Search This Blog


Friday, October 5, 2012

Insight into Bilingualism Continued...

Children who grow up in a native English speaking environment acquire this initial knowledge in English. Children who have learned their fundamental concepts in their native tongue only (up to the age of three) have to make new connections. They have to link the word Ball in English to the word in their native tongue. Their prior knowledge is in a different language. Next comes the shape, the function, the color, the size...this process takes time.

In some families, children are exposed to two languages right from the beginning. This child develops skills in both the languages simultaneously.  A child exposed to English after the mother tongue is established will need more time to develop conversational fluency in English (or any other second language). It takes about 3-4 years to develop conversational fluency and 8-11 years to develop academic fluency (which involves abstract language).

One of my friends, a speech language pathologist herself used to try to say the names of the Indians in our circle. Sharad became Sharat, Shruti became Shrewdi…my name didn’t sound anything like what it is, of course:) 

That is one aspect of learning a second language at a young age. Accent/pronunciation is closer to a native speaker’s if a child learns the language by six years of age. That is why we have our varied regional accents…isskool (school), aayil (oil), ij (is).  We transpose the grammatical/phonological processes of our native tongues to the second language. It is harder to correct these at an older age. While this may not be a big deal in a place like India (where we have so many variations for the same word thanks to our regional accents), it may be a problem if you live in a country where the native language is English. Your child will probably be referred to a speech therapist for articulation and reading errors.

Earlier, it was considered that there was a critical period for second language exposure—the child acquires a second language faster or easier at a younger age. This is now shown to be not true…one of the reasons given is that older children have greater cognitive learning skills and so they learn better.

To be continued...
Ms. S

1 comment:

  1. Are you talking about me? ;) How about syllable stress?