We recently interview Dr. Cathrene Connery, an education professor at Ithaca College. She’s spent her entire life learning about and studying bilingualism in the United States. She also introduced us to several of our other sources, including some of the Ithaca High School students.
When we first spoke with Dr. Connery, she introduced us to the idea of the “bilingual bicycle,” — it’s a metaphor that language experts often use to describe how students, both young and old, learn a second language. As Dr. Connery told us, teachers should help students develop their first and second languages early. When a student’s first language is underdeveloped, it becomes much more difficult to fully learn a second language — meaning a student attempts to ride a bike that has one small one wheel in front and one large wheel in the back.
When students simultaneously develop both languages well, both wheels of the bike move in tandem.
After speaking with Dr. Connery, all of our previous conversations with elementary and high school students clicked in place. The elementary schools students could clearly pick up a second language quickly in their after school Spanish program, and the IHS students had a strong understanding of language as a whole and the culture behind the communication.
Next up, a few last shoots with a teacher from Belle Sherman Elementary and an Ithaca College student who is a teacher’s assistant for Italian classes at IC.