Essay on Bilingual Acquisition

Published: 2021/11/05
Number of words: 5842

Table of Contents

Bilingual Acquisition3
1.0 Introduction3
1.1 Definition and Significance3
1.2 Critical Questions3
1.3 Background Information4
1.4 Research Relevance5
2.0 Literature Review5
2.1 Study 15
2.2 Study 28
2.3 Study 311
4.0 Results13
5.0 Discussion14
7.0 References16

1.0 Introduction

1.1 Definition and Significance

Bilingualism is the ability to speak and comprehend two or more languages. The phenomenal can occur in an individual where it is referred to as individual bilingualism and if it occurs in society, it is referred to as social bilingualism. Bilingualism is common since many people around the world speak more than one language. This essay focuses on bilingual acquisition which is the process of gaining knowledge of two or more languages. There are different factors that lead to bilingual acquisition and why it occurs. Both evitable and inevitable factors make a person acquire multiple languages. There are three types of bilingualism which include; coordinated bilingualism, compound bilingualism and late bilingualism, which will later be discussed in details as the essay progresses. The objective of this essay is to elaborate more on bilingual acquisition using articles, journals and books related to the topic of discussion.

Researchers are pursuing some key questions to provide more knowledge on bilingual acquisition. These questions are important as they support further understanding of what is included in knowledge of a certain language, how the knowledge is acquired and how it is used.

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1.2 Critical Questions

  • What causes bilingualism and bilingual acquisition?
  • Can BFLA be classified as a normal phenomenal?
  • How does bilingual acquisition influence the cognitive development of an individual?
  • What are the main factors that influence a child’s bilingual acquisition?
  • Is simultaneous bilingual acquisition normal?
  • Is there a chance that bilingual individuals are initially monolingual?
  • Are children exposed to two languages challenged or strained?

The questions above allow a researcher to have clear objective of their research. The first question is prevalent in most research articles that will be explored in essay. It focuses on understanding causes of bilingualism, which as earlier explained is the ability one has to understand and speak more than one language, Some people understand a certain language but cannot speak it, however, they can translate it for others. Since many people identify themselves with their languages, especially their mother tongue, language is therefore very important (Gass 2013). It is thereby a topic of concern for most researchers to try and provide as much information as possible on language acquisition.

1.3 Background Information

In the current world, people often find themselves torn in between two languages, especially while growing up. There is a language spoken at home, which is adopted from one’s original home, and there is the dominant language that one is exposed to in their current school, work place or environment. There is a conflict for attention on mother tongue, which is the minor language and the dominant language, which is the major language. For instance, if a Korean family moves to Canada, the young ones might have a problem trying to learn Korean since they will be using English in most cases of their daily interactions. They might end up understanding Korean but prefer using English to speak with friends and even family.

BFLA is bilingual first language acquisition, which is phenomenal to a child learning two languages right from birth. They learn the language with no chronological modifications in relation to how long the child has understood and spoken the two languages. The two languages are learnt simultaneously and the child develops more knowledge on the places they should use for certain languages (Warker, 2012). Children develop better skills in the languages they first acquire through trial and error and as a result, they may possibly cultivate an accent.

While different individuals have a diverse learning capability, some people learn foreign language easily by just hearing it and develop skills faster than those who learn the language as their mother tongue (Houwer, 2011). Therefore, bilingual acquisition occurs differently in individuals. Houwer further explains how each language has different accent and bilingual acquisition portrays how languages can effect on another while a child is still trying to full master the language. Each individual will possibly have a different perception to a certain language. This can be affected by one’s ability to learn a language. For instance, a person who speaks better in French will enjoy speaking it while a person who does not understand the intonations and some pronunciation will feel intimidated when they have to speak the language.

It is important to learn how bilingual acquisition affects the cognition and development of individual so that any alarming effect can be dealt with as early as possible. Children that are exposed to simultaneous bilingualism develop more knowledge in the language and develop a better teachable trait (Unsworth, 2013). The ability of a person to learn language assists them learning other disciples, it is unarguable that better bilingual acquisition development results to a better ability to learn other relevant lessons that one requires (Scarino, 2010, 324-325. The motivation to learn languages often leads to discovery of advanced morphosyntax, gesture, better understanding on of language towards sociocultural approaches.

1.4 Research Relevance

This essay analyses three research articles and their relevance to the topic; bilingual acquisition. The first article is the Journal of speech, language and hearing research by Smith and Goldstein (2010). This article compares bilingual children with diverse second language backgrounds and monolinguals. The study clearly shows the influence of bilingual acquisition towards shaping an individual. It also shows how bilingualism in the acquisition of opposite gender agreement. Thirdly the study shows how the acquisition of different languages can affect a child positively and negatively.

The second study to be discussed is the Simultaneous Bilingual Language Acquisition; the role of parental input on receptive vocabulary development by Galles, Castellot, Weikum & Werker (2014). This study is chosen because it shows the roles the parents and teachers play towards a child’s language development. Children usually learn the language that is spoken to them by the parents, teachers and peers as they seek to understand what they are told. There is also a major influence on children by their peers.

The third study to be discussed is ‘Introducing the Bilingual First Language Acquisition by University College London (UCL) (2020) this study gives insight on development of language patterns in children. The article explains how normal bilingual acquisition is a phenomenal is any given society. The study also shows how BFLA is an advantage to an individual. Language learning context in monolingual first language acquisition is also explained in relation to how it is less preferable than BFLA. The phenomenal of early second language acquisition is also explained in relation to bilingual acquisition.

2.0 Literature Review

2.1 Study 1

Smith F., Goldstein, (2010), Journal of speech, language and hearing research

From the Journal of speech, language and hearing, smith et al (2010) seeks to determine how language interaction contributes to phonological acquisition of an individual. The researchers developed questions that were used in the research. Some include:

  • Will bilingual children portray evidence of interactions between the languages they are speaking in transfer, deceleration and acceleration?
  • Will the bilingual children prove evidence for variation of the hypothesis of acceleration due to phonetic similarity?
  • Does sound frequency of occurrence predict shared words across languages enhance bilingual acquisition?
  • Do shared words across languages merit bilingual acquisition?

The research based an argument on Spanish-English speakers, the two languages have some shared words and that is what necessitated their use in this research. While a child is acquiring different languages they tend to develop a category of the shared words in both languages. This ability to determine shared sounds often is used to demonstrate the rate of bilingual acquisition. This study is relevant in showing a researcher the influence of bilingual acquisition in relation to languages with shared sounds and occurrence of shared frequency of pronunciations in different languages.

The research used a stratified sampling method for collecting the data they require for the survey and enrolling participants. The children used were from the United States and the parents were asked for consent. Twenty four children were used as a sample and they were less than 4 years old fell in the context of Spanish and English speaking. 8 of the children were bilinguals. They spoke and understood both Spanish and English. 8 children were monolingual English speakers and the other 8 were monolingual Spanish speakers. The study examined the relation on how the two languages interact in terms of transfer and acceleration.

There is evidence of transfer and acceleration in bilingual acquisition and the learners can separate them, there is a high accuracy of the unshared words than the shared words (Macleod et al 2014). It is possible that shared words confuse the speakers in terms of pronunciation and gesture. The bilingual participants were identified using demographic characteristics of general bilinguals. The input and output were majorly controlled by the parents and they also provided a parental report on the child’s language insight.

Transfer refers to the way an individual borrows words from another language that they know and use them to communicate in case they lack words to express themselves in the language they are using. When languages share a lot of words the speakers might continually use borrowed words from both languages thus creating a language of their own which lacks inflections and standardized grammar. Some bilinguals may be accelerated or delayed in speech due to use of different languages. The children may take a longer period to speak if they find it hard to grasp words from the different languages. Parents and caregivers should be careful to understand the pattern that their child is following. In addition they can use professional help to help the child nurture a better language.

The design of the study majorly relied on the report given by the parent. This can be considered as a weakness in the study. The parents were asked about their level of education in order to evaluate the level of skills in the language. The parental influence towards one acquiring a different language is a key factor (Unsworth, 2014). Majority of parents influence the child to learn the language they find important, they speak the language to the child and thus the child learns it unconsciously.

This research discovered that children exposed to multiple languages were better performers. Each child was assessed on their own, they were given some of the toys that the parents said they were familiar with and asked to label. Each child was given time to identify and say what the toy was, out of the 8 bilingual children they were able all able to identify the toy in either English or Spanish. This proved that the children can use any language to express knowledge and needs. This is well termed as connected speech samples.

On the other hand the monolingual participants in the study showed fairly competitive performance in labeling the toys they were given. They only had one language to use and some children did not have any idea to label the toy. Out of the 16 monolingual children only 12 were able to identify the toy. This proves that bilingualism is a better preference than monolinguals. Although the phonological bilingual acquisition has different patterns in individuals, even the bilinguals can show high accuracy since studies prove that the ability to learn a language and to speak it is motivated by desire (Mon, Williams, Jones, Davies and Binks, 2014)

The study also showed that transfer of language sounds was evident in bilingual acquisition. There is a high interaction in sound frequencies and patterns in bilingual acquisition. The monolingual participants were more accurate on sound frequencies, pronunciation and gestures. It is evident from Smith’s study that monolingual children are highly accurate in speech though they have limited diversity of words, however, the bilingual participants are less accurate in sound and speech since at times the languages confuse them( Genesse, 2019).

One of the weaknesses of this study is that its findings can be compromised by the parents statements, some parents want to show how good their children are thus may withhold some information about the linguist ability of the child. Some of the parents give false information on skills exhibited by the child so that their children can be more preferred in future research. The accuracy analysis that was later conducted showed that the bilingual participants are easily confused by almost shared sounds and words (Smith et al 2010).

The study evidently answered the questions that motivated the research, while communicating bilingual children will most likely have a slower but non alarming knowledge in skills of a certain language compared to monolinguals. This shows bilingual acquisition as a disadvantage. Later in the discussion part there will be other disadvantages of bilingual acquisition and advantages that outweigh the demerits.

2.2 Study 2

Weilkum M., Castellot B., Galles N. & Welker J. (2014) Simultaneous Bilingual Language Acquisition: the role of parental in put on receptive vocabulary development

This study was conducted by Weilkum, Castellot, Galles andWelker (2014). The study was motivated by the desire to understand the role of parental input bilingual acquisition. Since parents are the stakeholders in contributing to a child’s language development, this study explores how parental language can influence a child’s phonological development. Children often borrow vocabulary during bilingual acquisition (Paradis et al 2014). For instance the child might have a hard time remembering what something is called in a different language so they decide to use the word they can remember from a different language. This borrowing is what necessitates understanding the patterns of borrowing words and sounds from different languages. At times it may make sense while at times it does not.

Recent studies have also shown that the idea of borrowing words from different languages can lead to vocabulary sensitivity (Thordardottir, 2011). This is one of the common causes of bilingual acquisition since speakers of a certain language need more words than the one a languages has to offer. As the society evolves so do languages evolve to qualify the arising needs of human beings.

This study focused on answering the following question:

  • How much language are children exposed to resulting to bilingual acquisition?
  • To what extent is the language of a child developed while learning two languages simultaneously?
  • What is the amount of exposure for each language and which one is becoming the dominant one?
  • Among the languages which one does the child prefer speaking in most times and what are the prevalent reasons?

The participants of this study were 11 children from bilingual homes and they are all French and German bilinguals with very little knowledge of the English language, thus this study ran comparisons between the French and German language the children spoke. The parents were asked for consent and they agreed. All the children used were between 2 to 6 years. One child did not stay unto the date of the survey due to a family travel plan. The other 10 children were used for consecutive assessments. The parents had no alarming concerns towards to the study.

A language use questionnaire was used to determine the level of the child’s language exposure and the rate of bilingual acquisition. The questionnaire addressed the following questions:

  • How long has the child been exposed to French and German?
  • Which language do you use many times while speaking to the child?
  • Does the child prefer using French or German?
  • Which language does the child get exposed to on media?

After the language questionnaire there was a vocabulary task that the child was given to do. All the ten children undertook the task. They were expected to identify the name of a given item i.e. a book from four given choices. The child would identify 8 pictures and match them with their names. The task was given to all children at the same time. While collecting the data a simple procedure was followed, firstly the parent was interviewed on their view towards the child’s sociolinguist capability. The parents also answered the questionnaire and later asked for any other relevant information on the child’s linguistic development. Two parents reported that sometimes the children understood the opposite meaning of certain shared words in both French and German. This explains the bilingual acquisition process can at times be confusing to children, some adults also experience confusion in terms of how words are used especially words that are new in the language or recently borrowed from other languages (Yank et al 2010).

The data was collected by two post graduate students, during a speech therapy session. One student was a native French speaker while the other was a native German speaker. They both had some knowledge on the other language. The students interviewed the children on different days. The data analysis later was done and it showed that most parents did not pay attention on the amount of time they used a certain language but rather paid attention to what language the child used and the fluency they showed on the language. Some parents felt expressed that the time of exposure was less important than mastering the words and speaking in a more understandable manner. Due to this lack of concern the parents could not provide the rate of their children’s bilingual acquisition.

Therefore it was hard for most parents to say how long they spoke a certain language to the child. The study showed that 7 children preferred the French language since they felt it was more relatable than German which they felt it was for official use. The children were mainly exposed to the majority language (French) by their siblings and the parents exposed them to German the minority language. It was also noted that siblings had a lot of influence on the child that was interviewed. Children highly influence each other towards learning a certain language especially while playing and learning (Paradis, 2011).

One of the major short comings of this study is the use of parental reports which can be easily compromised. Future studies ought to use observation though it requires more time. The task assigned in the French task was different from the one in the German task. This study has well shown how bilingual acquisition has complex and precarious challenges. Some parents also explained some of the difficulties they face as they try to nurture a good and effective sociolinguistic identity for their children. Many people in the world develop a strong sociolinguistic identity but since children do not understand it yet the parents take up the responsibility and teach them languages associated with their culture. Most parents work full time and are unable to teach the children languages, thereby leaving them to the caregiver (Gruter et al 2014).

Since there is a lot of social media easily accessible to children, they tend to learn a lot of language and phonological skills from the internet. The use of technology can aid children learn language easily and it is a better way of learning language without confusion of word sounds and pronunciation since most social media platforms use edited language especially radio and television programs ( Pegrum, 2014). The use of technology should be monitored by adults since some content is harmful for children.

2.3 Study 3

University College London, (2020) Introducing Bilingual First Language Acquisition

This bilingual acquisition literature gives a full understanding of the phenomenal itself. The article “Introducing Bilingual First Language Acquisition” presented by the University College London is a detailed piece of work on bilingual acquisition (2020). The article addresses the common bilingual acquisition questions some which include:

  • What bilingual first language acquisition (BFLA) really is?
  • What the role of family is as a primary socialization unit for BFLA?
  • Can BFLA be termed as a normal phenomenal?

As earlier stated BFLA is bilingual first language acquisition, it is a learning context whereby children learn two languages simultaneously as the languages are used in the environment surrounding the child. Most of the children acquire a language in informal setting then continue to perfect it as they grow up and become more skilled (Meisel et al 2010). This study used the reliability measure of lexical comprehension using a method of parental rating method. The study uses published literature as a source of data and comparison between the BFLA and (MFLA) which is the monolingual first language acquisition and (ESLA) that is early second language acquisition. These language learning contexts are compared to show the merits and demerits of each phenomenal.

The family is unit of socialization (UCL, 2020) and it promotes the motivation of learning language. Both parents and siblings influence a child towards learning languages. A child may develop skills in different languages in order to use them in different contexts. Parents may use different languages while speaking to the child. Couple should discuss the languages they will use on the child, especially when they are monolinguals of different languages. It is advisable to agree on the language they will use to address the child so that one of the parents do not feel left out. It is highly possible that the parent who spends more time with the child will most likely teach the child the language they are more comfortable with (Houwer, 2011).

The study further explains that bilingual acquisition is a normal phenomenal especially in the current world. Houwer (2011) conducted a study on 18,000 families and he concluded that parents and siblings usually use a different language to address a child at home and teachers use different languages at school as a medium of instruction. It was determined that the minority language was well understood according to the frequency of use at home. The study also showed that bilingual acquisition occurs in almost 80% of the families children grow up in. Children in institutions usually use only the majority language. The study however failed to explain if the monolingual institutionalized children were better performers in the language since it is the only language they use and have specialized in using it unlike the bilingual children in their homes that often switch from one language to another. It is also not clearly explained if the situation is the same all over the world or it is limited to Belgium where the study was conducted.

Bilingual acquisition has shown that new speakers often use a sort of language at most times. Children who are still using trial and error method to master the languages fail to separate the languages at times though they know where each word belongs. They tend to mix words of different languages and they create a language mixed of the two. The situation is continuous and uncontrollable in the current world. However, as the speaker develops more skills in the languages they reduce the amount of borrowed words and use each word in the appropriate language. As the learner starts to write and read both languages they become more accurate thus a better development of phonological skills.

It is clear that during the process of bilingual acquisition allows the child (even adult learners) understand and speak the two languages concurrently without straining themselves, the ability to mix the languages can boost creativity of the child in other disciplines they major in. each language has a cultural advantage to the child especially in understanding diversity. The acquisition of different languages opens one up to diversity in political, social, economic and academic terms. Many people attribute their connection with their culture in reference to language, when people speak their home languages they feel more attached to their culture. This arises the need for parents to teach their mother tongues to children (Unsworth, 2013)

As the essay has explained children and language learners find it easy to learn two languages that have some borrowed words. However, when children are exposed to two different languages there is a hardship explained in terms of morphosyntax, gesture and pronunciation. The difference in phonology show strain implications on the learner. This is arguable that strain is healthy and the child needs it for them to develop a better way of handling complex situations right from birth. Some researchers have explained that an unborn infants can actually recognize sound patterns and hear language.

Although bilingual acquisition is becoming inevitable in the world Genesse (2019) explains that it can result to delays and childhood strains in language acquisition. Parents and caregivers should be keen to know the learning capability of the child, if a child shows a lot of strain in language acquisition the bilingual parents should reconsider the languages they have decided to expose the child to. Some children who delay speaking for too long should be taken for speech therapy, this will ensure that the child gains the knowledge needed from a professional. Parents should avoid mixed signals since this study shows confusion can result from giving a child radically changing instructions which the child cannot understand. It has been noted that such rapid changes will disrupt bilingual acquisition development. Bilingual children are also found to have less exposure to both languages, they struggle between balancing the two languages unlike the monolingual individuals who are experts in the one language they specialized in.

4.0 Results

Many communities support their children to learn more than one language, they believe that language is a skill one requires not only for expressing themselves but also language gives people a social identity. Communities identify themselves by the language they speak. Bilingual acquisition is a complicated, the children grow up to learn and specialize better in the languages that they prefer. Each child will have a different bilingual acquisition mechanism.

The bilingual acquisition development rate affects the overall ability of children to learn other things. For instance a child who does not understand English will most likely fail in other school disciplines if the school uses English as a medium of instruction. Parents, teachers, caregivers and other influential parties towards a child’s lingual acquisition should be keen on how they engage the child with different languages. They can motivate a child to speak and learn more about the language while they can also demotivate the child to learn a language. The people that spend more time with child will instill their accent and attitude towards a language. Seniors who show the child that a speaking in a certain language is better will make the child be more passionate about the language. For instance; a parent who shows a child that speaking English is better than speaking other languages will make the child have a greater desire to speak in English than other languages.

Studies on bilingual acquisition also portrayed patterns of transfer, acceleration and delay can occur. Since the parents cannot predict what pattern their child will mirror it is only wise to promote bilingualism in a child as long as they show positive progress in the acquisition. If the parents feel that exposing their child to two languages is distracting their normal development they should consult a therapist for additional insight. The parents should be willing to invest in the child’s weaknesses and strengths on language acquisition.

The research conducted in the three studies discussed above, has help to bring to understanding that the interest of a child to speak and acquire a language is dependent on their own motivation. The parent can influence the motivation of the child. It was clear that some bilingual children later choose their language of preference and make it the major language to use while communicating and relating with others, in addition to using it to identify themselves with it.

The studies also explained how all bilingual individuals were monolinguals in the beginning. However this was not well researched on since some linguistic experts proposed that the unborn child can hear language and it is impossible to determine since when the child has understood the language. Some bilingual can understand language but cannot speak it due to difficulty in utterances and potential lack of interest in developing advanced skills in the language.

Theories in bilingualism show that bilingual children do not have an initial stage where they first learn a one by one word in the language. Since it cannot be said so there is less prove to report and establish the bilinguals were initially monolinguals and thus there is validation of the bilingual first language acquisition. There is a true bilingual communication competence that includes the ability of a person to relate a language to daily situations and know which words to use well. This is often seen in children that try to explain some event that had occurred earlier, they could be telling the parents about something that happened in the parents’ absence.

5.0 Discussion

From the above critical analysis, it is clear that there are several ways of acquiring bilingualism; There is a one parent one language type of acquiring language. Both parents have a different language that they are fluent in and they use it to communicate with the child right from birth. This child acquires bilingualism from the parent. One of the parents might be native speakers of the majority language and the child will end up learning the major language more than the other less used language in the community. Either way the child will understand two different languages thus the phenomenal of bilingual acquisition.

The second way of bilingual acquisition is when there is no dominant language at home and parents use different languages to speak. The children are exposed to a variety of languages right from birth, thus acquiring bilingualism. For instance the mother speaks Spanish and the father speaks French to the child but the community especially at school uses English. This child will learn the three languages, they might understand both French and Spanish but use English for their daily interactions with their peers. The other way of a child acquiring bilingualism is where the parents use a different language at home and teachers use a different language to instruct the child. The child learns both languages fully. Also the child will be exposed to any other language that the community uses.

Another way of acquiring bilingualism is when the parents are bilinguals and they use all the languages they know on the child this way a child fully understands more than one language due to parental exposure though the languages are not used in the community or at school. Parents with mixed languages often expose their young ones to the diversity of language. The child may remain open to learning any other languages in the future.

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6.0 Conclusion

Much remains to be explored in understanding bilingual acquisition, with a full comprehension of the causes of bilingual acquisition and its’ merits then monolinguals would try to borrow this phenomenal. Many differences arise from one acquiring different languages, due to difference in accent, pronunciation and gestures in different languages. The impact of exposure to long term bilingualism remains to be sought in details providing every kind of influence on the bilingual acquisition.

While studying the bilingual acquisition and analyzing some of the research done, the role of language is discovered and it is evident that language is one of the important tools mankind is equipped with and denied to other species. The role of language in learning other disciples remains the main role for even this essay would not be done unless by use of language and language is a channel of acquiring knowledge. It is therefore the duty of mankind to ensure they develop a better system that codes and mixes codes of different languages to avoid language barriers. The world can all learn a similar language in addition to others they use, the common language will unite mankind and eliminate language barrier thus making bilingual acquisition a common phenomenal.

7.0 References

Enli Mon, Williams N., Jones, Davies Susan, Hanna Binks, (2014), Bilingualism; Language and cognitions in Bilingual Acquisition. Springer press.

Gass M. Susan (2013), Second Language Acquisition: An Introductory course,. Routledge.

Genesse Fred (2019), Bilingual Acquisition, Articles on colorin Coronado.

Houwer A.D., (2011), Applied Linguistics Review; Language input environment and language development in bilingual acquisition.

Paradis J., Gruter T., Unsworth S., (2014) Input and Experience in Bilingual Development Comparing the role of parental input in Bilingual Acquisition.

Pegrum M. , (2014) Mobile Learning; languages, literacies and culture. Springer press.

Scarino A., ( 2010) The modern language Journal; Assessing intercultural capability in learning the nature of assessment. Article 94 Pg. 324- 330.

Smith F., Goldstein, (2010), Journal of speech, language and hearing research.

University College London, (2020) Introducing the Bilingual First Language Acquisition.

Unsworth S. (2013) Bilingualism; Language and cognitions. Cambridge university press.

Walker J. (2012) Perceptual foundations of Bilingual Acquisition in infancy. Pg. 50- 62, Annals of New York. Academy of sciences.

Weilkum M., Castellot B., Galles N. & Welker J. (2014) Simultaneous Bilingual Language Acquisition: the role of parental in put on receptive vocabulary development.

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