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What factors need to be considered before describing someone as bilingual?

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August 29, 2002 Andi Moll, Form 11 What factors need to be considered before describing someone as bilingual? Many of the inhabitants of the western civilisation can already speak two languages or more. The continents of the world have grown together and it has become increasingly important to speak more than just the own mother tongue. Due to industrialisation and advancement of technologies people are now a lot more mobile and people from different cultures mix with each other and have have therefore moved much closer together. Subsequently, the need to communicate in different languages has gradually appreciated in recent times as this is the basis for the creation of a better understanding. One is almost temped to say that the mutual understanding of people from different countries is directly dependend on the level of skill they can employ in their communication. Thus, speaking a foreign language with the same comfort level like your first language goes a long way towards a better comprehenshion of other people. ...read more.


Many bilinguals, however, are not immigrants; it is not uncommon for people born to speak English at school or work and another language at home. Children can also become bilingual if they grow up in a houshold of mixed married parents, whereby each speak in their mother language to them, or if some other significant person in their life speaks to them consistently in another language. In such cases, the child may learn to speak to each parent in that parent's language. In short, a young child who is regularly confronted with two languages from an early age will most likely become a fluent native speaker of both languages. However the exposure must involve interaction; a child growing up in an English-speaking household but is exposed to Spanish only through Spanish-language television won't become a Spanish-English bilingual unless the child is regularly spoken to in both English and Spanish. After someone has accuired a second language it is not said that this person can cope with the cultures of both languages. ...read more.


Leopold's famous case study illustrates how bilingual children think different to monolingual ones. The concept was tested on a bilingual and a monolingual child. Both had to repeat four verses of a poem. While the monolingual child repeated the verses with little or no alteration, the bilingual child centered more on the meaning than just repeating the words. Other research in this area - for example by Ben-Zeev - suggests that bilinguals have to separate two languages and avoiding code-mixing may give them increased analytical orientation to language. This linguistic awareness can be defined as the ability to treat language itself as an object of thought as opposed to simply using the language system. What is more is that bilingual children may be more capable to adapt to changing environments, because of their experience of separate linguistic backgrounds and their wider social and cultural heritage. Although there are indications to support that bilinguals have some cognitive advantages over monolinguals, the evidence however that currently exists does neither confirm this nor does it lead in this direction. Consequently we can confidently say.... ...read more.

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Essay is unfinished. Some lapses in expression and at times the arguments are too vague and are not backed up by references to case studies and previous research. The writer does include case studies but again needs to explore and analyse chosen pieces of research
in more detail.

Marked by teacher Katie Dixon 05/09/2013

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