Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism / Edition 5 available in Paperback
• defining who is bilingual and multilingual
• testing language abilities and language use
• languages in communities and minority groups
• endangered languages
• language planning, language revival
• the development of bilingualism in infancy and childhood
• bilingualism in the family
• age and language learning
• adult language learning
•bilinguals' thinking skills
• bilingualism and the brain
• theories of bilingualism
• types of bilingual education
• heritage language education
• evaluations of bilingual education
• minority language literacy
• biliteracy and multiliteracies
• effective teaching and learning methods in bilingual classrooms
• the effectiveness of bilingual education in the United States
• the history of bilingual education in the United States
• language minority underachievement
• bilingual special education
• the assessment of language minority children
• Deaf bilinguals
• the spread of English as a global language
• learning English as a second or third language
• language identity and multiple identities
• the politics surrounding language minorities and bilingual education
• assimilation and pluralism
• bilingualism and employment
• bilingualism and the internet
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Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism
By Colin Baker
Multilingual MattersCopyright © 2011 Colin Baker
All rights reserved.
Bilingualism: Definitions and Distinctions
Since a bicycle has two wheels and binoculars are for two eyes, it would seem that bilingualism is simply about two languages. Multilingualism is then about three or more languages. The aim of this chapter is to show that the ownership of two or more languages is not so simple as having two wheels or two eyes. Is someone bilingual if they are fluent in one language but less than fluent in their other language? Is someone bilingual if they rarely or never use one of their languages? Such questions need addressing before other topics in this book can be discussed.
To understand the answers to these questions, it is valuable to make an initial distinction between bilingualism and multilingualism as an individual characteristic, and bilingualism and multilingualism in a social group, community, region or country. Bilingualism and multilingualism can be examined as the possession of the individual. Various themes in this book start with bilingualism as experienced by individual people. For example, a discussion of whether or not bilingualism affects thinking requires research on individual monolinguals, bilinguals and multilinguals.
From sociology, sociolinguistics, politics, geography, education and social psychology comes a 'group' perspective. Bilinguals and multilinguals are usually found in groups. Thus linguists study how the vocabulary of bilingual groups changes across time. Geographers plot the density of bilinguals and minority language speakers in a country. Educationalists examine bilingual educational policy and provision for particular language groups. Such groups may be located in a particular region (e.g. Basques in Spain), or may be scattered across communities (e.g. the Chinese in the US).
The initial distinction is therefore between bilingualism (and multilingualism) as an individual possession and as a group possession. This is usually termed individual bilingualism and societal bilingualism. Like most distinctions, there are important links between the two parts. For example, the attitudes of individuals towards a particular minority language may affect language maintenance, language restoration, downward language shift or language death in society. In order to understand the term 'bilingualism', some important further distinctions at the individual level are discussed in this chapter. (While bilingualism and multilingualism are different, where there is similarity multilingualism is [for the sake of brevity] combined under bilingualism.) An introduction to bilingualism and multilingualism as a group possession (societal bilingualism) is provided in Chapters 3 and 4.
If a person is asked whether he or she speaks two or more languages, the question is ambiguous. A person may be able to speak two languages, but tends to speak only one language in practice. Alternatively, the individual may regularly speak two languages, but competence in one language may be limited. Another person will use one language for conversation and another for writing and reading. An essential distinction is therefore between language ability and language use. This is sometimes referred to as the difference between degree and function.
Before discussing the nature of language use and abilities, a note about terminology. To understand bilingualism and bilingual education, an awareness of often-used terms and distinctions is needed. For example, apart from language ability there is language achievement, language competence, language performance, language proficiency and language skills. Do they all refer to the same entity, or are there subtle distinctions between the terms? To add to the problem, different authors and researchers sometimes tend to adopt their own specific meanings and distinctions.
Some Dimensions of Bilingualism
Bilinguals and multilinguals can be analyzed along the following over-lapping and interacting dimensions:
1. Ability: some bilinguals actively speak and write in both languages (productive competence), others are more passive bilinguals and have receptive ability (understanding or reading). For some, an ability in two or more languages is well developed. Others may be moving through the early stages of acquiring a second language and are emerging bilinguals (O. García, 2009a). Ability is thus on a dimension or continuum (Valdés et al., 2003) with dominance and development varied across Speakers.
2. Use: the domains (contexts) where each language is acquired and used are varied (e.g. home, school, street, phone, email). An individual's different languages are often used for different purposes. For example, one language is used at home and another in school.
3. BALANCE OF TWO LANGUAGES: rarely are bilinguals and multilinguals equal in their ability or use of their two or more languages. Often one language is dominant. This can change over time.
4. AGE: when children learn two languages from birth, this is often called simultaneous or infant bilingualism or 'bilingual first language acquisition' (De Houwer, 2009a). If a child learns a second language after about three years of age, the terms consecutive or sequential bilingualism tend to be used. Chapters 5 and 6 consider age issues in detail.
5. Development: Incipient bilinguals have one well-developed language, and the other is in the early stages of development. When a second language is developing, this is ascendant bilingualism, compared with recessive bilingualism when one language is decreasing, resulting in temporary or permanent language attrition.
6. Culture: Bilinguals become more or less bicultural or multicultural. It is possible for someone (e.g. a foreign language graduate) to have high proficiency in two languages but be relatively monocultural. A process of acculturation accompanies language learning when immigrants, for example, learn the majority language of the host country. Bicultural competence tends to relate to knowledge of language cultures; feelings and attitudes towards those two cultures; behaving in culturally appropriate ways; awareness and empathy; and having the confidence to express biculturalism.
7. Contexts: Some bilinguals live in bilingual and multilingual endogenous communities that use more than one language on an everyday basis. Other bilinguals live in more monolingual and monocultural regions and network with other bilinguals by vacations, phone, text messaging and email, for example. Where there is an absence of a second language community, the context is exogenous (e.g. Russian bilinguals in the US). Some contexts may be subtractive, where the politics of a country favors the replacement of the home language by the majority language (e.g. Spanish being replaced by English in the US). This particularly occurs among immigrant bilinguals (e.g. in the US and UK). Other contexts are additive such that a person learns a second language at no cost to their first language, as occurs in elite or prestigious bilinguals.
8. Elective bilingualism is a characteristic of individuals who choose to learn a language, for example in the classroom (Valdés, 2003). Elective bilinguals typically come from majority language groups (e.g. English-speaking North Americans who learn French or Arabic). They add a second language without losing their first language. Circumstantial bilinguals learn another language to function effectively because of their circumstances (e.g. as immigrants). Their first language is insufficient to meet their educational, political and employment requirements, and the communicative needs of the society in which they are placed. Circumstantial bilinguals are groups of individuals who must become bilingual to operate in the majority language society that surrounds them. Consequently, their first language is in danger of being replaced by the second language – a subtractive context. The difference between elective and circumstantial bilingualism is important because it immediately locates differences of prestige and status, politics and power among bilinguals.
An Individual's Use of Bilingualism
Grosjean (2010: 4) proposes a definition of bilingualism that places emphasis on the regular use of languages rather than fluency (as well as including multilinguals and those who speak a dialect): "bilinguals are those who use two or more languages (or dialects) in their everyday lives"
Language use cannot be divorced from the context in which it is used, nor from the effects of the interactions of different combinations of people in a conversation. Language is not produced in a vacuum; it is enacted in changing dramas. As props and scenery, audience, co-actors, the play and roles change, so does language. As the theatre and stage where we act changes, so does our use of two or more languages. Communication includes not only the structure of language (e.g. grammar, vocabulary) but also who is saying what, to whom, in which circumstances. One person may have limited linguistic skills but, in certain situations, be successful in communication. Another person may have relative linguistic mastery, but through undeveloped social interaction skills or in a strange circumstance, be relatively unsuccessful in communication. The social environment where the two languages function is crucial to understanding bilingual usage. Therefore, this section now considers the use and function of an individual's two languages.
An individual's use of their bilingual ability (functional bilingualism) moves into language production across a wide range of everyday contexts and events. Functional bilingualism concerns when, where, and with whom people use their two languages. The table below provides examples of the different targets (people) and contexts (often called domains) where functional bilingualism is enacted in different role relationships.
Not all bilinguals have the opportunity to use both their languages on a regular basis. Where a bilingual lives in a largely monolingual community, there may be little choice about language use from day-to- day. However, in communities where two or more languages are widely spoken, bilinguals may use both their languages on a daily or frequent basis. When bilinguals use both their languages, there is often language choice. If the other person is already known to the bilingual, as a family member, friend or colleague, a relationship has usually been established through one language. If both are bilingual they have the option of changing to the other language (e.g. to include others in the conversation), although old habits die hard.
If the other person is not known, a bilingual may quickly pick up clues as to which language to use. Clues such as dress, appearance, age, accent and command of a language may suggest to the bilingual which language it would be appropriate to use. In bilingual areas of Canada and the United States for example, employees dealing with the general public may glance at a person's name on their records to help them decide which language to use. A person called Pierre Rouleau or Maria García might be addressed first in French or Spanish, rather than English.
An individual's own attitudes and preferences will influence their choice of language. In a minority/majority language situation, older people may prefer to speak the minority language. Teenagers (e.g. second-generation immigrants) may reject the minority language in favor of the majority language because of its higher status and more fashionable image. Heller (1982: 108) shows how in a conversation, perceptions about language and identity affect language choice, as in the following example from Québec:
I stopped in a garage ... and struggled to explain ... that my windshield wipers were congelé and I wanted to make them fonctionner. He listened in mild amusement and then said: 'You don't have to speak French to me, abilities fit into two dimensions: receptive and productive madame. I am not a separatist'.
In situations where the native language is perceived to be under threat, some bilinguals may seek to avoid speaking the majority or dominant language to assert and reinforce the status of the other language. For example, French-Canadians in Québec sometimes refuse to speak English in shops and offices to emphasize the status of French.
Li Wei et al. (1992), in a study of a Chinese community in northern England, indicate that the degree of contact with the majority language community is a factor in language choice. Their research shows that Chinese speakers who were employed outside the Chinese community were more likely to choose to speak English with other Chinese speakers. In contrast, those Chinese immigrants who worked in family businesses, mainly catering, and had less daily contact with English speakers, were more likely to use Chinese with other Chinese–English bilinguals.
Some minority languages are mostly confined to a private and domestic role. This happens when a minority language has historically been disparaged and deprived of status. In western Brittany in France, for example, many Breton speakers only use their Breton in the family and with close friends. They can be offended if addressed by a stranger in Breton, believing that such a stranger is implying they are uneducated and cannot speak French.
An individual may also switch languages, either deliberately or subconsciously, to accommodate the perceived preference of the other participant in the conversation. A language switch may be made as one language is regarded as the more prestigious or as more appropriate for the other person. To gain acceptance or status, a person may deliberately and consciously use the majority language. Alternatively, a person may use a minority language as a form of affiliation or belonging to a group. (Codeswitching is discussed in Chapter 5.)
Bilingual and Multilingual Ability
The Four Language Abilities
If we confine the question 'Are you bilingual?' to ability in two (or more) languages, the issue becomes 'what particular ability? ' There are four basic language abilities: listening, speaking, reading and writing. These four abilities fit into two dimensions: receptive and productive skills; oracy and literacy. The following table illustrates:
Receptive skills Listening
Productive skills Speaking
The table suggests avoiding a simple classification of who is, or is not, bilingual. Some speak a language, but do not read or write in a language. Some listen with understanding and read a language (passive bilingualism) but do not speak or write that language. Some understand a spoken language but do not themselves speak that language. To classify people as either bilinguals or monolinguals is thus too simplistic. Or, to return to the opening analogy, the two wheels of bilingualism exist in different sizes and styles. The four basic language abilities do not exist in black and white terms. Between black and white are not only many shades of gray; there also exist a wide variety of colors. Each language ability can be more or less developed. Reading ability can range from simple and basic to fluent and accomplished. Someone may listen with understanding in one context (e.g. shops) but not in another context (e.g. an academic lecture).
These examples show that the four basic abilities can be further refined into sub-scales and dimensions. There are skills within skills, traditionally listed as: pronunciation, extent of vocabulary, correctness of grammar, the ability to convey exact meanings in different situations and variations in style. However, these skills tend to be viewed from an academic or classroom perspective. Using a language on the street and in a shop require a greater accent on social competence with language (e.g. the idioms and 'lingo' of the street).
The range and type of sub-skills that can be measured is large and debated. Language abilities such as speaking or reading can be divided into increasingly microscopic parts. What in practice is tested and measured to portray an individual's bilingual performance is considered later in the book. What has emerged so far is that a person's ability in two languages is multidimensional and will tend to evade simple categorization.
Excerpted from Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism by Colin Baker. Copyright © 2011 Colin Baker. Excerpted by permission of Multilingual Matters.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Bilingualism: Definitions and Distinctions 1
Chapter 2 The Measurement of Bilingualism 18
Chapter 3 Endangered Languages: Planning and Revitalization 40
Chapter 4 Languages in Society 65
Chapter 5 The Early Development of Bilingualism 92
Chapter 6 The Later Development of Bilingualism 115
Chapter 7 Bilingualism and Cognition (updated by Panos Athanasopoulos) 138
Chapter 8 Cognitive Theories of Bilingualism and the Curriculum 163
Chapter 9 Historical Introduction to Bilingual Education: The United States (updated by Wayne Wright) 182
Chapter 10 Types of Bilingual Education 206
Chapter 11 Education for Bilingualism and Biliteracy 221
Chapter 12 The Effectiveness of Bilingual Education 253
Chapter 13 Effective Schools and Classrooms for Bilingual Students 282
Chapter 14 Literacy, Biliteracy and Multiliteracies for Bilinguals 311
Chapter 15 The Special Educational Needs, Assessment and Testing of Bilinguals 338
Chapter 16 Deaf People, Bilingualism and Bilingual Education 360
Chapter 17 Bilingualism and Bilingual Education as a Problem, Right and Resource 373
Chapter 18 Bilingualism and Bilingual Education: Ideology, Identity and Empowerment 389
Chapter 19 Bilingualism in the Modern World 410
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