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Bilingual At An Early Age Education Essay

Globalization has immensely affected the life style of almost every individual. It has contributed to an increased urge to learn new languages Littlewood, 2006. The value of learning more than one language has increased over the past 20 years with the increase of globalization in many fields of life ( Genesee, 2009). It is a trend these days that several institutes and schools offer a foreign language course. Even some colleges and universities have included foreign language in their regular academic syllabus. The major factors those result in the acquisition and development of a language in the need for a language ( Elgin, 2000). There can be several factors such as need to interact with others, need to study or work, to actively participate in social activities and so on. Learning more than on language is the demand of evolving trends and globalization ( Allford & Pachler, 2007). Majority of the people are of the view that it is a better option to start becoming bilingual as early as possible. Some researchers are of the view that earlier you start the more fluent you become. It has been a common perception that any individual cannot be a “real” bilingual unless they don’t acquire two languages in infancy or at least as a young child during early years of academic life ( Newman & Newman, 2006). Now the question arises that what are the true factors that have resulted in this opinion. Several examples expose the fact that there is an obvious variance between those who learn a language in a class setting and between those who learn a second language as a result of changed environment because of living in the country where the medium of instruction is a different language. Several antecedents can lead to students becoming bilingual at an early age. Bilingualism is usually prevalent with immigrant children ( Newman & Newman, 2006). Literacy plays a vital role in the development of this skill especially among immigrants. In such circumstances, child is at the stage of acquisition of the first language, and as schooling and day-care services starts at a very early age so the first language is usually interrupted and insufficient or unstructured language follows from the second language ( Hamers & Blanc, 2000). The end result is that children end up with two mastered languages. It is a well evident truth that the learning capability of children is much faster as compared to adults. They have the skill for new words and sounds as a result of the broad spectra of lingual input they are open to. Children have several advantages as compared to elders while learning a second language such as they have the capability to easily divide words into its constituent sounds, they talent of classifying words comes unsurprisingly to them, their responses are relatively fast while learning language, detecting rhyming words becomes much easier for children, lastly, at an early age, bilingual children demonstrate greater understanding of shapes and patterns (Adler, 2003).

There is nothing like being bilingual. If an individual speaks only one language, one might be unaware of what one is missing out. Bilingualism opens up different trails of thoughts and expressions. Bilingualism gives the opportunity to communicate in unusual circumstances and with people who would normally be inexpressible due to a obstacle of confusion and language barrier (Adler, 2003). Poor academic results of minority children played a vital role to bilingualism. Bilingualism has types. When children learn two languages before the age of three, it is termed as simultaneous bilingualism. This type is usually found in home when parents speak two different languages; on the other hand, if children speak two languages after the age of three, it is referred as successive bilingualism ( Littlewood, 2006). Research has proved the fact that proficient bilingual children enjoy many advantages as compared to the ones who speak only one language. These advantages are demonstrated during tasks which involve skills related to consideration, inhibition and observing. On the whole, these skills play a vital role in executive control process that is located in the front lobes of the brain. It allows the person to focus attention in areas where there is conflicting information to be considered in selecting between relevant or irrelevant information. A bilingual advantage does not occur in individuals who have taken a foreign language course and have less capability in the target language ( Genesee, 2009). On the contrary, many researchers believe that poor performance of bilingual children in verbal tests is due to mental confusion and language handicaps. Even some researchers are of the view that learning a second language immensely affects the first language. On the basis of past research in Irish primary schools, it is argued that using a language other than mother tongue as medium of instruction leads to retardation in subject matter being taught. However, many researchers disagreed with this theory. On the contrary, they are of the view that bilingualism can certainly influence both cognitive and linguistic development in a positive way ( Cummins, 2009). Latest research claims that rather than bilingualism, socio-cultural and school program variables were the major factors of this poor academic performance. "Bilingualism" is regarded as an optimistic force in intellectual advancement which flops to occur in minority language situations because of socio-economic or educational settings ( Genesee, 2009). This trend is so prevalent in schools that the best way for educating linguistic minority pupils and one of the best for educating any student is to teach two languages without excuse and becoming skillful in both is considered an important intellectual and cultural accomplishment (Donna, 1994). The basic reasons of teaching two languages in schools is that student will be skillful in two languages and the capability of students to play a positive role in cross cultural activities will be enhanced. Now the question arises that what are the major reason that lead to bilingualism. It is considered a positive task to raise kids as bilingual. The numerous benefits of being a bilingual are being acknowledged and the myths and misconceptions are being eradicated. Several advantages can be listed. Firstly, researchers say that bilingual children are more flexible in their thinking. Processing knowledge and information in two languages is a rare and developed skill but its acquisition in bilingual students is automatic and fast. It positively affects the intellect of an individual which will in turn affect the positive growth of children ( Wölck, 1988). Secondly, career opportunities improve. Knowing different languages is a true asset in context of employment opportunities. It is an evident fact that multilingual people can have a wide variety of employment opportunities. With increasing globalization, language knowledge is gaining popularity and importance in seeking career. Almost every sector is currently looking for people that are capable of communicating in more than one language ( Hornberger, 1987). Thirdly, learning different language affect the personality positively as individuals turn tolerant and open minded by acquiring new language. Languages are strongly connected to different cultures. Every language has its own character that has developed as a result of its history and time. So if children are brought up as bilingual, they get a chance to understand different cultures and learn to think and act like individuals from distinct cultures. Thus, this plays a role in the foundation of tolerance. Language can be a strong instrument against ignorance, hatred and racism (Donna, 1994). Another important feature of being bilingual is the ability to communicate with a broader range of people. The world is becoming more and more globalized and it is only rational to assume that bilingual/multilingual individuals will be the champions. Anyone who is intelligent to break through the language obstacle will have a huge benefit ( Elgin, 2000). One of the best advantages of being bilingual at a very early age is its impact on the positive growth and activity of brain functions. The researchers say that although language is thought to be interceded by functional fluctuations in the brain, it has been determined that being bilingual structurally changes the brain. The influence was strongest in people who had learned a second language before the age of five. Those who had learn second language at a young age had greater skill in reading, writing, talking, and understanding speech of the second language ( Hamers & Blanc, 2000).York University also distinguished advances in knowledge and literacy skill acquisition in bilingual children. “Metalinguistic” abilities, which encourage a more close understanding of verbal and non-verbal communication, obtain the biggest improvement here. In general, the bilingual children usually have sharper cognitive skills that keep the brain continually active and aware. Studies conducted on preschoolers discovered that those with the ability of speaking several languages did far better on sorting puzzles in speed and success ( Elgin, 2000).

Bilingualism is common in today’s society. It has its origins. For instance, movement of people across the globe result in people learning more than one language as a result of changed circumstances and environment. Secondly, both the parents speak different languages at home as medium of instruction ends up a child mastered in both the languages. Lastly, education is one of the basic factor, for example, many people residing in Arab areas where Arabic is the national language send their children to American and British schools where medium of instruction is English, hence student end up mastered in two languages as a result of different language being spoken at home and in school. Today, many students pursue their degrees in languages which are not their native language. For example, in India, Pakistan, and many African states, many students move to foreign countries to pursue their degrees. As a result of which, many British, French and American universities have foreign students. This educational bilingualism is further boosted by the fact that the books and written material is available in limited number or languages which prompts students to learn languages other than their native language ( Grosjean, 1982). Another major reason that leads to bilingualism is the policy of many countries to clear the language test in order to get passport of that country to be known as their nationality holders. Without clearing the language test, one cannot become the national of a particular country even if he has been living in the country from decades. Hence, the person cannot enjoy the benefits granted by the government unless a person clears the language test to become a national ( Hamers & Blanc, 2000).

Code switching is a common phenomenon that is prevalent in bilingual students. It is switching between two or more languages in a single conversation. In the 1940s and 1950s, many researchers thought of code-switching as an inferior use of language. Since the 1980s, most scholars have known the fact that it is a usual, natural outcome of bilingual and multilingual language use. Multilingual people who speak more than one language sometimes use multiple languages while conversing with each other ( Cantu, 2000). Now the question arises that why bilinguals use code switching frequently. For instance, sometimes the other language has a better word to express any idea more significantly or clearly. Secondly, at times the words one code-switch is the only ones they have or they are more readily accessible in the other language. It does not mean that one doesn’t know the correct word in the language he is using. It can be explained with the help of complementary principle. It is basically related to different aspects of life of bilinguals, such as work, family, school, sports, hobbies, etc. Some terms are used of different language in order to be clearer while conversing. For instance, an Indian working in an India television channel might use few words of English language while talking about technology because the software’s used by him are mostly in English language. Hence in this scenario, code switching is often used. Lastly, code-switch is commonly used as a communicative tool, including to ignore someone or to show skill. For instance, switching to minority language as per requirement or maybe because the people around might be unable to understand your language. Sometimes it might be to say something precisely about those you’re excluding; sometimes you just don’t want others to listen or understand to what you’re saying ( Hornberger, 1987). Many researchers are of the view that code switching, above all between different languages, is understood as a linguistic shortfall that discloses the lack of ability of the speaker in both languages. It is often viewed negatively. It is often measured as a low status form, improper, poor language, or an outcome of incomplete mastery of the two languages. Hence it is discouraged. On the contrary, many researchers support the idea of code switching as a strategy with which bilingual children are able to communicate more effectually. Code switching is one of the most common communication approaches used by foreign language students to be understood among their peers of different language (Heller, 1988).


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