Bilingualism

This page was originally created by Hiromi Onabe. It was updated by Camila Nunez on December, 2009

A person that is considered bilingual has the ability to speak, write, listen, and read two languages fluently.Bilingualism falls into categories because each bilingual individual obtain language fluencies in various ways. Simultaneous bilinguals learn their two languages at the same time from childhood and their family. Sequential bilinguals learn their second language later on in life. This could be due to an individual moving to a new country or picking up a language class at school. For bilinguals, usage of the two languages depend greatly on the environment they are in. Bilinguals will speak the language that the majority of the society speaks. For example, if someone is bilingual in both Spanish and English, that individual would speak Spanish more than English if he/she was in Spain. Appropriate timing is also a factor for when bilinguals use a language. A bilingual could use one language when at home to speak with family, but use the other language when he/she goes to school and speaks with friends

Psychologists have always tried to solve the question on whether bilinguals have cognitive developent benefits that advance from childhood to adulthood more than monolinguals. In fact, being bilingual may give children an advantage at school. Bilingual preschoolers have been found to be better able than their monolingual peers at focusing on a task while tuning out distractions. Other research suggests that bilingualism may delay the onset of age-related dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, by up to four years. Reasons why psychologists believe this to be true is increase blood and oxygen flow to the brain and keep nerve connections healthy—factors thought to help ward off dementia. There are a number advantages that bilingual children have over monolingual children. Learning a second language benefits a child’s cognitive development. Bilingual children also tend to perform better in other subjects like mathematics and science. Children who are bilingual also have an increased capacity for learning languages as adults. Children who are bilingual do tend to dominate in one language, often this will be the language of schooling. There are a lot of myths and misconceptions surrounding bilingualism. Many people believe that bilingual children get confused between the two languages and will tend to mix them up. However children are extremely proficient in separating the two languages. Some tasks like mathematical skills will often be carried out in one language and then translated to the other.

Links

Bilingual Children Learn Better

This is an article that briefly explains and supports how being bilingual can help children academically. It also provides other advantages that being bilingual has and tips on how to teach children a second language.

Bilingual Brain

This is an article that explains how the bilingual brain looks in comparison to a monolingual brain. It also tells the reader what parts of the brain become activated when speaking a different language.

What is Bilingualism?

This link explains in detail what bilingualism is. It lists several factors that make a person bilingual and the different types of bilingualism. It also explains how society affects bilingualism.

Attitudes toward Bilingualism

This article informs readers of the attitudes societies feel towards bilingualism. The ones opposed to it list the cons while the ones for it list the pros. It also gives a brief history as to how bilingualism developed.

Wikpedia on Bilingualism

Wikipedia provides readers a very detailed definition of bilingualism, the cognitve advantages of bilingualism, and lists of several countries that speak more than one language. This shows how common bilingualism actually is around the world.

Cognitive Development in Bilingual Children

This link explains the advantages that being bilingual has and how it can benefit in education and in adulthood. It also explains the complex issues on how cognitive development from bilingualism actually forms. It supports these theories with past research and experimental studies.

Issues of Bilingualism

This article tells the issues that some people believe bilingual educators bring to education. It supports their beliefs with past law suits against schools that try to teach bilingualism. It shows a different side to bilingualism because it shows another perspective: the negative side.

Different Models of Bilingualism

Here it describes different theoretical models of bilingualism and how each one differs depending on the country.

Bilingualism and The Simon Task

This supports the belief that bilingualists have an advantage of cognitive development through the Simon Task experiment.

Myths about Bilingualism

This website neatly explains the different myths of bilingualism and why they are wrong.

Links from Hiromi Onabe's Webpage

Wikipedia.org: Cognitive Advantages to Bilingualism

Here is a brief summary of the benefits bilinguals have over monolinguals.

Cognitive Development in Bilingual Instruction

Kenji Hakuta writes a relatively concise scholarly article expounding on the improved abilities many native Spanish children learning English have over monolingual students, particularly for abstract thought and sentence structure.

Bilingual Acquisition and Cognitive Development in Early Childhood: Challenges to the Research Paradigm

This is a scholarly journal that describes why the previous research that suggested bilingualism was harmful to cognitive development was flawed and why more recent research is valid and that future studies are still needed.

References for Cognitive Question

Here is a page that lists a multitude of sources for research in the field of improved cognitive development in bilingual children. Each source is accompanied by a short description.

Testing Effects of Bilingualism on Executive Attention: Comparison of Cognitive Performance on Two Non-Verbal Tests

Two Researchers from Cornell University performed a study in literacy on English monolingual students and Korean-English bilingual students.

Cognitive Advantages of Bilingual Children Related to Labeling Ability

This is a journal excerpt by Ditza L. Oren that discusses the advantages that bilingual preschoolers have in labeling and relabeling certain objects.

Being Bilingual Protects Against Some Age-Related Cognitive Changes

This research summary suggests that being bilingual lessens the loss of crystallized intelligence due to age.

The Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory for Language and Child Development

Here is a link to the site for a Canadian Research lab that deals specifically with mental development in children as a result of language acquisition.

National Association for Bilingual Education

The National Association for Bilingual Education is the professional organization at the national level wholly devoted to representing both English language learners and bilingual education professionals.

Bilingualism, Aging, and Cognitive Control: Evidence from the Simon Task

This is an article from American Psychology Association that describes whether the advantages of bilingualism persist for older adults and diminish the effects on aging.

Raising Bilingual Children

Antonella Sorace and Bob Ladd give basic information about how to raise bilingual children.

The Multiple Prediction of Phonological Variables in a Bilingual Speech Community

This research investigates phonological variables in the speech of Spanish-English bilinguals relating particular variants to a set of sociolinguistic and demographic factors.

The Bilingual Brain

The study of Italian-English bilinguals shows that attained proficiency is more important than age of acquisition.

Bilingualism and Cognition

This review discusses several studies that explored phonological awareness in bilinguals who knew different languages.

A Sociocognitive Model of Bilingual Development

This is an article by Hamers that proposes a theoretical approaches to bilingual development.

Multilingual Children's Association

This website provides information about raising multilingual or bilingual children. You can get advice from experts and communicate with other multilingual families.