Do you think you are bilingual? Do you know what is it? Did you know that there are processes that explain how it works?
What is Bilingualism?
The Bilingualism plays an important social and cultural role, in theory.
Bilingualism is not a phenomenon of language; it is a characteristic of its use.
This characteristic is present in almost every country of the world; in all classes of society and in all age groups. Actually it is difficult to find a society that is completely monolingual. It is probably true that no language group has ever existed in isolation from other language groups, and the history of languages is replete with examples of language contact leading to some form of bilingualism.
The most famous definition was offered by Uriel Weinreich, one of the fathers of bilingual studies “The practice of alternately using two languages will be called Bilingualism, and the person involved, Bilingual” The concept of bilingualism has become broader and broader since the beginning of the twentieth century.
But in fact how is be bilingual?
What is the definition of being bilingual?
There are extremely few people who really speak more than one language “like a native”. Generally, these are people who were raised as bilingual from infancy onwards. One language tends to be stronger and better developed than the other. This is described as the dominant language. It is not always the first or native language of the bilingual.
This broadening of the concept of bilingualism is due to realization that the point at which a speaker of a second language becomes bilingual is either arbitrary or impossible to determinate.
Since bilingualism is a relative concept, there is a distinction between ability in language and use of language. A person may be able to speak two languages, but tends to speak only one language in practice. Alternatively, an individual may regularly speak two languages but has a halting fluency in one language. People’s ability or proficiency in two languages may be separate from their use of two languages. This is sometimes referred to as the difference between degree (proficiency or competence in a language) and function (actual use of two languages).
The bilingual’s mastery of a skill, however, may not be the same at all linguistic levels. He may have a vast vocabulary but a poor pronunciation or a good pronunciation but imperfect grammar.
Phonics (or synthetic)
The American linguist Bloomfield, phonic module proponent of this method, argues that language acquisition is a mechanical process, and, the child will always be encouraged to repeat the sounds that absorbs in the environment. This way, language would be the formation of the habit of imitating a model of sound. The uses and functions of language, in this case, are discarded as they are key elements not observable by the methods used by this theory, giving importance to the form and not the meaning.
Regarding the acquisition of written language, phonics is the intention of making the child internalize regular patterns of correspondence between sound and spelling through reading words of which them unconsciously infer the correspondences spelling / sound.
According to this thinking, the meaning would not enter the child’s life before she dominates the relationship, already described, between phoneme and grapheme. In this case, the writing would only serve to graphically represent the speech. This way, the function would be preceded by the way, would the dictates of the authors of the leaflets, as if they were holders of meaning, overlapping the reader, the text would serve only to be fleshed out, absorbing that meaning crystallized contained therein, and the error seen with high severity.
With regard to practice, it is observed that the teachers decide how and when children should learn and teach themselves to regular patterns, which are considered easier, going to the irregulars, which are considered more difficult, it is assumed that the child must master mode correct, taking into account the linguistic variety, the child must have prerequisites very well established to be deemed fit to written language.
Global method (or analytical)
Opposed to the synthetic method, questioning two arguments of this theory. One that concerns the way meaning is left out and others Who thought that the child would not recognize a Word without first recognizing its smallest unit.
The main feature that differentiates the synthetic method is the analytical starting point. While the first part of the minor component to the largest, the second part of a given higher for smaller units. Justifying the analytical method, Nicolas Adam, responsible for their bases, Will make use of a metaphor, saying that when it has a coat to a child, it all shows up, not the collar, then the pockets, buttons etc.. Adam says that this is how a child learns to speak, so it must be the same way should learn to read and write, starting from the whole, breaking it, later, in smaller portions. For him, it was imperative to emphasize the importance that the child has not read and decipher what is written, that means she has the need to find an effective and affective meaning in words.
The analytical method breaks down into:
1. Words: relates to the study of words, without decomposing them immediately into syllables, so when the children know certain words, it is proposed that compose short texts;
2. Sentencing: sentences are formed according to the dominant interests of the room. Once exposed to a prayer, that Will be decomposed into words, then syllables;
3. Story: The fundamental Idea here is to make the child understand that reading is to discover what is written. Just as the previous arrangements, it aimed to decompose short stories in increasingly smaller parts: prayers, expressions, words and syllables.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Being Bilingual
For this topic we need to understand the second language acquisition of the speaker, in other words, to say what are the advantages or disadvantages of being bilingual we have to analyze how this person acquired a 2L (second language). There are two types of language acquisition: Natural or Simultaneous (It happens in early childhood, the children learn a language by hearing it without any especial courses etc.) and Artificial or Successive (It’s kind of a late bilingualism that happens when the person already has learned your mother language and needs a special course to learn the second language).
Taking as an example the Natural process the advantages are:
- 1L and 2L develop grammatically, phonetically and phonologically in the same level. *only if the child was exposed to the both languages in the same proportion.
- The speaker takes more time to forget one of the languages because both “are his/her mother language”.
Disadvantages of Natural process:
- The phonetic accent and the dialect are almost impossible to change, and it will interfere in the way that the speaker pronounces the other language. (try to picture a nordestino or a bahiano speaking English)
- Disadvantages in this process will depend of how the child was exposed to both languages. (100% in English and 70% in Portuguese, generating the drop vocabulary)
Advantages of Artificial bilingualism over Natural process:
- With a lot of training the speaker can change the dialect and accent to a standard language.
Disadvantages of Artificial bilingualism compared with Natural process:
- The speaker can forget much more easily the second language if he/she doesn’t use it for a certain period of time.
- A bilingual loses his/her ability to produce certain types of speech sounds in a foreign language.
- It is harder to learn and understand the foreign grammar.
Summarizing, the disadvantages of being bilingual depends of how and how soon the person learns the second language; and the advantages are that the bilingual can express themselves better, they have a open mind and they have better employment opportunities by knowing two languages.
SCOTTON, Carol Myers. “Multiple Voices: An Introdutuin to Bilingualism”
SOARES, Magda. Literacy and literacy. 2003. SENNA, Luiz Antonio Gomes (Org.) Literacy – principles and processes. Curitiba: IBPEX.