Effect of bilingual education on students’ first language written discourse: a contrastive Spanish-English study using systemic functional linguistics
Maxwell-Reid, Corinne Rhona
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This thesis investigates whether studying through English has an effect on the written texts secondary school students produce in their first language, Spanish. Research in bilingual education has tended to focus on students‟ language proficiency and academic achievement as opposed to investigating differences in discourse norms. However, an increased awareness of the role of discourse in language use and the culturally-specific nature of discourse, along with a growing concern over the dominance of the English language in Europe and elsewhere, have widened the range of questions identified as requiring investigation in bilingual education. Popular understanding suggests that English speakers make different choices from Spanish speakers in particular rhetorical situations. Although research into these contrasts can be problematic, there is support for the existence of cultural preference in the selection of options, and specific areas of similarity and difference between Spanish and English discourse have been suggested. This study then looks at one group of secondary three (3º E.S.O.) Spanish students studying through English on a Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) programme in Spain, and compares two sets of argumentative texts written in Spanish by the CLIL students with equivalent texts written by non-CLIL students in the same school. Forty-eight texts are examined in total, and the comparison draws on previous research into discourse differences between Spanish and English texts from contrastive rhetoric, systemic functional linguistics (SFL), and other fields, using tools from SFL for the textual analysis. Areas of analysis include use of clause complexes, multiple Theme and thematic progression, and also genre structure and text organisation strategies for argumentative writing. The main contrasts are found to be in length of t-units, use of simplexes versus complexes, use of multiple Theme, and some issues of text structure. These differences largely correspond to contrasts found in studies comparing written Spanish and written English text, with the CLIL students‟ texts showing features more commonly associated with English writing. Additional data from analysis of the geography textbooks used by the CLIL and non-CLIL students, questionnaires administered to these students, and interviews with their teachers are also used to explore the possible CLIL effect on the students‟ written text. The study discusses how discourse conventions associated with English text in contrast with Spanish text may have influenced the Spanish writing of the CLIL students, considering possibilities including the effect of direct and indirect teaching, and the more general impact of the CLIL programme. Also explored is the question of whether this possible influence of English on Spanish language use is a matter for concern or not, with increased work on language and discourse awareness suggested as a potential response. Methodological issues raised through the study relating to aspects of text analysis and of data collection are also addressed.