Linguistic problems in bilingual education and teachers’ individual strategies used to solve them (research in Polish schools)

Submitted by: Anna Wileczek
Abstract: Background of the study

In the Polish system of education, there are some bilingual schools and classes. They support the linguistic development of children simultaneously in their mother tongue (Polish) and a foreign language (English) which is also used as a medium of instruction during several courses. Bilingual education in Poland has a form of enrichment programs and an elite education (de Mejia, 2002). It is a novelty in the Polish system of education and has not been widely researched and its effectiveness is still questioned.
The significant role of bilingual education in primary schools is emphasized in literature, as the languages are tools for knowledge transfer and means of discovering the world. Many researchers show language and cognition benefits of bilingual education (Kurcz, 2007; Grabowska 2008; Baker, 2011) and consistent achievement advantages found for students in bilingual programs (McField & McField, 2014; Jaskulska & Łockiewicz, 2017) as well as show the potential of “translanguaging” (Lin, 2013).
The research is conducted among teachers in bilingual primary schools in Poland in which selected content is taught simultaneously in Polish and English. It focuses on their experiences in providing simultaneous two-language input to young learners (aged 7-10). The research presents also some difficulties that teachers providing bilingual education (Błasiak – Tytuła, 2015) face and their individual, productive instructional strategies in bilingual teaching.

Research question

The authors diagnose difficulties seen in bilingual education in Polish schools and define their levels and types. They also discover and describe teachers’ problem-solving strategies developed in their practice.
Hence, the authors suggest the following research questions:
• What language problems do teachers diagnose and see most often in bilingual classes in primary education (age 7-10) in Polish schools?
• What teaching strategies and remedies do teachers of Polish and teachers of English apply in these situations?

Theoretical framework


The tools to collect data are narrative interviews (Creswell, 2013) conducted among primary teachers providing bilingual education to Polish children aged 7-10 in primary schools. The sample size is determined on the basis of informational needs.
The interviews cover two main areas of the research: diagnosis of the most common (typical) language problems that appear in the process of bilingual education, and the teachers’ strategies of solving them. The data is subject to content analysis (qualitative analysis). The identified problems will be described in specific language categories derived from the interviews. The analysis is to be a manifest analysis and a latent analysis (extended to an interpretative level) (Berg, 2001).

Data and results

The paper makes the educational efficacy of bilingual education clearer to a wider audience of teachers and linguists.
The research result is a catalogue of the most common language problems and examples of strategies (ways, means, tools) used by the teachers to solve them in bilingual classes. The authors also provide some practical implications for language teaching and educational policy.

Baker, C. (2011). Foundations of bilingual education and bilingualism. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Berg, B. L. (2001). Qualitative research methods for social sciences. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Błasiak-Tytuła, M. (2015). Nowe kompetencje zawodowe nauczycieli w pracy z uczniami dwujęzycznymi (New professional teacher competences fo bilingual teaching). In: A. Kwatera, S. Kowal, E. Zawisza. (eds.) Nauczyciel - między etosem a presją rzeczywistości (Teacher – between an ethos and reality pressure), volume 1: Wielowymiarowość kompetencji współczesnego nauczyciela (Multidimensional competences of a contemporary teacher), Będzin: Wydawnictwo Internetowe e-bookowo, pp. 157-166.
Creswell, J. W. (2013). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
de Mejia, A. (2002). Power, prestige and biligualism: International perspectives on elite bilingual education. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Grabowska, M. (2008). Bilingwalizm „naturalny” a „sztuczny”. Rozwój funkcji językowych i umysłowych u dzieci dwujęzycznych („Natural” and „artificial” bilingualism. Development of language and mental functioning of bilingual children) ., Access: 15.11.2018.
Jaskulska, M., Łockiewicz, M. (2017). Polish as L1, English as L2: the linguistic transfer impact of Second Language Acquisition stemming from the interlingual differences: implications for young learners education. Issues of Early Education, 2 (37), pp.68-76.
Kurcz, I. (2007). Psychologiczne aspekty dwujęzyczności (Psychological aspects of bilingualism). Gdańsk: Gdańskie Wydawnictwo Psychologiczne.
McField, G.; McField, D. (2014). The consistent outcome of bilingual education programs: A meta-analysis of meta-analyses, in: G. McField (ed.), The Miseducation of English Learners, Charlotte: Information Age Publishing.

Key words:
bilingual education, language learning difficulties, teaching strategies