of previous editions remarked on how the book mainly focused on
US and UK examples and issues. This is still mainly the case in the 4th
edition. Baker does address these concerns in the introduction and defends
his work by stressing that the goal of the text is to give global
generalizations from the literature that is available.

In comparing the 4th edition to previous editions one finds similar
positives (breadth of coverage, up-to-date research, user-friendly) and
similar concerns (reliance on US and UK issues and topics to drive the
discussion). However, this text remains among the best in presenting a
wealth of key information in a very accessible format. This text will
continue to be the standard-bearer on the topics of bilingualism and
bilingual education.


Fishman, J. A. (1991). Reversing Language Shift. Clevedon: Multilingual

Garcia, O. (2006). Bilingual Education: An Introductory Reader. Clevedon:
Multilingual Matters.

Michael D. Pasquale is Associate Professor of Linguistics and Chairman of
the Humanities Division at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids,
Michigan. His dissertation looked at the bilingual contact situation of
Quechua and Spanish speakers in Peru. His current research has two main
areas of focus: the folk linguistics of second language acquisition and
language policy in relation to English teaching.

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