ESL vs bilingual education—many people believe that both mean the same thing and can be used interchangeably. This is not the case. It is good to know what the differences are between bilingual vs ESL; knowing how they differ can help one choose the proper education for what they need. This article will help explain some of the differences so you can make an informed decision.
In an ESL classroom, students who teach many different languages are all taught by the same teacher. The teacher only speaks English and is not required to speak the native language of any members of the class. In ESL classes in elementary school, non English speaking students are generally taken out of their regular classroom for a period of time to learn English. In middle and high school, students take an ESL class in place of an elective. All teaching is done in English. Students sometimes feel singled out and awkward when pulled out of regular classes to go to their ESL class.
In a bilingual education classroom, all the students in the class speak the same language. The teacher also speaks the language. The way that a bilingual education class generally works is that the teacher teaches in both English and the students' native language, eventually switching over to teaching only in English. The switch over is done gradually to give the students time to adjust. Bilingual classes also are geared more toward having the students eventually speak both languages fluently and to hold on to their culture.
Both ESL and bilingual education classes are a good way to learn English. Students from both do well learning the English language. In public schools, which class you take will most likely depend on which resources are available in your school. For adults, the class that you you will feel most comfortable in is the one you should choose. While some like having a teacher who can speak to them in their native language, others find being totally immersed in their new language helps them learn faster. It is an individual decision.