Bilingualism

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The term bilingualism can be defined in different ways depending on the case it occurs. Some people might consider it as an equal capability of being able to communicate in two very different languages. Others will argue that even though one is able to communicate in the two languages, there will be a weakness in the one of the languages. It is much more common for bilingual individuals, even the ones who have been bilingual since they were born and started learning to speak, to somehow stronger and more commanding in one of the two languages.            This means that you cannot describe the term in a single argument. There are three major types of bilingualism. The essay will define each of them and analyze the three types exhaustively.

The first are Simultaneous bilingualism. In this scenario, the individual will have learnt two languages as their first language. This means that the person moves from completely no language (early ages) directly to being bilingual. That is, a person who is a simultaneous bilingual goes from not communicating in any languages to directly to speaking the two languages. The child who has been exposed to two languages as they develop communication skills will involuntarily grow into a bilingual.

The second classification is referred to as Receptive bilingualism. This means that the individual is able to understand two different languages. However, they are able to express themselves in one language. The children who can fall in thus category are basically those who have had a very big introduction to a second language as they grow in their lives but have had rare opportunities to use the language. In fact, they are quite uncomfortable using the language. A good example is the immigrant children from Mexico, China and Spanish households who only hear the English on television, on streets, in stores, barbershops but still use their home language in their daily communication. These children have a higher possibility of to make better progress in English when they enter preschool as their receptive. English language skills have somehow been developed by the environment.

Another form of bilingualism is referred to as sequential bilingualism. This is the simplest form of bilingualism. It refers to the art of learning the second language voluntarily after well mastering the first. The first language in this case is well established as the main form of communication and thus the second can be referred to as a bonus. This is the situation for the people who develop to bilinguals in their adult years. It does also count to those who become bilingual earlier in life. This is the case for people who prefer to acquire a second language either for their academic and social reasons.

Having looked at the various ways through which bilingualism is acquired by the individual, it is important to look at the way it will affect their eventual language competency. Research on these effects has mainly been done by using two major contexts of education. They are submersion and transitional bilingual and the immersion programmes. Submersion programmes are common phenomena in the US while immersion is the most common on Canada. There have been many questions about the outcomes of these programmes to the cognitive ability of the individual. Submersion leads to subtractive bilingualism as immersion leads to additive bilingualism. The French immersion that is the method in Canada has been a case study to test the effect on language competence in both languages, as has been the case with submersion cases in the US.

      The most major factor that differentiates the two factors is a social in kind. In the case of subtractive bilingualism, it can be illustrated by a smaller number of children who have to adapt to a new language, as it is the culture. This is an appropriate illustration of Mexican children who study in US schools. The children’s first language is Spanish but it is slowly replaced by the English they are taught in US schools. This can be explained as “subtraction” of the second language. This is because the first language (L1) is pushed out of their language knowledge. The second language (L2) is taking over. This leads to the reason for a deficiency in both L1 and L2 a condition called “semi-lingualism.”

The US government has had to take action to remedy this situation. It has been found out that submersion has negative effects on the personal development of the young minority children. This is done by eliminating their very important first language. This has been found to erode their original cultural identity thus putting their academic future at risk. The involved ministry has come up with transitional programmes to tackle the issue. In this new plan, transition is done in the way instruction is carried out. The children are instructed in their first language in this case, Spanish. They also receive education in the English language during this early period.

This program is thus aimed at creating the transition from learning a new language and having it as the language of instruction. It creates a sense of self-confidence in the minority children while creating a positive attitude to their various cultures. They are able to learn that their culture comes first and they appreciate English as a medium of instruction and learning.

Researchers compared submersion and the transitional bilingual programmes in the US and came up with the following results. The immigrants who were taught in their first language while being taught English extensively than those who were only instructed in L2. This was found to be true for languages and for social sciences. It was also found that they had developed a positive attitude to education and to themselves which contributed to their success in class. They had to acknowledge that even these programmes led to the children being monolingual at the end of elementary school. In spite of all these efforts, transitional programmes have continued to lead to the case of subtractive bilingualism.

As stated, additive bilingualism is tied to immersion programs in Canada. This can be viewed as an inverse; it is a situation where the first language is the majority in this case. The majority are the ones who are to adapt to a new language that is familiar to the minority. In Canada, the large number of English-speaking. Canadians go through immersion also known as the core French plan. I this case, the second language is French. It is either introduced in the form of “core French” as 30 minutes of French class daily or as the immersion programme. The process takes three steps: early immersion (kindergarten or grade 1), mid-immersion (grade 4) and late immersion (grade 6 or 7). For immersion, at least all or some of the subjects are all instructed in the second language that is French. The program for example teaches mathematics and Science in the second language. The program can either be partial or total immersion. In partial at least 50% is instructed in French while in total immersion all subjects are instructed in French. The last are the enriched programmes for the second language. Here, a single subject and language arts will be instructed in L2, French. It is named additive bilingualism since a second language has been added to the individual’s knowledge that does not lead to loss of the first language.

In general there are variations of this method in different regions of Canada. It has been found that both French and English have acquired equal respect and social value since they are both the nation’s official languages. However one language will have a higher value than the other in some cases. In such cases, the education on the second language will show an encouraging trend on the individual’s cognitive abilities. This is particularly so for competence in the students first language, for our case, English.

The critics of these programs have earlier believed that the student’s competence in L1 would fail plus their overall academic performance. They believe that the English proficiency and command would be lowered by introduction and teaching of French is Canadian Schools. This has not been the case as a research revealed. The research found that there was no lag in English competency during the early period of Immersion programmes. It acknowledges that monolinguals were better of in English proficiency in early Immersion but it grows out at the 4th grade. At this level, English level skills of bilinguals will either be better are at par with monolinguals. 

Competency was tested in the literacy language skill. Grammar use, vocabulary and punctuation and still the bilinguals performed very well in their first language in both approaches in the US and Canada. This goes to show that with well planned methods, bilingualism has more pros as compare to the cons. It can thus be recommended to anyone interested as a privet technique.

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