Bilingualism Paper Essay Sample

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Simultaneous bilingualism describes a situation in which a child learns more than one language from birth, meaning they are spoken to in both languages on a regular basis. If this occurs throughout the final stages of language development, the child will be able to fluently speak and understand both languages; both languages are considered the child’s first speaking language. On the other hand, sequential bilingualism occurs when a second language

second language is not learned as a native language but taught as a foreign language instead (Rowe, B. M., & Levine, D. P., 2006). This could occur in an immigrant family, for example, perhaps the parents do not speak the native tongue of the community, so the children learn it from the schools, while the parents continue to speak their native language to the children at home. Those that grow up being spoken to in more than one language on a regular basis, simultaneous bilingualism, can be fluent in both languages. A common argument against what some believe about simultaneous bilingualism is that there even if the person is fluent in both languages, there will still always be a ‘dominant’ language. This could derive from speaking one of the languages more often than the other or eventually using one of the languages primarily.

The barrier creating a more dominant language could also derive from the fact that there are few in the community who speak one of the languages or that one of the languages simply is not socially dominant, therefore there is avoidance to using that language (Rowe, B. M., & Levine, D. P., 2006). Some also claim there are pressures to make a choice about which language a person uses as their dominant language. Despite this, studies have shown that there is no guarantee that one who is simultaneous bilingual will end up having more efficient cross-linguistic ability than one who is sequential bilingual. Opinions fluctuate on this due to the fact that the sequential bilingual does not learn the second language until after the final stages of language development have passed; therefore some claim that the language is not as in grained as it would be for someone who has learned the language from birth. In discussion about how the unitary or separate systems hypotheses influence bilingual acquisition in children, many theories are up for debate. There are those who believe that children did not acquire language bilingually which are known as the unitary language systems hypothesis.

In this theory, children are believed to put both of the languages’ grammar rules and vocabulary terms and mesh them together into a single system, rather than keeping them separate. This occurs at a young age and even as the child becomes older and the vocabulary tends to differentiate, grammar rules continue to mesh together. Code switching is one of the main pieces of evidence which support this hypothesis (Rowe, B. M., & Levine, D. P., 2006). In the separate system hypothesis, it is believed that children will separate the vocabulary and grammar rules into their own systems rather than combining it. Children would acquire two different language systems from the beginning of the language acquisition stages. In this theory, rules do not cross over to one another and children do not move through stages to eventually separate the languages.

Instead, the child is able to separate the different languages from the start of learning the languages. The difference between the sequential and simultaneous bilingual comes down to the difference in whether or not the language learner as the ability to separate more than one language into its own system or if the rules of the languages become meshed together to form one language system. The fact that code-switching comes in as a factor supporting the unitary language systems hypothesis moves me in the direction that ultimately sequential bilingualism makes the most sense. We must keep in mind, though, that the abilities of language learners become influenced not only by their innate abilities, but by society, the community they live in, their family life, and other outside influences which could assist or impair linguistic competence. Overall, whether a child learns a language from birth and is spoken to in those languages on a regular basis like in simultaneous bilingualism, or if they learn a language foreign to them later in life as in sequential bilingualism, the fact that the human brain can process and communicate in so many ways is miraculous.

Works Cited

Rowe, B. M., & Levine, D. P. (2006). A concise introduction to linguistics (2nd ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon.

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