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Bilingualism for the Individual, Family and Society


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This presentation aims for participants to understand the big picture of bilingualism, at different levels and connected to different types of language acquisition. Benefits seen and unseen, or not yet heard, accrue to every extent that people become bilingual. There are many factors that affect bilingual development, such as starting age, and many bilingual child-raising approaches that ultimately work. The social environment can cause difficulties, but bilingualism in actuality – languages in contact, within and between people – has no drawbacks and is basically constructive. As one result, bicultural young people who can use more than one language are becoming increasing prominent in Japanese society. The needs of the individual, family, schools, and society are all aligned with bilingual development. Many manifestations of bilingualism in Japan will be examined and contextualized in a taxonomy. Questions and comments from participants are welcome at any time.

Steve McCarty was a full professor for 22 years, now lecturing for Osaka Jogakuin University, Kyoto Bunkyo University, Kansai University, and the government agency JICA. He was a JALT Bilingualism SIG founding member and President for several years. He has used Japanese since graduate school, and his two sons went through the Japanese educational system. He has taught university classes on bilingualism, bilingual education, and language acquisition. He has published many articles on bilingualism such as “Bilingual Child-Raising Possibilities in Japan” (Tokyo: Child Research Net, 2010, also available in Japanese). Conference presentations include “How Bilingualism informs Language Teaching” (JALT 2012) and “Bilingualism for Language Teachers and Parents in Japan” (Back to School 2013). Publications are available online at the Bilingualism and Japanology Intersection:

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Bilingualism for the Individual, Family and Society

  1. 1.  Introduction  Unique international families diversifying Japan  Big Picture  Clarifying various meanings of the term “Bilingualism”  Types of Language Acquisition (from a bilingual perspective)  A Developmental Bilingual Perspective (paradigm shift)  Taxonomy of Bilingualism  Levels of Bilingualism – 4 in daily life + disciplinary level  Issues at the Individual, Societal, and Family Levels  School Level (Bilingual Education) – definition & types  Conclusion: Bilingualism for the Individual, Family & Society  Audience questions, comments or reflections at any time
  2. 2. Monolingual / SLA Paradigm Developmental Bilingual Perspective Informed by Second language acquisition research First language acquisition & bilingual acquisition research In language teaching Native speaker model  Prohibitive of students’ L1 use  Teacher models monolingualism Bilingual methods  Teacher honors or uses students’ L1 strategically  Teacher models what students aspire to become Medium of instruction Students’ L2  Weak forms of Bilingual Education Learners’ native & target languages  Strong forms of Bilingual Education (Immersion, etc.) Goal L2 mastery (in some cases no matter what the cost to students’ L1)  Go – somewhere the teacher has not gone  Never reach the goal Bilingualism or bilingual development (maintenance or growth of all acquired languages)  Come – to where the teacher is functioning now  Start from the goal
  3. 3. Monolingual / SLA Paradigm Developmental Bilingual Perspective Government language policies Assimilation (usually not explicit policies but unstated assumptions / actions) Encouraging linguistic diversity, multilingualism, multiculturalism, or upholding linguistic human rights Typical places US, UK, China, Japan, etc. (in mainstream education) Europe, Oceania, Singapore, Canada, etc. (bilingual perspective to an extent) Time to start more than one language From about 6-12 years of age or later (after L1 is well established) From 3 months before birth (fetus able to analyze voice patterns) to infancy (simultaneous bilingualism) Evaluation reason Standardized proficiency exam scores high enough for a job or school entry? Sufficient language & communication skills for the needs & purposes of the individual? L1/L2 status Low/high High/high Cognitive functioning Monolingual mode  L2 off and on Bilingual mode  Two languages always on / available
  4. 4. Monolingual / SLA Paradigm Developmental Bilingual Perspective Linguistic development Additive (L1+L2) or subtractive (L2 replacing L1) Additive bilingualism (L1+L2 or LA & LB simultaneously developing) or multilingualism Cultural identity Monocultural Bicultural (to some extent) Cognitive benefits Increasing amount of language, new meanings, interpretations, metalinguistic awareness, etc. (subtle cognitive benefits) All the benefits of second language learning, plus diverse perspectives, ethical benefits (less prejudice, more broad-mindedness, etc.), mental health (later average onset of dementia), etc. Life choices Individuals’ options in life tend to be tied up with their native language & cultural community. Individuals bilingual to a useful extent can communicate with more than one linguistic community & bridge cultural differences. A greater linguistic repertoire tends to bring about more choices & thereby greater freedom.
  5. 5.  Living it: one’s own bilingual development  L2 learning, intercultural communication, parenting, researching, sharing expertise, & teaching bilingualism  Bilingual Ability & Use[fulness] (practical definitions)  Threshold of enough input & interaction, need & desire  Some types of bilinguals & bilingualism  Simultaneous or Sequential  Starting two languages by infancy or one after another  Receptive (not “passive”) or Active (activated)  Do not measure acquisition by speaking  Balanced or L1 Dominant (bilingual to an extent)  Native proficiency in both languages is rare & unnecessary  Subtractive (L2 replaces L1) or Additive (no language loss)  Folk (circumstantial) or Elite (elective – bilingual by choice)
  6. 6.  Code-switching  Separating languages suitably, mixing them creatively  Innate linguistic ability not lost after critical periods  Identity (= what one identifies with + roles in relation to others)  Cultural identity & individual personality  Each person has a unique cultural and linguistic repertoire  The option of biculturalism  Becoming bilingual (& bicultural) brings greater choices  More choices constitute greater freedom in one’s life  Cognitive benefits of becoming bilingual  Communicative, educational & career benefits  Ethical benefits of intercultural understanding  Fewer prejudices & greater open/broad-mindedness
  7. 7.  Profile of language groups in a society  Relatively monolingual & multilingual societies  Attitudes & policies affecting languages & cultures  Explicit laws, or policies implied by action or inaction  Social pressures to assimilate or to welcome diversity  Attitudes toward minorities, immigrants, & returnees  School support or neglect of language minority students’ L1  School support or neglect of returnees’ acquired languages  Cultural capital of different languages in a society  Value of languages reflects a hierarchy of ethnic groups  Educational, economic, & social advantages of English  Attitudes toward ハーフ haafu/biculturals in Japan  Stereotyped as English speakers, different or exoticized  Becoming accepted as Japanese & prominent in society
  8. 8.  What children need (as well as development of languages)  Family bilingualism  Mapping languages used among family members  International / Intercultural Marriages  Language choice  Bilingual child-raising (not “bilingual education” in schools)  Strategies / circumstances  One person, one language approach  Home language, community language approach  Scheduled, circumstantial, mixed, or spontaneous  What should be done and what would be mistaken to do  Importance of reading / biliteracy  What helps motivate children to become bilingual  When to start more than one language / critical periods  Japanese couples can use their L2 to raise bilingual children
  9. 9.  Stages that children go through  Social influences affecting their use of languages  Not once & for all but linguistic change & instability  Attitudes toward the foreign parent also change  Complexes develop especially around adolescence  Powerful influence of schools & peer pressure  Fear of social difficulties or bullying may be excessive  In-laws mean well but may reinforce assimilationism  Differences between urban areas and the countryside  Finding playgroups and others in a similar situation  No childhood can be smooth and free of turbulence  Japan is not ideal but relatively good for child-raising  Bilingual ability (especially with English) tends to prevail  Young adults realize the advantages of two native languages
  10. 10. For details read McCarty, S. (2010). Bilingual child-raising possibilities in Japan. Child Research Net. – in Japanese:  Mainstream Schools (minority language at home / elsewhere)  International Schools (all in one language only is not bilingual education)  Bilingual Schools (Immersion / other strong forms of bilingual education)  International Pre-schools (“international” may mean English-only policy)  Home Schooling (in adverse circumstances or by choice)  Parents adapt or develop their own curriculum  Distance Education  Correspondence Education (materials, assignments exchanged by post)  Online Education (find schools that are accredited offline as well)  Boarding Schools (child lives abroad during semesters)  Summer Camps (in US / nature areas – enjoyable, rich language context)  Saturday Schools (families organize minority language classes)  Playgroups (families in similar situations organize informal get-togethers)  Traveling Abroad (including short-term school enrollment or home stays)  Living Abroad (Japanese becomes the minority language to use at home)