Additive and Subtractive Programs

The terms additive and subtractive bilingual education came into use in the last quarter of the 20th century as it became apparent that substantive differences existed between two major forms of bilingual education. The terms suggested totally different aims and goals. They are commonly attributed to Wallace Lambert, who used them in a 1975 publication. In their simplest definitions, the terms relate to the linguistic objectives of the program: to provide students with an opportunity to add a language to their communicative skill sets or, conversely, to insist that children participating in the program subtract their home language from active use and concentrate all efforts on rapidly learning and refining their English skills.

This simple statement of differences between program types masks important attitudes and ideas that underlie the ways in which language diversity is viewed by school people and education policymakers. In this entry, these differences are explored. Other entries in this encyclopedia delve more deeply into related topics mentioned here. Factors affecting the choice: additive or subtractive? The choice of either a policy aimed at fostering and enhancing the child's home language as part of the goals of bilingual education or one that seeks the opposite-abandoning home language use as quickly as possible-does not occur by chance.

Such choices are rooted in underlying assumptions concerning the benefits, risks, utility, and cultural valuing of languages other than English in the wider society. Similarly, whether native speakers of English are included in these programs determines in part what the objectives of the program will be. In the main, children who are native speakers of English would not be involved in programs of subtractive bilingual education.

When such children are involved, the programs are often referred to as two-way immersion programs, also known as dual-immersion programs, because the learning of the two languages occurs in both directions. This distinction does not always hold in n in other countries. Hence, the analysis below is limited to what is clearly the case in the United States.

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