Bilingualism and Cognition

Posting by Ade Tuty Anggriany | 2:40 PM

1. Varieties of Bilinguals
Language in all its complexity can be acquired through a-variety of modalities-sound (speech), vision (writing) and visual motion (signs) –an adequate concept of a bilingual should allow for any of these realizations. A person is bilingual if he or she knows (1) more than one realization of language in the same modality such as two sound based languages or two sign based languages, (2) Two languages based

on different modalities such as German and American Sign Language.
There is no good reason to exclude any of these combinations from the label of bilingualism because the languages that are mostly involved in research on bilingualism are speech based the discussion in this chapter focus on the speech modality. Proficiency in all language may be evaluated with respect to a variety of variables, including knowledge of syntax, vocabulary and pronunciation (signing or writing for non-speech).
2. Is bilingualism beneficial or detrimental?
At a personal level, the pleasure and cultural benefits of bilingualism are obvious. This being the case, where then is the controversy? How can one reasonably be against bilingualism? There are some reasons for this term. First, some of the arguments are not against bilingualism itself but the early acquisition of the second language. Acquiring a second language can be harmful in two main respects: linguistically (retarding the acquisition of the first or the second language) and intellectually (retarding the development of thinking and cognitive abilities). Secondly, the critism that has been leveled against early bilingualism is primarily of another era, the early half of the twentieth century.

a. Effects on the development of language
There is a concern (not all illogical) that bilingualism might somehow retard first-or second-language development so that a child raised with two languages might never really learn either languages as well as would monolingual speakers of those languages.
Negative reports
The most well known and influential piece of research for its time was Madorah Smith back in the 1930s. The principal finding was that the bilingual children from Hawaii had many more errors in their English speech than did their Iowa counterparts, which led Smith to conclude that bilingualism caused retardation in language development.
Positive reports
More sophisticated investigations in comparing the linguistic skills of monolinguistic and bilinguals have been done by Lambert and his associated in Canada, where English and French are the official languages. Many of the research studies have involved children in so called ‘language immersion’. It is being exposed to a substantial amount of academic instruction and social interaction in that second language. The immersion group did better than the English monolingual control group on creativity tests. There is no way it can be resolved unless researchers are allowed to randomly assign children to monolingual or bilingual programmers regardless of the wishes of their parents.
Conclusion regarding effect on language
There is no evidence that early bilingualism has an adverse effect on language acquisition. It would be difficult today to find any reputable theorist who would conclude that early bilingualism itself causes negative linguistic effects.

b. Effect on the development of intelligence
The burden of learning an additional language considered to have an adverse effect on the child’ abilities. The possibility that learning a second language could in some way have a positive effect on intelligence was not something that was considered viable until relatively recently.
Negative reports
Goddard (1917) gave the English language version of the Binet intelligence test to 30 recently arrived Lewis adult immigrants at Ellis Island. Goddard classified 25 of the 30 lews as ‘feeble-minded’. Psycholinguist seriously began to consider that knowledge of language was not a fair measure of intelligence and that the language content or many widely used intelligence tests was culturally based.

1 Comment
  1. Anonymous May 21, 2012 at 7:40 PM  

    Thank U so much................