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Global interdependence and mass communication seldom seems to function in monolinguals i.e. Proficiency in only one language is not enough for economic, societal, and educational accomplishment. As per the U.S. Census in 2000, more than 9.7 million children ages five to seventeen spoke a language other than English at home. These language-minority children constitute the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. school-age population (Clark, 2002).
Bilingualism is a sociolinguistic phenomenon when a person or many individuals can speak more than one language with a fair degree of proficiency. Usually bilinguals appear to be more capable in one language over the other, they can also attain high proficiency in two languages, and this phenomenon is often referred to as balanced bilingualism. Balanced bilingualism is said to have occur when individuals possesses equal communicative competence in two languages, which makes them pure or coordinative bilingual (Olikova, 2011).
"Pure bilingual possesses four areas of knowledge and skills: grammatical competence, which reflects knowledge of linguistic code; discourse competence, which involves mastery of how to combine grammatical forms and meanings to achieve a unified text in different genres; sociolinguistic competence, which addresses the extent to which utterances are produced and under-stood appropriately; and strategic competence, which refers to mastery of communication strategies" (Olikova, 2011, pp.188). If a bilingual lacks any of the skilled areas mentioned above, he is said be a partial or mixed one.
Bilingualism is inseparably connected with code switching (CS). Code switching is an interesting phenomenon, where people combine words or phrases together from the two learned languages. For example- Many educated people who are fluent in English as their second language (L2), often use code-switching by inserting English words, phrases or sentences while communicating in their native language (L1). This form of language alteration is widely observed in foreign language classrooms (Olikova, 2011).
This report discusses the factors responsible for the bilingual's differential development in two languages i.e. and a code switching being proved as a valuable strategy for bilingual individuals to learn the subject matter more efficiently.
2. Factors responsible for the differential development a bilingual's two languages
Four major factors responsible for the development of these different profiles among bilingual children comprises of: The socioeconomic status (SES) of the child's family, parents education, the amount of language input in each language, and the language(s) the mother uses with the child at home(Dixon &Daraghmeh, 2012).
2.1 The socioeconomic status (SES)
SES is usually measured as a sum of family income, parents' education level, and job status. Higher income means more access to language resources such as books, CDs, or practical experiences like visiting zoos, museums, and shows .etc. As per the current study in Singapore, income may influence hiring of tutors which results in developing more skills in one or two languages (Dixon &Daraghmeh, 2012).
2.1.1. Parents education
Mother's or parents' education- the other indicator of SES is also interrelated with a family income level. In accordance with the monolingual perspective, parents or mothers with more education are more liable to have larger vocabularies and are more likely to engage in richer literacy activities than mothers with less education. For instance- Among Spanish-English bilingual children in the US, high SES children performed well than low SES children on English vocabulary tests, but also low SES children outperformed high SES children on Spanish vocabulary (Dixon &Daraghmeh, 2012).
2.2 Language Input
Language input in both languages for bilingual children was another factor that creates different profiles of bilinguals. Enhanced performance on skills such as vocabulary, reading and writing in a language is strongly dependent on the child's input i.e. more the input, better would be the child proficiency be. Research on Singapore's kindergarteners revealed that with more Chinese disclosure, fewer code-switches to English were observed when compared to the children who were exposed to English-dominant language (Dixon &Daraghmeh, 2012).
2.2.1 Home language
For school children both the home language and school language plays an important role in children's language acquisition. Research in US suggested that home support is crucial for developing ethnic language. This concept was further elucidated by researchers in Singapore where they found that children's whose parents spoke mostly ethnic language had higher cultural language vocabulary than children with parents who spoke both English and ethnic languages (Dixon &Daraghmeh, 2012).
3. Code switching
Code switching offers great opportunity to language minority populations. It is an educational approach which not only master academic skills but also allows them to become proficient in two languages.
Research on immersion settings and bilingual settings described below was being done on Spanish dominant students in the two cities of U.S (Pollard, 2002).
3.1 Immersion settings
Refers to the one in which minority students who came from various backgrounds, cultures with varied socioeconomic levels, ranging from low to upper middle-class are placed in English only classroom( taught by monolingual English speaker )where the aim for these students is to learn English as quickly as they can. Study was conducted on Spanish dominant students who have monolingual Spanish-speaking parents and had inadequate English vocabulary (Pollard, 2002).
Outcome from the immersion classrooms depicted that conversations in English were usually short and comprised of short, two to three word sentences. Due to language barriers, students could not students could not convey their knowledge of subject matter accurately. As a result student stopped themselves in the middle of the sentence and claimed that they didn't know the answer (even though they knew the answer but lacked English vocabulary (Pollard, 2002).
3.2 Bilingual settings
A bilingual class room is the one in which the students speak both the minority language (for e.g. Spanish) and the majority language (English). Here, English is taught as a separate subject and subject matter is taught in minority language. With time, as the competence with second language develops, more of the subject matter may be discussed and taught in English. Students came from a monolingual Spanish English parent's background. Students comprised of low SES (Pollard, 2002).
Results show that code switching was commonly observed within the bilingual classroom. Students were seen communicating freely between teachers and peers and faced fewer language barriers while discussing subject matter (Pollard, 2002).
Thus, study affirms that code switching is a valuable strategy to convey their awareness of the subject matter. Hence, it can be said that when the principal goal of the school is to offer best education, students should be allowed to use code switching strategies to help them learn best (Pollard, 2002).
4.1 Bilingualism is a multidimensional phenomenon which involves cognitive, cultural, environmental and situational factors (Brice, 2008).
4.2 A bilingual individual needs to achieve certain levels of expertise and competence in initial (first) language (L1) before linguistic and cognitive benefits can occur in the second language (L2). If this threshold is not achieved, then it may ends in subtractive bilingualism. However, if the threshold is achieved, then coordinative bilingualism between the two languages may arise (Brice, 2008).
4.3 To attain certain level of proficiency in both languages, one of the strategy that bilingual students make use of is code switching (alternate between two languages) to communicate more effectively (Olikova, 2011).
5.1 More research needs to be done to examine the specific factors which can lead to high proficiency in both languages, especially in the case of low SES children and with the children who come from more ethnic background.
5.2 It is recommended that educators should amplify their knowledge of the languages employed by their bilingual students (Brice, 2008).