Recently, I had the pleasure of participating in a couple of stimulating discussions on bilingualism and education with two experts in the field, Ellen Bialystok and Hélène Léone. The conversation took place during the Festival du Livre of Paris (21-23 April 2023) and at the beautiful Salons of the Mairie in the 16th arrondissement (20 April 2023).
Dr. Hélène Léone is the founder of the Canadian Bilingual School of Paris and a dedicated educator with an unwavering commitment to bilingual education and academic excellence. Ellen Bialystok is a renowned Canadian psychology professor, Distinguished Research Professor at York University in Toronto, and an Associate Scientist at the Rotman Research Institute at the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care. She has authored the book “Enfants bilingues: familles, éducation et développement,” in which she explores the cognitive, social, and emotional effects of learning and using foreign languages throughout life, as well as the benefits and challenges of bilingual education in the context of globalization and cultural diversity.
During our insightful discussion with Ellen Bialystok and Hélène Léone, we explored various aspects of bilingualism and education. Key insights from the conversation include the cognitive, social, and emotional benefits of learning foreign languages throughout life, with bilingualism promoting cognitive flexibility, problem-solving skills, and empathy. The panelists highlighted the advantages of bilingual education in fostering cognitive development, enriching family life, and facilitating cross-cultural understanding.
Our discussion also addressed the challenges and opportunities of bilingual education in the context of globalization and cultural diversity. While bilingual education faces issues such as limited resources, teacher training, and cultural resistance, it also presents opportunities to promote global understanding, inclusiveness, and cultural exchange. Encouraging and supporting bilingual education in educational systems and communities involves advocating for policy changes, providing resources and support to educators and families, and raising awareness of the benefits of bilingualism. The conversation emphasized the importance of ongoing research, collaboration between researchers and educators, and professional development opportunities for teachers to further advance the field of bilingual education.