Defining Bilingualism And Types Of Bilingualism
Bilingualism comes from two words from Latin origin: ”bi” which means ”two” and ”lingua” which means tongue. Therefore, it may be defined as an ability to speak fluently at least in two languages. There are many problems and challenges when trying to define this term precisely. The reason for that is that many children experience learning two languages since birth because their parents want so, or simply because their parents have two different mother tongues. Furthermore, some people become bilingual later, when they decide to learn the second language e.g. in schools. This type of bilingualism is called elective bilingualism. In contrast to elective bilingualism where a person learns a new language by their own will, some people need to learn a new language to survive and adapt to the new surrounding and society e.g. Latinos in the United States of America. In some communities, children are raised in a way that they speak one language at home, and the other one in public areas, such as in schools. That type of learning a new language is known as circumstantial bilingualism. (Baker, 2001)
”It is very important to classify bilinguals into different categories, depending on the linguistic, cognitive, developmental and social dimensions.” (Moradi, 2014) They are divided into five different levels according to their age, proficiency, and some other factors. According to the age of a speaker, bilingualism can be divided into early or late bilingualism are. Early refers to the ones that learn two or more languages in a period before adolescence. Late bilingualism refers to the ones who have learned the second language after an already mentioned period. The main difference is the level and accomplishment in a certain language. To add, the ones who have learned two languages in the early phase may also consider those languages as native, in contrast to the ”late” bilingualists that distinguish a difference between their L1 and L2. The second group are folk and elite bilinguists. Folk bilingualists speak a language that is not considered as a dominant language in certain society, whereas elite bilingualists speak the dominant one. The third group is called balanced and dominant bilingualism. ”In dominant bilingualism, the individual is more proficient and competent in one of the two languages, while a balance bilingual is more or less equally competent and proficient in both languages.” (Moradi, 2014) The fourth group of speakers consists of compound, coordinate, and subordinate bilinguals. the difference between them is the way that individual stores and systemizes words, codes, patterns, etc. The last group includes additive bilinguals and subtractive bilinguals. Additive bilinguals can learn a new language without losing proficiency and fluency in the other language, contrary to subtractive speakers that ”lose” the first language. Some linguists also mention passive bilingualism in which a person can understand a language, but cannot speak it.
Being bilingual may have many positive sides. If a child’s parents speak different first languages, the child will learn both of these languages to communicate with them, which is very important to both children and parents in order to nurture communication in their family. ”Many parents can only communicate with full intimacy, naturally and expressively in their first (or preferred or dominant) language” (Baker & Jones, 1998). Furthermore, bilinguals are able to communicate with a greater number of people, either from their family that e.g. lives abroad, or simply when taking a trip or being in another country. Bilingualists also learn new languages easily, remember new words quickly, and have better cognitive skills. Some drawbacks of being bilingual are an inability to express oneself in only one language, making up new words or expressions that are not similar or the same in spoken languages, delayed speech or concerns of speaker’s identity.
Bilingual children can experience both positive and negative experiences in school. Regarding that bilinguals have better cognitive skills, they will logically connect information from different sources, remember and learn faster, adapt more easily in certain groups of children, and develop critical thinking sooner than monolinguals. On the other hand, when communicating with other children, there may happen a confusion when a bilingual child starts code-switching or mingling two languages, and the receiver of the message may not understand it. ”It is important to understand that code-switching is natural for bilingual adults and children and reflects the fact that bilinguals often know certain words better in one language than in the other” (Ramírez & Kuhl, 2016). Bilingualists may be exposed to bullying because of the already mentioned features. ”There is so much discrimination and hate. Even from other kids from Mexico who have been here longer. They don’t treat us like brothers. They hate even more. It makes them feel more like natives” (Hakuta & Garcia, 1989 ). Therefore, teachers need to be well-prepared and informed how to integrate bilingual students in a classroom, and in that way promote and teach other students to be tolerant and sensible towards bilinguals.
The ability to speak two or more languages may affect a person’s personality. François Grosjean, one of the researchers of bilingualism mentions how a bilingual person may change their behaviour regarding the language they speak. In addition, many bilinguists may become shy or dark horses, because they are often unsatisfied with their level of knowledge or just uncomfortable speaking one of the languages. ”They complain that they don’t speak one of their languages well, that they have an accent, that they mix their languages, and so on” (Grosjean, Bilingual: Life and Reality, 2010). Therefore, they can also be very self-critical. It is often believed that bilinguals have different personalities depending on the language they speak which may produce some negative outcomes e.g. emotional lability. Some scientists even believe that bilingualism may lead to mental inferiority, but many studies have disproved this theory. Last few decades a great number of research has been made which proved that bilingualism has a positive effect on a child. ”They declared that the bilingualism has positive effects that facilitate learning a new language, and they reported that in school bilingual children are more motivated and often ahead of other classmates, especially in intellectual development” (Grosjean, 1982). Hopingly, the trend of learning two or more languages will continue, connecting the world and people through languages.
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