Importance of use of bilingualism in language
PGD, TEFL Research Report
Mr. Muhammad Irfan
This research report is submitted in requirement of the degree of
Post graduate diploma TEFL
The Department of English Language and applied linguistics
AllamaIqbal Open University Islamabad
The debate over use of bilingualism in a language class has been a contentious issue
for a long time but as of yet the research findings have not been entirely persuasive
either way. Those advocating bilingualism in a class have tended to base their claims
on theoretical arguments such as the idea of learning being heavily determined by the
quantity of exposure to the language. They have also based their teaching methods on
the Direct Method. Meanwhile opponents of bilingualism have often focused only on
the fact that students usually support the idea of using L1 in the classroom (Critchley,
1999, p11), (Burden, 2000, p9), & (Mitchell, 1988, p29) and have tended to ignore
pedagogical evidence. This paper will attempt to demonstrate that use of bilingualism
accelerates the learning new language; firstly, that using L1 in the classroom does not
hinder learning, and secondly, that L1 has a facilitating role to play in the classroom
and can actually help learning. An n observation of a language classwas conducted
from 28, Oct, 20013 to 8, Nov 2013 five days a week, byusing observation sheet,
conducting interviews of teachers and getting opinions of learners. Result shows that
bilingualism supports in learning L2.
This paper is going to examine in more detail the importance of bilingualism in language
class. While there have been many theoretical arguments both for and against the use of
bilingualism in classroom, there has been little research carried out which has measured the
exact effects of bilingualism use in the classroom. Perhaps the difficult nature of measuring
and gathering evidence in an attempt to answer such a difficult question is the reason behind
this. Not only must a valid and reliable way of measuring and assessing student learning be
established, but at least two languages must be used correctly and clearly in the classroom as
well. How to measure the effects of using bilingualism on learning, poses a difficult and
complicated question. This is essentially the goal of this paper.
As in any research field, terminology can often confuse and obscure the real issue. „Mother
tongue‟, „first language‟ and „native language/tongue‟ are essentially all the same though it is
possible to argue that there are instances when they mean different things. Proponents of an
English-only policy will collectively be known as the Monolingual Approach. Those
advocating the use of L1 in the classroom will be known as the Bilingual Approach. It is
recognized of course that this may be oversimplifying, but for the sake of convenience, these
terms will be used as they are, in this paper.
The primary goal of this paper then is to find evidence to support the theory that L1 can
facilitate the learning of an L2, at least in this particular situation and to demonstrate that the
use of L1 (L1+L2=bilingualism) in the classroom does not hinder learning.
Bilingualism means the ability to communicate in two languages, but with greater skills in
one language. In fact, it is more common for bilingual people, even those who have been
bilingual since birth, to be somewhat "dominant" in one language.
3.1.Types of bilingualism
The following three types of bilingualism are usually used by researchers to describe
3.1.1. Simultaneous bilingualism: Learning two languages as "first languages". That is,
a person who is a simultaneous bilingual goes from speaking no languages at all
directly to speaking two languages. Infants who are exposed to two languages
from birth will become simultaneous bilinguals.
3.1.2. Receptive bilingualism: Being able to understand two languages but express
oneself in only one. Children who had high exposure to a second language
throughout their lives, but have had little opportunity to use the language would
fall in this category. For example, many children in Chinese or Mexican
immigrant households hear English on TV, in stores and so on, but use their home
language (Chinese or Spanish) in everyday communication. When they enter
preschool or kindergarten, these children are likely to make rapid progress in
English because their receptive language skills in English have been developed.
3.1.3. Sequential bilingualism: Learning one language after already established a first
language. This is the situation for all those who become bilingual as adults, as
3.2.Benefits of bilingualism
Most children have the capacity and facility to learn more than one language. Researchers say
that there are advantages to being bilingual. These advantages might include;
Being able to learn new words easily
Playing rhyming games with words like "cat" and "hat"
Breaking down words by sounds, such as C-A-T for cat
Being able to use information in new ways
Putting words into categories
Coming up with solutions to problems
Good listening skills
Connecting with others
Children who are learning to speak two languages follow patterns of learning. The sounds of
the first language can influence how children learn and use a second language. It is easier to
learn sounds and words when the languages you are learning are similar. Over time, the more
difficult sounds and words will be learned.
Fact: Communication disorders affect more than 42 million Americans. Of these, 28 million
have a hearing loss and 14 million have a speech or language disorder.
Learning a foreign language is more than just a boost to your CV or handy for travelling. It
will make you smarter, more decisive and even better at English, says Anne Merritt.
Physiological studies have found that speaking two or more languages is a great asset to the
cognitive process. The brains of bilingual people operate differently than single language
speakers, and these differences offer several mental benefits.
Below are seven cognitive advantages to learning a foreign language. Many of these
attributes are only apparent in people who speak multiple languages regularly.
3.2.1. You become smarter
Speaking a foreign language improves the functionality of your brain by challenging it to
recognize, negotiate meaning, and communicate in different language systems. This skill
boosts your ability to negotiate meaning in other problem-solving tasks as well. Students who
study foreign languages tend to score better on standardized tests than their monolingual
peers, particularly in the categories of math, reading, and vocabulary.
3.2.2. You build multitasking skills
Multilingual people, especially children, are skilled at switching between two systems of
speech, writing, and structure. According to a study from the Pennsylvania State University,
this “juggling” skill makes them good multi taskers, because they can easily switch between
different structures. In one study, participants used a driving simulator while doing separate,
distracting tasks at the same time. The research found that people who spoke more than one
language made fewer errors in their driving.
3.2.3. Your memory improves
Educators often liken the brain to a muscle, because it functions better with exercise.
Learning a language involves memorizing rules and vocabulary, which helps strengthen that
mental “muscle.” This exercise improves overall memory, which means that multiple
language speakers are better at remembering lists or sequences. Studies show that bilinguals
are better at retaining shopping lists, names, and directions.
3.2.4. You become more perceptive
A study from Spain‟s University of Pompeu Fabra revealed that multilingual people are
better at observing their surroundings. They are more adept at focusing on relevant
information and editing out the irrelevant. They‟re also better at spotting misleading
3.2.5. Your decision-making skills improve
According to a study from the University of Chicago, bilinguals tend to make more rational
decisions. Any language contains nuance and subtle implications in its vocabulary and these
biases can subconsciously influence your judgment. Bilinguals are more confident with their
choices after thinking it over in the second language and seeing whether their initial
conclusions still stand up.
3.2.6. You improve your English
Learning a foreign language draws your focus to the mechanics of language: grammar,
conjugations, and sentence structure. This makes you more aware of language, and the ways
it can be structured and manipulated. These skills can make you a more effective
communicator and a sharper editor and writer. Language speakers also develop a better ear
for listening, since they‟re skilled at distinguishing meaning from discreet sounds.
3.2.7. Culture access;
It gives you access to two cultures and makes you more tolerant and open to others. By being
able to communicate in two languages, you are free to learn about diverse cultures, traditions
and social behaviors as well as be a part of them. People who speak two languages have two
windows open to the world to enrich their life.
3.2.8. It easy to learn new language;
You will find it much easier to learn a third language when you are bilingual. Plus, your
English will be enhanced as you are more aware of language structures, grammar, and
literacy and language skills.
Bilingual adults and children seem to have social and emotional benefits like being able to
internalize negative states like anxiety, aggression, anger, loneliness or low self-esteem less
frequently. They have greater tolerance and less racism. It seems likely that bilinguals would
3.3.Myths about bilingualism;
In a world of nearly 7,000 distinct languages, mass globalization, and melting pot of
cultures—bilingualism in our world‟s youth is widespread. In today's global village,
bilingualism has its inherent strengths; however it is also something that requires
understanding and learning about bilingual language development by parents and educators.
3.3.1. Exposing a child to multiple languages causes language delay.
Some sources cite that bilingualism can lead to language delay, but studies point to the
fact that monolingual and bilingual children reach language development milestones
simultaneously. According to Nollendorfs, “I now know this to be a myth. We held our
breath, but our daughter managed to start speaking at around 10 months old.”
3.3.2. Mixing languages is a sign of confusion.
Children‟s brains are informational sponges. They take in stimuli everyday—and learn to
organize their thoughts and linguistics very well. Nollendorfs notes, “It is my experience that
children don‟t care what you call an object. Just give them the cookie.”
3.3.3. A parent must be fluent in the target language in order to raise her child
Classrooms have evolved over time to meet the needs of the ever-increasing multi-lingual
and cultural population by offering language courses as early as kindergarten. Nollendorfs
references a personal anecdote: “One of our favorite games to play in the car was “Mama
says… and Papa says.” I would start with “Mama says tree and Papa says . . .” And my
children would have to fill in the correct Latvian word. It didn‟t even matter if I knew the
word or not. My children would correct each other.”
3.3.4. Children will just absorb the language like a sponge.
One lesson we‟ve learned is that raising bilingual children is hard work. It takes a conscious
effort every single day. If children don‟t have reasons to use each language, then they won‟t.
My family and I spend a huge portion of the day repeating these phrases in Latvian “What are
you supposed to say?” or, “Ask again please in Latvian,” and “Say it again in Latvian.”
3.3.5. More than two languages will confuse the child.
When bilingual child attempt to learn a third language, they will actually progress faster. “At
the ages of three and four years old, our children went on their first trip to Germany. I
attempted to speak as much German with them as possible,” notes Nollendorfs.
3.3.6. Children can learn language through watching television.
Though this method can aid in language retention—it is essential to learn beyond the screen.
Learning modalities could include games, activities, and repeating phrases, as mentioned
3.3.7. They will need English as a Second Language when they start school.
So what does this teach us as educators and parents? Nollendorfs answers, “Of all the people
in the world, I should have been easily convinced of my ability to raise my children to be
bilingual. When reality came, it was much harder than I had expected, but the hardest thing
for me was to trust my gut and know in my heart that I was doing the right thing, even though
the world and my children sometimes tried to disprove me. But I now know the evidence was
merely anecdotal and some of the biggest myths of bilingual children were soundly dispelled
at our household.”
My research has focused on teaching-learning process by the use of bilingualism in the
classroom. However, no broad generalizationshave been made. Rather the researcher has
focused mainly upon the:
1. Spoken aspect of L2 along with the L1,
2. Proper use of vocabulary while communicating,
3. Atthe student of M.A. (linguistics & literature) first semester
The study has been carried out by using qualitative and quantitative research methods
including classroom observation, semi-structured interviews, and questionnaires along with
thorough study of literature available on the topic. I intended to conduct my research at the
department of English applied linguistics and literature of Government College University
Faisalabad. The data obtained as a result of observations made in the classroom, conducting
interviews and getting responses to the questionnaires has been analyzed in the light of
literature available on the use of bilingualism in a language class. In the light of these
research findings, recommendations are given and conclusions have been drawn at the end.
Teacher_____________________ Grade Level: ______ Subject/Topic:
presents lesson objectives
relates lesson to previous lesson
relates material to student interests
gains student attention at beginning of lesson by
use of instructions in
explains difficult words
emphasizes key points
translation at sentence level
starts class after exchanging greetings in
relates input to lesson objective
provides internal and concluding summaries
allows students to respond in
Inquire about clarification or elaboration in
Students communicate confidently in
Any class room activity
Logical sequence in lesson progression
Audio visual aids (BB, charts, etc.)
English Urdu Both
1. How teacher keeps students alert and accountable?
2. Does teacher provide guided practice?
3. Does teacher supports verbal messages with non-verbal clues?
4. Is teacher‟s attitude dominant?
5. Students are active or passive?
6. Does teacher encourage cooperation?
Class begins before the time / in time / late
Class ends before the time / in time / late
8. Material (English-Urdu translated, book, vocabulary)
9. How do students participate in the class?
10. Student‟s level of motivation/ willingness to attend the class
Students sitting order
Teachers point of view about the use of bilingualism in language class
4.2.Sample questions for teachers interviews
Why do you use bilingualism in language class?
Which methodology do you apply in the class?
What is your opinion about the use of in the class?
Does bilingualism effect positively upon learning?
4.3.Sample sheet to know learners opinion about bilingualism;
Your about the use of bilingualism in the class.
Students name _________
Yes or no Why?
Out of five teachers, only Mr. Aleem shaker delivered lecture, totally in English during
language class. He expected students to participate in class discussion by the use of English
He used white board to teach spellings of different words. He elaborated the meanings of
words totally in English. Class room activity was done in form of group discussion. He
appreciated the students who try to use English while talking with teacher.
In interview his overall view is that students easily learn language when they are exposed to
target language. He mostly follows direct method of teaching.
Mr. Muhammad Bilal is in favor of bilingualism by saying that bilingualism; L1 helps in
elaborating difficult language terms and cultural vocabulary. His methodology is direct
method and audio lingual method. He elaborated meanings of difficult words in Urdu as well
as in English.
Mr. Muhmmadjavediqbal is also in favor of use of bilingualism in language class . He put
forward the argument that GTM is dominant in Pakistan governmental institutions therefore
learners are in habit to learn new language by the use of L1. It is easy for the students to
learn new language by the use of L1.Bilingualism facilitate learners in learning L2. His
methodology is not fixed one it change from topic to topic
Mr. Hafiz Muhammad Qasimis fully in favor of bilingualism. His methodology is mixture of
GTM,ALM,CLT. He tried his best to translate and contextualized the whole lesson by putting
forward examples from our daily life.
Ms. Rabiayasmeen is not in favor of bilingualism. She said that learner‟s knowledge of L1
creates hindrance in the process of learning language. But she also said that she translate only
such words which are really a difficult task to understand into Urdu. Her methodology is DM,
CLL, she often use mixture of product oriented and process oriented syllabus.
6. Discussion &analysis
From this interview it can be safely argued that for over the years teachers have
beenemploying bilingualism for a variety of purposes, therefore its importance cannot
besimply over-emphasized or overlooked. It has been one of the most effective ways ofnot
only developing an understanding of the language but also as a major facilitator.As has been
asserted by the teacher himself that bilingualism can help inunderstanding a situation it serves
as a facilitator both to the teacher as well as to thestudent. In our previous sections it was
observed that during a language class, at timesteacher feels impelled to use L1. It is, thus, a
backbone of language teaching. Atanother place the experienced teacher with reference to the
learning of L2 that itimproves one‟s comprehension; it helps opening new horizons/windows
for thelearner through L1 also. Therefore, it is not simply learning a new language; it leadsto
the opening of a new window for the learner. For the need of using bilingualism they stress
that it is necessary to establish a rapport between the teacher and the studentwhich is not
possible without bilingualism. Thus in language learning process themost significant issue
that has been observed is that teacher-student relationship must be based upon understanding
and cordiality, otherwise learning a new languageremains a dream only. This rapport that the
teacher has emphasized leads to theconfidence in the learner that he can learn a new
language, otherwise it would lead toleast-effective of all processes.
This study investigated the use of bilingualism in the English language classroom. Before the
observation it was hypothesized that use of bilingualism in a language class accelerate
learning, as many have claimed, but that it actually helps learning. The purpose of this
research was to try and prove this assumption and to find evidence to validate our claims, so
that it could be put into use at the institution where this research was carried out. Indeed,
as a result of this research serious consideration has been given to the medium of education
instruction. The research overall though, the findings in this experiment could be classified
as positive. While there were problems, the findings were generally favorable and
supportive of our original research hypothesis; bilingualism accelerates the process of
learning new language.
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