The Definition Of Bilingualism

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Over the years, linguists have used a multitude of definitions in order to explain “Bilingualism.” American linguist, Leonard Bloomfield, stated that bilingualism is the native-like control of two languages; however, this definition was regarded as a narrow explanation which gives the label “bilingual” to only a small number of people. Later, Haugen defined bilinguals as individuals who are fluent in one language but who can generate complete meaningful utterances in the other language. According to this definition, a child who speaks French and, due to instructional language of school, commences to produce meaningful oral production in English would be considered as “bilingual”. Apart from these definitions, Chomsky asserted a universal multilingualism claiming that every person living in a social community is bilingual. Chomsky noted:

Everyone grows up hearing many different languages. Sometimes they are called ‘dialects’ or ‘stylistic variants’ or whatever, but they are really different languages. It is just that they are so close to each other that we don’t bother calling them different languages. So, everyone grows up in a multilingual environment. Sometimes the multilingual environment involves systems so unlike that you call them different languages. But that is just a question of degree; it is not a question of ‘yes or no.’CITATION Mar l 1055 (Cazzoli, Guijarro, Young, Young, & Scholten)Currently, many researchers employ a broader definition of bilinguals that includes individuals who have various degrees of language abilities in different domains in both languages.CITATION But12 l 1055 (Butler, 2012)

Types of Bilingualism

Simultaneous bilingualism applies to children who acquire two languages from birth. Simultaneous bilingualism presents itself when more than one language is spoken among family members. Development of simultaneous bilingualism is framed by three phases which are resemble to that of first language development for monolinguals (see Figure 1).

Early Phase (0-3 Years) Middle Phase (3-4 Years) Later Phase (5-6 Years)

Familiarity of the components of language. Acquirement of sound systems, use of questions, capable of having conversations Expanding complexity of language heard and understood.

During the Early Phase, children make progress in linguistics and acquire basic grammar rules by age three. Children, also, make overgeneralizations; for instance, goed for went.

In the Middle Phase, pronunciation becomes more accurate and the length and complexity of sentences develop. Moreover, kids start to ask “wh” questions and answer those questions. The lexicon expands rapidly compared to early phase.

In the Later Phase, on the other hand, a child starts to produce longer sentences in each language and still develops their vocabulary knowledge. Furthermore, children begin making jokes using the both languages.

Sequential or Successive bilingualism is defined as process of a child’s learning a second language after having established basic mastery in the first language. There are four stages in the second language development (see Figure 2).

Home Language Use Non-verbal Stage Telegraphic and Formulaic Speech Productive Language Use

Use of home language irrespectively of the languages used by others. Listens to make sense of the new language.

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Use of gestures, visage and sounds to communicate Makes an attempt to use the new language.

Use of telegraphic speech and formulaic speech.

Makes grammatical mistakes. (Overgeneralization) Commences to sound like a native speaker.

Demonstrates a general understanding of grammar.

Struggles in more cognitively demanding situations.

The Personal Benefits

Being able to speak in two different languages means being able to communicate with a wider range of people from plenty of different backgrounds. It certainly enriches our life adventure by enabling us to have various perspectives. Bilinguals can easily tolerate different notions of other people by putting themselves in the position of other people; thus, they grasp the importance of demonstrating respect for other human beings.

The Cognitive Benefits

The improvements in cognitive and sensory processing driven by bilingual experience may help a bilingual person to better process information in the environment, leading to a clearer signal for learning.CITATION Vio12 l 1055 (Marian & Shook, 2012) Since switching between two languages is a demanding process which force bilinguals to compare two language systems, which enables them to see how a language as a communication system really works. This also enhances bilinguals’ creative, analytical and critical thinking.

“Bilingual people have a different brain structure that gives them a better capacity when it comes to concentration. Being bilingual helps you to make faster and accurate decisions.” CITATION Pam18 l 1055 (Rodriguez, 2018)2.3 The Societal Benefit

Globalization has been defined by Giddens as ‘the intensification of worldwide social relations which link distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice versa’CITATION Dav04 l 1055 (Block, 2004). Given that we live in the era of globalization where everything is easily accessible no matter how far away it is or how long it takes.

In an attempt to keep up with the times, people had better learn to speak all global languages other than their native languages; otherwise, they cannot utilize the opportunities. Here the importance of bilingualism comes in sight because bilinguals are the people who can connect the people in their society to the global world.

The Economic Benefit

International markets are another part of globalization. With the globalization, superiors have been demanded for bilingual even multilingual workers in an effort to counterbalance the needs of globalization. Moreover, a number of companies are organizing dual language education (DLL) programmes which aims to enhance workers’ competence in multiple languages. According to a report published by the New American Economy, the demand for multilingual workers more than doubled from 2010 to 2015. Specifically, demand for bilingual employees who speak Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic has increased, particularly in the finance, healthcare, legal services, and customer service sectors CITATION Ing19 l 1055 (Colón, 2019).

References

  1. Block, D. (2004). Globalization and language teaching. ELT Journal, 75-77.
  2. Butler, Y. (2012, October). Bilingualism/Multilingualism and Second-Language Acquisition. Retrieved from Research Gate: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/287446419_BilingualismMultilingualism_and_Second-Language_Acquisition
  3. Cazzoli, M., Guijarro, P., Young, F., Young, M., & Scholten. (n.d.). Beyond attrition: What we need to consider in the study of new Spanish varieties. Retrieved from Academia.edu: https://www.academia.edu/7594865/Beyond_attrition_What_we_need_to_consider_in_the_study_of_new_Spanish_varieties
  4. Colón, I. T. (2019, April 25). New Research Examines the Economic Benefits of Bilingualism. Retrieved from New America: https://www.newamerica.org/education-policy/edcentral/new-research-examines-economic-benefits-bilingualism/
  5. Dual Language Learners. (2012). Sequential or Successive Bilingualism. Retrieved from Dual Language Learners (DLL) Web Site: https://www.desiredresults.us/dll/sequent.html
  6. Marian, V., & Shook, A. (2012). The Cognitive Benefits of Being Bilingual. Cerebrum: the Dana forum on brain science, 13.
  7. Rodriguez, P. M. (2018, January 29). To be Bilingual; Benefits of knowing two languages. Retrieved from Colorado Virtual Library: https://www.coloradovirtuallibrary.org/learning/literacy/to-be-bilingual-benefits-of-knowing-two-languages/
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