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It is often said that the western can speak many languages and often there is a phrase that states the myth of monolinguals in the west. The reality is not necessarily true as the class I am in is able to speak over thirty three languages. The Salverda article refersuser2010-10-21T21:55:00
that London itself can speak over 300 different languages, which renders the view of monolinguals.
A bilingual person is a person who can speak less than two or more languages and a person who can speak more than two are called monolingual. I can speak English, Gujarati, Hindi and French. For this case study English and Guajarati will be L1 and L2.
Being a person who has the opportunity to learn more than two languages has taught me how I have learnt my language and how well I look after them. For this case study I will explain social and political content bon language acquisition and the education experiences that I had growing up. I will also talk about theories and code mixing and switching.
People acquire languages throughout different ways, some learn from schools, some from marrying into a different culture or some through migrations. I was taught from my parents who migrated from India. The way that I can recall is, L1 was taught at school and L2 was taught at home and Saturday school.
Learning L1 was quite hard compared to L2, as I believe that with L2 there was more focus on me learning that much more quickly as my mum could not speak L1 quite well. Using this I will be able to focus on certain theories that may be able to help how the language.
During the period of 1960's there was a key development on how children acquire language. It was done by Peal and Lambert. There study showed that the study clearly demonstrated the advantages that accrue to bilinguals in certain areas of cognitive ability.
If it was not for Peal and Lambert 1960, as a breakthrough, theorists were able to understand that children needed to be balanced in languages to help them with their cognitive development. With this, people were able to understand how children learnt languages and help teacher to teach the children. Because of the methods founded, I believe that it has help me to understand that when I was learning there were different routes that teachers taught us to help me understand languages and without knowing some of this methods were taught at home as well.
But what defined a balanced bilingual? This was a person with equal proficiency, high or low in two languages. 'Native like control of both languages' (Baker 2001) given the nature of languages it is not possible to be balanced for a period of time. However, use of two or more languages may be in balanced give the circumstances.
The CUP (Common Underlying Proficiency model) which was developed by Cummins in 1980 was a great development for the understanding for language development. To summarise this method is that the both languages operate at the same time, meaning that when I was learning my languages, the development of L1 was weaker compared to L2. (Baker 2001 p170) explains that one reason could be that if one or more languages are not functioning fully cognition and academic performance could be affected. In my case, this was true, as I seem to have more difficult in learning English even though it was meant to be my first language compared to my home language which was L2.
Another method that I remember learning was through sounds and visual cues which actually goes into the BICS. This is Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills; (Baker 2001 pp,174) defines this as the casual standard for communication, where its context is embed on the basics of using visual cues and non- verbal means of communication meaning. To me this meant that, when learning L1 teacher were using sounds, pictures or other methods of communication, this was also the same when learning L2, however, although both methods of learning was same. I had problems learning L1 compared to L2. The misleading nature of BICS can lead to teachers making mistakes where the teachers would overestimate children's ability in literacy development. Where as in some case it can be accurate and teachers would find that they do not have time to help or not enough resources as there are thirty children in a classroom and cannot help the all.
In development to BICS, there was the content embedded and content reduced. Which was design by Cummins 1983, this method was design to help children with their cognitive thinking. A context-embedded task is one in which the student has access to a range of additional visual and oral cues; for example he can look at illustrations of what is being talked about or ask questions to confirm understanding. A context-reduced task is one such as listening to a lecture or reading dense text, where there are no other sources of help than the language itself.
The threshold theory was developed by Cummins et al 1979 explains that this theory is predicated on the premise that bilingualism confers cognitive benefits. It's suggested that the bilingual proficiency must be fairly high before cognitive benefits accrue to the individuals. This is partly related to me because it explains that if my L1 is less developed the L2 is also affect. In my case this was true. In learning both languages at the same time, it was confusing me that I did not know which way to go and sometimes when it came to learning I found that my writing skill were weaker compared to my reading skills. Which gave a disadvantage as it made me feel less intelligent compared to other children around me.
One reason why I could have underachieved in developing could be that I may not have could be the insufficiently developed in both of the languages, however, one reason could be that because I had to self teach L1, as my parents L1 was their native language and English was L2 to them so it was bit hard for them to teach as they were learning themselves as well.
Code mixing and Code Switching, are a well known factor in terms of a bilingual person. Code -switching is the mixing of words, phrases and sentences from two distinct grammatical (sub) systems across sentence boundaries within the same speech event, code-mixing is the embedding of various linguistic units such as affixes (bound morphemes), words (unbound morphemes), phrases and clauses from a co-operative activity where the participants, in order to infer what is intended, must reconcile what they hear with what they understand.
It meant that when I was speaking, I kept mixing my languages together, for example I would start to talk in L1 and finish in L2. At school if I knew someone that could speak the same language as me, it felt special and felt like we were speaking in codes that me and my friends would know only.
In conclusion, I have notice that learning languages is a complex thing, if you do not look after it you can lose that ability and can even forgot about it. To understand languages and how they help we have to go back to its origins like peal and Lambert who were a great influence on languages. Because of them other theorist such as Cummins's finding help to understand how to help children. But what needs to be considered is that there could be negative impact as well as there were problems with some of the finding such as social class or social political were not considered, and most of the finding were centre through middle class children. Also in schools teacher now understand that children learning L1 is not to be treated as special needs as it is a different classification also teachers must understand that in addition to being bilingual, children must not just continue to develop their first language and not subtractive their L2 as it also undermines their cognitive thinking. At the start of the essay I have said that I can speak three or more language, which it true but can only speaking Hindi, and understanding Urdu and Punjabi be classified as someone being monolingual. What about my GCSE French, where I learnt how to read and write and speak, but due to not using that language I have forgotten it, can I could that as a language learnt. So being bilingual is not clearly defined as it could mean anything. Yet people have often said that if you can speak a language means that you have learnt a language. People have often said that learning a language is hard and if you do not look after, you may lose that skill, which in my case was true, because i had not look after my language I have forgotten most of the language.