Misunderstanding bilingualism


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  • There is no link between bilingualism and general ‘ intelligence ’ . Early research in the 60s suggested that bilinguals have a cognitive handicap, while subsequent studies in the 70s seemed to find that bilinguals are more intelligent than monolinguals. More recently, however, both conclusions have been found to be marred by failing to take important sociological and cultural effects into account (Grosjean 1982). The fact appears to be that bilingual children are neither more nor less intelligent than their monolingual peers. The idea that learning two languages from birth represents a burden is based on the assumption that the brain is naturally predisposed to deal only with one language. However, research in psychology and neuroscience research indicates that there are no foundations to the belief that monolingualism is somehow the biological norm. While is it true that the onset of speech in bilinguals may be slightly later than average, both monolingual and bilingual children go through the same major milestones in language development at approximately the same time. If the brain were set up to acquire only one language, bilinguals would be at a disadvantage: they might be expected to reach the milestones later, or at different times in their two languages. The fact that they follow the same developmental timetable as monolinguals points to the brain ’ s capacity to deal with multiple types of language input.
  • Bilinguals can ‘distance themselves’ from language, so to speak, and talk about the form of language separately from its meaning. Many parents also report that bilingual children have more precocious reading skills, and this has recently been confirmed experimentally Bilinguals seem to have an advantage with respect to some aspects of reading that are related to metalinguistic awareness. A further spin-off of bilingualism is higher awareness of language and greater ability to think about it and talk about it. Bilingual children have a greater ability to focus on the form of language, abstracting away from meaning. Parents of bilingual children often report that their children engage in ‘ language play ’ that may take the form of ‘ funny accents ’ or impossible literal translations between one language and another.
  • bilingual children do not mix the grammars; their errors are to a large extent predictable by the characteristics of the languages and those of particular structures. Language mixing (or code-switching) is not a sign of linguistic confusion (competent bilingual adults do it all the time for a variety of very good reasons). Many parents think that it is better to wait to introduce one of the languages until the other one is ‘well established’: this is wrong and deprives the child of input in the most crucial years. Early research on bilingual children actually seemed to show that children are unable to distinguish between the two languages to which they are exposed. The result – it was claimed – is a single unitary system in which both the vocabularies and the grammars of the two languages are fused. Language mixing – it was believed – was a telling sign of this lack of differentiation. Another sign was the fact that in some bilingual children the early words often involve a mix of words taken from both languages, with many referents named by only one word. So for example a German-Italian bilingual child might have either Apfel or mela for ‘ apple ’ , but not both. This led to the hypothesis that there was a unitary lexicon, which could not contain two words, one from Language A and one from Language B, for the same referent. More recent research has completely discredited the idea of the unitary system. First, there are new techniques for studying whether babies can tell the difference between one outside stimulus and another. If you show a child a picture of a ball it will eventually get bored and look away, but if you then show it a picture of a car it will look again. There are now experimental techniques that let us present pictures or sounds to a child until it gets bored, then present it with something subtly different and see if the child notices the difference (Jusczyk 1997). Using techniques like these, we have learned that monolingual babies ’ perceptual abilities are remarkably fine-tuned very early on: they know a lot about what their language sounds like long before they start producing their first words, and even at the age of a few months will notice when someone who was speaking English switches to speaking, say, Japanese. This makes it very implausible that bilingual children do not realize that they are hearing two languages. research on ‘ code-switching ’ – swapping back and forth between languages – shows that bilingual children, like bilingual adults, often switch from one language to another in order to achieve particular communicative effects. code-switching is not random but generally obeys a remarkably strict grammar. For example, a Spanish-English bilingual child is much more likely to say ‘ La house ’ than ‘ The casa ’ (Spanish article + English noun, rather than ‘ English article + Spanish noun), The most interesting counter-evidence to the confusion hypothesis comes from research that compares the order of acquisition of grammatical structures in monolingual and bilingual children. There is little evidence that the bilinguals ’ languages affect each other – they neither speed up nor delay normal acquisition processes.
  • input is necessary, some effort and consistency too, that’s why acquiring four+ languages at the same time is not normally possible. So many people just assume that children will grow up bilingual if the parents speak two different languages and this is just not true. All typically developing children will learn one language, to learn two they need the opportunity and the motivation. Importance of input> give children as many opportunities as possible to realize that language X is not just mummy’s or daddy’s language but the language of a whole community of speakers (children included!). Do tell them about when Marco realized that all children in Italy spoke Italian!
  • not true, apparently an early start is necessary to attain the same results as monolinguals, especially for phonetic/phonology (accent & pronunciation) but also for aspects of grammar. There are qualitative changes that seem to happen significantly earlier than is generally assumed, approximately between 3 and 4 years of age. So the best ‘ window of opportunity ’ is in the first 2-3 years of life. This does NOT mean that it ’ s a waste of time to introduce languages after age 3, though. Later childhood is still a privileged time for acquiring languages in a naturalistic way, and the results are often very good.
  • not true, there are lots of non-linguistic advantages resulting from bilingualism, regardless of WHICH languages are involved, possibly over the whole lifespan. Bilinguals are better at coordinating different types of information and at ignoring irrelevant information, paying attention only to relevant cues. Evidence suggests that bilinguals are somewhat protected against the deterioration of cognitive abilities in old age. , the experience of dealing with two languages does seem to give bilingual children some cognitive advantages in several domains. Such advantages are particularly evident in tasks that involve cognitive flexibility and the control of attention (Bialystok 1991; 2001): bilinguals seem to be better at selectively paying attention, at inhibiting irrelevant information, and at switching between alternative solution to a problem. Bilingual speakers must develop a powerful mechanism for keeping the two languages separate, so that fluency in one language can be achieved without intrusions from the unwanted language. Therefore, the bilingual child ’ s constant experience of having two languages available and inhibiting one when the other is activated (Green 1986; 1998) enhances their ability to multitask in other domains.
  • wrong, children are very sensitive to these issues and know whether a language is considered ‘ unimportant ’ , either by parents or by the community. Perhaps equally important, depriving children of exposure to one of the family languages may have other, more sociological, consequences. Children in this situation may feel that the second language is ‘ less important ’ than the first, and not really worth speaking. Children need to feel that the minority language is not just Mummy ’ s or Daddy ’ s language, but that it works exactly like the other language (anectode on Marco) Children do not know about the cognitive benefits of bilingualism, but they are exquisitely sensitive to the status and prestige of each language within the family and in the outside world. Even if the cognitive windows are still open, closed attitudes may put bilingualism out of reach.
  • monolingual and bilingual children do not differ substantially in their linguistic behaviour, they tend to make the same developmental mistakes
  • Misunderstanding bilingualism

    1. 1. MIS UNDERSTANDING BILINGUAL EDUCATION IN COLOMBIA Beatriz Peña Dix Universidad de los Andes [email_address]
    2. 2. <ul><li>&quot;To have another language is to possess a second soul.” </li></ul><ul><li>Charlemagne </li></ul>
    3. 3. <ul><li>Some insights </li></ul><ul><li>Bilingualism is the need and norm in many places and hot fashion in others </li></ul><ul><li>More international mobility leads to more bilingual/multilingual families </li></ul><ul><li>There are many misconceptions about the nature of bilingualism </li></ul><ul><li>There is a need for information about how bilingualism works </li></ul>
    4. 4. <ul><li>What does bilingualism really mean? </li></ul><ul><li>How bilingual can our learners become in a monolinguistic setting? </li></ul><ul><li>What do we want our learners to achieve with foreign languages? </li></ul><ul><li>What kind of citizens are we educating through an L1/L2 learning? </li></ul>
    5. 5. <ul><li>Definitions </li></ul>
    6. 6. bi·lin·gual·ism <ul><li>Pronunciation: -gwə-ˌli-zəm </li></ul><ul><li>Function: noun </li></ul><ul><li>Date: 1873 </li></ul><ul><li>1 : the ability to speak two languages 2 : the frequent use (as by a community) of two languages 3 : the political or institutional recognition of two languages </li></ul><ul><li>Merriam Webster </li></ul>
    7. 7. <ul><li>Early bilingualism </li></ul><ul><li>(Simultaneous Bilingualism) </li></ul><ul><li>Coordinated bilingualism </li></ul><ul><li>Children develop two parallel linguistic systems, so that for any one word, the child has two signifiers and two signifieds . </li></ul><ul><li>The two parents have different mother tongues and each parent speaks only his or her own mother tongue to the child. In response, the child constructs two separate linguistic systems and can handle each of them easily. </li></ul><ul><li>Relatively young children who have already mastered their mother tongue are adopted by parents who speak a different language. Once again, the distinction between the two languages is crystal-clear for the child. </li></ul>
    8. 8. <ul><li>Children have only one signified for two signifiers and so cannot detect the conceptual differences between the two languages. </li></ul><ul><li>Compound bilingualism is what occurs when both parents are bilingual and both parents speak to the child in both languages indiscriminately. </li></ul><ul><li>The child will grow up to speak both languages effortlessly and without an accent, but will never master all the subtleties of either of them. In other words, the child will not really have a mother tongue. </li></ul>Compound bilingualism
    9. 9. Late bilingualism (Consecutive Bilingualism) <ul><li>Develops when a second language is learned after age 12. </li></ul><ul><li>Late bilingualism is defined in contrast to early bilingualism, because late bilingualism is developed after the critical period for language learning. In such cases, it is thought that when people acquire their second language through immersion in a community that speaks it, implicit memory plays more of a role, whereas when they do so solely through formal classroom studies, explicit memory is more involved. </li></ul>
    10. 10. Other types of bilingualism <ul><li>A Subordinate Bilingual </li></ul><ul><li>Interprets words of the weaker language through the words of the stronger language. </li></ul>
    11. 11. A Balanced Bilingual… <ul><li>Is someone who has equal ability in both languages. </li></ul>
    12. 12. Functional bilingualism <ul><li>moves into language production across an encyclopedia of everyday events. Functional bilingualism concerns when, where, and with whom people use their two languages (Fishman, 1965). </li></ul>
    13. 13. Circumstantial and Elective Bilingualism <ul><li>Elective bilingualism is a characteristic of individuals who choose to learn a language, for example in the classroom. Elective bilinguals come from majority language groups (e.g. English-speaking Americans who learn Spanish or French). They add a second-language without losing their first language. </li></ul><ul><li>Circumstantial bilinguals learn another language to survive. Because of their circumstances (e.g. as immigrants), they need another language to function effectively (for example, Latinos in the United States). Consequently, their first language </li></ul><ul><li>Baker, Colin(Editor). Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 27 : Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. </li></ul>
    14. 14. RECEPTIVE BILINGUALISM <ul><li>Being able to understand two languages but express oneself in only one. This is generally not considered &quot;true&quot; bilingualism but is a fairly common situation worth naming here. </li></ul>
    15. 15. Maximal and Minimal Bilingualism <ul><li>A classic definition of bilingualism such as ‘the native-like control of two or more languages’ (Bloomfield, 1933) appears too extreme and maximalist (‘native like’). </li></ul><ul><li>At the other end is a minimalist definition, as in Diebold’s (1964) concept of incipient bilingualism. The term incipient bilingualism allows people with minimal competence in a second language to squeeze into the bilingual category. Tourists with a few phrases and business people with a few greetings in a second language would be incipient bilinguals. The danger of being too exclusive is not overcome by being too inclusive. Trawling with too wide a fishing net will catch too much variety and therefore make discussion about bilinguals ambiguous and imprecise. Trawling with narrow criteria may be too insensitive and restrictive. </li></ul><ul><li>Baker, Colin(Editor). Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 27 : Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. </li></ul>
    16. 16. <ul><li>Substractive bilingualism </li></ul><ul><li>Additive bilingualism </li></ul><ul><li>Elite/Folk bilingualism </li></ul>
    17. 17. <ul><li>Subtractive bilingualism: </li></ul><ul><li>When learning a second language interferes with the learning of a first language. The second language replaces the first language. This is commonly found in children who emigrate to a foreign country when they are young, especially in cases of orphans who are deprived of their first language input. </li></ul>
    18. 18. Additive bilingualism: <ul><li>When learning a second language does not interfere with the learning of a first language. Both languages are developed. </li></ul>
    19. 19. “ Elite” Bilingualism <ul><li>So-called &quot;elite&quot; bilinguals include intermarried couples and those who are living abroad, temporarily or permanently, for business or educational reasons. These are the people who to a large degree choose to have a bilingual home. </li></ul>
    20. 20. Myths and Misconceptions
    21. 21. Myth 1: Bilingualism leads to cognitive and linguistic delays <ul><li>Bilingual children are neither less not more intelligent than monolinguals. </li></ul><ul><li>On average they start to talk a bit later than monolinguals but still within parameters of normal variation. </li></ul>
    22. 22. Advantages <ul><li>Communicative advantages </li></ul><ul><li>• Extended family relationships </li></ul><ul><li>• Community relationships/transnational communications </li></ul><ul><li>• Language sensitivity, context awareness </li></ul><ul><li>Cultural advantages </li></ul><ul><li>• Cultural relativity and awareness </li></ul><ul><li>• Economic advantages </li></ul><ul><li>Cognitive advantages </li></ul><ul><li>• Metalinguistic awareness </li></ul><ul><li>• Creative thinking </li></ul><ul><li>• Processing advantages via inhibition of irrelevant information </li></ul>
    23. 23. Myth 2: Bilingualism leads to linguistic confusion <ul><li>Bilingual children do not “mix” their languages (but code-switching), for it is not a sign of linguistic confusion </li></ul><ul><li>Their errors are to a large extent predictable </li></ul><ul><li>Many parents think that it is better to wait to introduce one of the languages until the other one is ‘well established’: this deprives the child of input in the most crucial years. </li></ul>
    24. 24. Myth 3: Bilingualism is “genetic” – it just happens spontaneously when parents are native speakers of different languages <ul><li>Being native speakers of different languages is not sufficient: providing enough input in both languages is also necessary. </li></ul>
    25. 25. Myth 4: Bilingualism is always possible and easy during childhood, no matter when it starts <ul><li>An early start is necessary to attain the same results as monolinguals, especially for accent and pronunciation, but also for many aspects of grammar. </li></ul><ul><li>There are maturational changes that seem to happen significantly earlier than is generally assumed, approximately between 3 and 4 years of age. </li></ul>
    26. 26. Myth 5: Bilingualism is useful only if both languages are useful (i.e. if they are widely spoken, etc.) <ul><li>There are lots of non-linguistic advantages resulting from bilingualism, regardless of WHICH languages are involved. </li></ul><ul><li>For example, bilinguals are better at coordinating different types of information and at ignoring irrelevant information. </li></ul><ul><li>Evidence suggests that bilinguals may be protected against the deterioration of cognitive abilities in old age. </li></ul>
    27. 27. Myth 6: Attitudes do not influence linguistic development <ul><li>Children are very sensitive to people’s attitudes towards language: they know whether a language is considered ‘unimportant’, either by parents or by the community. </li></ul><ul><li>It is important for the child to realize that both languages can be used in all situations and are used by many people. </li></ul>
    28. 28. Myth 7: Bilingualism is not ‘taught’ within the family <ul><li>It is important for parents to create a wider range of contexts for spontaneous use for both languages. </li></ul><ul><li>It helps if both parents at least understand both languages. </li></ul>
    29. 29. Some Facts
    30. 30. <ul><li>FACT: Bilingual and monolingual children make similar errors </li></ul><ul><li>FACT: There is individual variation </li></ul><ul><li>FACT: Input matters </li></ul><ul><li>FACT: There are no qualitative differences between bilingual and monolingual children in language development. </li></ul>
    31. 31. Separate underlying proficiency (SUP) <ul><li>In this view (now discredited), there are two separate language compartments in the brain of bilingual people, each of which has a limited storage capacity – half of the capacity of a monolingual mind, in effect. This ‘container’ view of the mind led people to think that learning more of one language would create an imbalance, ‘pushing out’ the other language. </li></ul>
    32. 33. Common underlying proficiency (CUP) <ul><li>Research supports this model of how bilingual knowledge and ability is stored in the brain. Rather than having two separate areas for different languages, the two languages are stored together and the knowledge is linked and can interact. The two languages are kept separate only at the surface level, where they are used to speak, read, write, and so on . (Cummins 2000: p. 38) </li></ul>
    33. 34. <ul><li>Baker (2006) summarizes the CUP model of bilingualism in six points: </li></ul><ul><li>There is one integrated source of thought. </li></ul><ul><li>People have the capacity to easily store two or more languages. </li></ul><ul><li>Information processing skills and educational attainment may be developed through two languages as well as through one language. </li></ul><ul><li>The language a student uses in the classroom needs to be sufficiently well developed for them to be able to process the cognitive challenges that are presented. </li></ul><ul><li>Speaking, listening, reading, or writing in the first (L1) and second languages (L2) helps the whole cognitive system to develop. However, if students are made to operate in an insufficiently developed L2 without recourse to their L1 (as is often the case in mainstream education), the system will not function at its best. </li></ul>
    34. 36. <ul><li>In virtually every bilingual program that has ever been evaluated, whether intended for linguistic majority or minority students, spending instructional time teaching through the minority language entails no academic costs for students' academic development in the majority language (Baker, 1996; Cummins & Corson, 1997). </li></ul>
    35. 37. <ul><li>United States ESL readers used knowledge of their native language as they read in English. </li></ul>
    36. 38. <ul><li>An impressive number of research studies have documented a moderately strong correlation between bilingual students' LI and L2 literacy skills in situations where students have the opportunity to develop literacy in both languages. (Cummins, 1991; Cummins et al., 1984; Genesee, 1979; Sierra & Olaziregi, 1991; Verhoeven & Aarts, 1998; Wagner, 1998). </li></ul>
    37. 39. CONCLUSIONS <ul><li>Bilingual programs must be aware of the different types of bilingualism, adscribe to the one (s) suiting their mission statement, goals and objectives. </li></ul><ul><li>Bilingual programs must provide teachers and parents with information of what bilingualism means and how it works in order to understand this particular learning process and enhance strategies to support both in/external input in L1 and L2. </li></ul><ul><li>Bilingual programs need to become self-critical entities —open to change and adjustment—, able to perform internal self-assessment periodically. </li></ul>
    38. 40. Thank you very much!!!!
    39. 41. <ul><li>Works Cited </li></ul><ul><li>Baker, Colin (2006): Foundations on Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. London, England. Multilingual Matters. </li></ul><ul><li>Grosjean, Francois (1982): Life with Two Languages . Cambridge, Massachusetts. Harvard University Press. </li></ul><ul><li>Romaine, Suzanne (1989): Bilingualism . Oxford, UK. Basil Blackwell. </li></ul><ul><li>Verma, Mahendra K., Ed. (1995): Working with Bilingual Children: Good Practice in the Primary Classroom . London, England. Multilingual Matters. </li></ul><ul><li>Weinreich, U. (1968): Languages in Contact . The Hague: Mouton [First edition 1953. New York: Linguistic Circle of New York Publication No. 2.] </li></ul>