English versus Turkish – Gentrification versus Segregation? The Ambivalent Effects of Bilingual English Schooling at a Primary School in Berlin
We present a case of a school in Berlin with a majority of students of Turkish descent. Unlike its long existing secondary school, the recently launched primary school has a bilingual EnglishGerman profile. Herein, we introduce an empirical study that critically examines the hypothesis that bilingual children (here: mostly Turkish/German) are generally more successful in institutionalized foreign language acquisition (here: English) than monolingual children (as suggested in e.g. Cenoz 2000; Klieme et al. 2006: 25). Based on the study’sresults, we discuss educational and political motives for introducing bilingual English classes in this local setting. We first give some background on the environment of the school and then focus on the empirical study, which tests listening and reading competences of 4th grade students in relation to their family language backgrounds and to language attitudes towards English. The results do not suggest that bilingual children are generally better equipped with learning English as a foreign language. They even indicate that the most marginalized children may be further disadvantaged. Additionally, based on ethnographic insights to the social context, the overall approach of quantitative testing seems problematic as it cannot mirror the manifold social aspects that come into play when understanding different learning outcomes. The neighborhood in which the school is located is heavily affected by recent gentrification and the bilingual school program has to be understood against the background of these developments on the real-estate market. Introducing bilingual English classes may have the effect of further marginalizing the already marginalized. Yet, it may also attract a more socially diverse student body from which all students might profit. It follows that bilingual schooling should always be regarded as embedded in very local conditions that are connected to global market developments in which indexical hierarchies of languages, with English in primary position, crucially impact on the social implications of language learning programs – and these may be indissolubly ambivalent. References
Cenoz, J. (2000). Research on Multilingual Acquisition. In J. Cenoz & U. Jessner (Hrsg.), English in Europe. The acquisition of a third language (S. 39-53). Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Klieme, E., Eichler, W., Helmke, A. & Lehmann, R. H. (Hrsg.) (2006). Unterricht und Kompetenzerwerb in Englisch. Zentrale Befunde der Studie Deutsch- Englische-Schülerleistungen-International (DESI). Frankfurt am Main: Deut- sches Institut für Internationale Pädagogische Forschung.