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Hausarbeit (Hauptseminar), 1999
44 Seiten, Note: n.n.
1. Introduction: Ethnicity, Language, and Early Childhood Education
2. The Perspective of Early Childhood Educators
3. The Linguistic Potential of the Reference Group
3.1. Ethnic Composition & the Linguistic Potential
3.2. Language Status
3.2.1. Varieties of English
3.2.2. Non-English Languages
3.2.3. Varieties of Non-English Languages
3.2.4. The Role of Schools
3.2.5. Conclusions (Educational Implications)
3.3. Language Loss & Maintenance
3.3.1. Schools and Language Loss
3.3.2. Family and Language Loss
3.3.3. Peer and Language Loss
3.3.4. Language Maintenance v. Retention
3.4. Acculturation Theory
3.5. Differing Cultural Patterns in Preschool
4. The Linguistic Potential of the Individual Speaker
4.1. Uni- (Mono-), Bi-, and Multilingualism
4.1.1. Bilingualism Defined
4.1.2. The Matter of Norm: Mono- or Bilingualism ?
4.2. Societal Parameters
4.2.1. Bilingual Patterns (ways of becoming bilingual)
4.2.2. Types of Bilinguals (bilingual individuals classified)
4.3. Linguistic Parameters
4.3.1. Input Conditions
4.3.2. The Parameter Time
4.3.3. Impact of Linguistic Parameters on Preschool Children
4.4. The Outcome of Bilingual Language Acquisition
4.5. Theories and Studies
4.5.1. A Social Model of SLA
4.5.2. A Four-Stage Model of Consecutive BLA
4.5.3. Formulaic Speech
5. Research in SLA and FLA
5.1. Theories of Second Language Acquisition
5.2. Age Differences
5.3. Types of SLL
5.4. Research in FLA
6. Research in Bilingual Language Acquisition (BLA)
6.1. Results in general
6.1.1. Theories and Models: Cummins
6.1.2. Studies: BLA Compared to MLA
6.2. Bilingualism & Cognitive Development
6.3. Language Differentiation and Awareness
6.3.1. To Mix or To Switch?
6.3.2. Metalinguistic Awareness
6.3.3. One Language System or Two
6.4. Emerging Literacy
7. Program Studies
7.1. Preschool Program Effectiveness
7.2. Successful Consecutive BLA
7.3. Long-Term Effectiveness
8. Some Conclusions
The number of linguistically and culturally diverse children in the United States grows. So does their need for adequacy in schooling and child care. The number of limited English profi- cient students has nearly doubled in less than a decade. It “grew two and a holf times faster than regular school enrollment” (August & Hakuta 1993, quoted in McLaughlin 1995). Today, there are 3.2 million limited English proficient students nationwide, the Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Languages Affairs estimates (OBEMLA 1998a). Regarding the future, Tucker goes as far as to claim the following: "If current trends continue, we can expect that 53 of the major American cities will have minority language youngsters as a majority of the school population by the year 2000” (Tucker 1991: p.75).
In California, the one state that conducts a school-by-school Language Census each year, the number of limited English proficient students increased by 20% between 1993 and 1997 (OBEMLA 1998a). The percentage of the non-Anglo school-age popula tion is expected to increase to 60% by the year 2000, and to 70% by 2030 (Garcia 1991).
& Young Children
As a matter of fact, no figures are available about the linguistic background of children at preschool age. However, whereas the overall percentage of children under the age of five has been predicted to drop after 2000, the birth- rates differ considerably according to ethnic background: 6.85% for white women, 8.32% for bla ck women, and 9.58% for Hispanic women in 1987 (Williams & Fromberg 1992: p.104). Consequently, the proportion of children with a mother tongue other than English will further rise. The National Association for the Education of Young Children states that linguistic and cultural “diversity is even more pronounced among children younger than age 6” (NAEYC 1995: p.2).
Conclusions can also be drawn from developments in ethnic and language back- ground. The 1990 U.S. Census reports that 14% of the US residents age five and over reported speaking a language other than English at home. The percentage of Whites (excluding Hispanics) was 73,5% and is estimated to drop down to 52,5% by the year 2050. Respectively, the percentage of the non-white US population is estimated (by the US Bureau of Census) to rise from 26,5% in 1990 to 47,5% by 2050 (Baker & Jones 1998: p.446). Thus, in the United States of America, the white population will almost become outnumbered.
Linguistic Development in Early Childhood
Preschoolers are children from three to five years of age (Williams & Fromberg 1992: p.237), or from two to four years (Nissani 1990: p.1). The (institutionalized) care for preschoolers, accordingly, is the first stage in what is called the education of children. The foundations for language, cognitive, and social skills are laid in early childhood, that is in the first five years. "Language acquisition begins at birth or perhaps even before" (Baker 1998: p.36). E. Garcia (1986) states that: "almost all of the basic linguistic skills (phonology, morphology, syntax) of adult language as well as important personal and social attributes (self- concept, social identity, social interaction styles) are significantly influenced during these years" (p.99)
Additionally, the preschool years represent the transitional period in the life of every child which allows for indispensable adjustments preparing the child for schooling. Stein (1986) stresses that a smooth transition is all-important in school success: "Youngsters who fail to make this transition often end up in the mental withdrawal syndrome ..., which almost guaran- tees school failure" (p.153). Already the change to a preschool setting itself turns out to provide many hurdles for newcomers to overcome. Away from their parents, they suddenly have to function in a group with children the same age and have to follow routines different from those in their home environment.
From this point of view, it seems evident that linguistic factors cannot be seen separately from social and cognitive factors. One might even say that cultural and "emotional" (affective) factors have to be considered as well, since they have been, for children at the age of three, major domains in the relationship with their parents. Bowman (1989) explains that young children "are taught to act, believe, and feel in ways that are consistent with the mores of their communities" as "the goals and objectives presented, the relationships available, and the behavior and practices recommended by family and friends are gradually internalized and contribute to a child's definition of self" (p.119).
Accordingly, self-concept is primarily built on patterns and beliefs that are culturally specific and thus very often different from those prevailing in a preschool setting dominated by the majority culture. Ignoring the cultural dimension in child development therefore would inevitably lead to disruptions in the development of self-concept, thereby inhibiting the course of development of many other competencies as well.
It follows that for children with a cultural and linguistic background different from that of the majority, adapting to a preschool culture is much more difficult: First, they rely on culturally different experiences, that is their sets of references are different. Thus their de- velopment of cognitive skills and that of concept formation in particular is in danger to be interrupted. Second, they often do not even speak the language of the majority and therefore are unable to communicate with neither peers nor teacher. Their attempts in socializing through non-verbal means may fail because of cultural differences in socialization patterns.
... & the literature on early childhood bilinguality
It seems that investigations in the multilinguality of preschoolers are of consider- able concern. As a matter of fact, much more research has been carried out with samples of school age children. A look at the range of (monograph) publications presenting advice on preschool or early childhood education reveals that, among early childhood educators, there seems to be little concern about the linguistic diversity of young children. B. Beatty`s 1995 Preschool Education in America: The Culture of Young Children from Colonial to Present (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press) disregards this issue as well as Literate Apprenticeships: The Emergence of Language and Literacy in the Preschool Years from 1996 [sic!] (ed. by K.
Before the 1980s
Ever since the passing of the 1968 Bilingual Education Act (Title VII and part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act), Reeder. Norwood, NJ: Ablex). Not to mention works from the 1980s.
There is an entry Bilingual Language Development in the 1992 Encyclopedia of Early Childhood Education (Williams & Fromberg: 222-4) and a three page sub-chapter Learning English as a Second Language in the 1997 handbook Introduction to Early Childhood Education (Hildebrand: 272-5). The poor school achievement of Hawaiian children is considered in an essay in the 1993 Coming Home to Preschool: The Sociocultural Context of Early Education (Mistry & Martini 1993), and contributors to the 1991 Critical Perspectives on Early Childhood Education several times turn their attention to ethnic issues in child care (Weis 1991), though not on language.
However, at least several guides for parents living with children in a multilingual situation are easily available (e.g. G. Saunders Bilingual Children: Guidance for Families. 1982, or E. Harding & P. Riley The Bilingual Family: A Handbook for Parents. 1986, or L. Arnberg Raising Children Bilingually: The Pre-school Years. 1987) Considering parents´ need for assistance, being their children's "first teach- ers", this is not surprising. The diversity in early childhood care provision may hinder the presentation of a unique work elaborating on the implications of current research results and effective instructional practices in multilingual early childhood education.
Nevertheless, I will try to summarize US- American research in early childhood bilingualism and implications for bilingual preschool education. First I will present some views of early childhood educators on early bilingualism. As some of the theories and research results those views are based on have been reviewed in the 1990s, I will then have to consider the implications of recent linguistic re- search for multilingual early childhood education settings. Throughout the paper, I will have in mind the controversial issue of native language instruction because it is this issue which most (politically biased) educational debates concerned with language relate to.
there have been concerns with the speakers of languages other than English in early childhood care too. Also, the multifaceted character of this issue has been obvious from the beginnings.
In 1971, for instance, a conference on “Bilingualism in Early Childhood” was held in Chicago by researchers in Applied Linguistics (Mackey 1971). On the other hand, early childhood educators, in alliance with regional Offices of Education, tried to tackle the “problem” of their classroom being multilingual by compiling materials on their own, such as resource books, teaching guides, curriculum supplements and the like (NCBE 1980).
Arenas (1978) anticipates the philosophy of what today is called "two-way bilingual education" in the journal Children Today: "Learning two languages can become part of the learning that takes place naturally during the socialization process - children playing with other children and learning from each other. Teachers can take advantage of this natural interaction. If both languages are part of the regular classroom environment, children will help each other learn both languages." (p.4) She suggests the integration of both languages into all areas of the curriculum in order to "continue the development of the first language and facilitate the acquisition of a second" (p.4).
Furthermore, she points to some research results:
- thought processes (discourse styles) differ between cultures
- bilingual children use language more precisely than monolingual children
- learning to read in ones native language does not impede learning to read the second language
- children with a positive self-concept (for instance through the appreciation of their home culture in school) do better at school than children who have a poor self-concept.
In the 1980s,
a few more conclusions drawn from research in applied linguistics and sociolinguistics find expression in presentations of early childhood educators.
Saracho (1983), for example, points to the matter of language status and its effects on children claiming that "even at a very early age, bilingual/bicultural children know that speaking a language other than English makes them different." She explains that "teachers let them know ... that English is better than their own native language ... communicating, 'You are ignorant until you learn English.' " (p.99) In order not to "devastate children's self-concept", she recommends the teachers to incorporate specific linguistic and cultural elements of the community into the instructional program.
The teachers' command of their children's home language should suffice for casual conversation with the children and their parents. Regarding language instruction, she proposes that language should "be taught using activities that are meaningful to the children" (p.99), allowing for freedom of choice and movement.
Dixon & Fraser (1986) agree with the notion firmly related to language status, that is, the children should feel free to use their home language in the classroom and the English language should be presented as an additional language, not a replacement. They also point to the "silent period" some children may go through when they appear unresponsive at first, claiming that this period may last several months and that the teachers should make a special effort to keep providing the necessary input despite no reply.
To establish a basis for communication, Bowman (1989) recommends the teachers to begin instruction with familiar content or style:
- the child's primary language,
- culturally appropriate styles of address, or
- patterns of management that are familiar to and comfortable for children.
Bowman also suggests that "teachers and children must create shared understandings and new contexts that give meaning to the knowledge and skills being taught". By finding "personally interesting and culturally relevant ... contexts for children", "the mastery of school skills can be[come] meaningful and rewarding." (p.120)
In the 1990s
In this decade, most research is based on cognitive/developmental approaches (as opposed to academic/behaviorist approaches) in early childhood education.
Nissani (1990) for instance, claims that the development of young children's home language is a developmentally appropriate practice. She refers to Chomsky who "showed that children between the years 5 and 10 are still in the process of acquiring a number of important syntactic structures (in English)" (p.3).
She also gives examples of differing cultural patterns: "Young Hispanic children may be expected to be quiet around adults but to 'speak up' to the teacher in the classroom." (p.5) This needs to be understood in order to avoid misconceptions about children's motivation.
Differing meaning of the same content is illustrated by the example of the bear "usually" representing a benign creature but in Navajo culture a wicked one.
In the Encyclopedia of Early Childhood Education (1992), De Gaetano gives an account of linguistic research results relevant for early childhood (pp.222-4):
1. In bilingual language development in the early years, that is until the age of five, the processes of second language acquisition are similar to those of first language acquisition. (with reference to Garcia 1983)
2. The acquisition of two languages in early childhood can occur without formal instruction. There is indication that the "one person - one language" principle results in the least mixing of the two languages in the children's mind. (with reference to McLaughlin 1984)
3. Before the production of utterances in both languages, children use the two languages as one without distinction. Differentiation and the ability to translate begins at the age of two or three. The latter indicates an early awareness of languages as symbol systems. (with reference to Hakuta)
4. Since social rules are culturally related to each language, communicative competence is culturally variable (forms of addressing, appropriateness in tone and timbre, meaning of non-verbal messages). Young bilingual children demonstrate age-appropriate bilingual communication competence. (with reference to Volk 1992)1
5. Low income minority groups' languages have a low status and tend to be replaced by the prestigious language: Bilingual language development can be interrupted by the exclusive use of the majority language as medium of instruction at school. This interruption may result in partial or limited bilingualism (with reference to Cummins 1986). If the native language is replaced with a second language before sufficient attainment in L1, it is likely that L2 will develop insufficiently too.
6. Bilingual children develop greater cognitive flexibility and earlier metalinguistic skills.
Mistry & Martini (1993) put the poor school achievement of Hawaiian preschool children down to the mismatch between communication patterns and the resulting difficulties in acquiring iterate discourse abilities. According to Wells (1981), a central communicative skill is "the ability to collaborate with one's communication partner in the joint construction of a shared reality"(Mistry & Martini; p.222)
It is suggested that the school should set activities that create instances of shared reality and thus provide contexts of language experiences. On the one hand, this strategy can lead to new sets of common references, the authors claim.
On the other hand, these contexts are meant to elicit oral communication that resemble literate discourse. Mistry & Martini argue that skills in written discourse, firstly, decide upon educational success, and secondly, can be acquired via those oral skills that resemble literate discourse. (But this is not an issue specific to speakers of other languages.) This strategy has much in common with the above reported suggestions of Bowman (1989).
Espinosa (1995) tries to give more insight into potential reasons for Hispanics (except Cuban-Americans!) continuing to perform poorly at school in the 90s, compared to improvements of other ethnic groups. First she explains cultural characteristics:
1. emphasis on obedience and respect for adult authority and a directive style of communication, and, accordingly,
2. little collaborative conversation, elaborated speech models, or early literacy experiences,
3. warm, personalized styles of interaction, a need for an informal atmosphere for communication, and a relaxed sense of time.
The latter can easily contribute to a culture clash with the typical task-oriented style of most American teachers.
In 1995, the National Association for the Education of Young Children forwarded a position statement with recommendations for effective early childhood education in response to linguistic and cultural diversity. Their major concern is the potential loss of the children's first language (with reference to Wong Fillmore 1991a) because this "may result in the disruption of family communication patterns, which may lead to the loss of intergenerational wisdom; damage to individual and community esteem; and children's potential nonmastery of their home language or English" (NAEYC 1995: p.2; bold in the original). They think that "sometimes the negative attitudes conveyed or expressed toward certain languages lead children to 'give up' their home language" (p.1).
Accordingly, they put up the goal to "encourage the development of children's home language while fostering the acquisition of English" (p.2) because:
1. the development of the children's home language does not interfere with their ability to learn English
2. knowing more than one language is a cognitive asset (with reference to Hakuta & Garcia 1989)
3. acknowledging (accept, respect, value, promote, encourage) children's home language and culture strengthens the ties between family and programs and leads to better learning because children feel supported and nurtured.
Furthermore, they point to some individual phenomena:
- some children may experience a silent period of six or more months
- some may mix or combine languages
- others may seem to have acquired English- language skills but are not truly proficient. Considering theories of second language acquisition, they argue for native language instruction, because children learn best in context, and knowledge acquired in the first language can make second-language input much more comprehensible (with reference to Krashen). Also, they can better attain the language and cognitive skills necessary for understanding academic content through reading and writing, which is decontextualized learning. The acquisition of those skills in the second language may require four or more years (with reference to Cummins and Collier).
NAEYC recommends that teachers should explain to parents that communicating with their children in English despite an insufficient parental command of the English language can often result in verbal interactions being limited and unnatural. There can be a lack of communicating complex ideas or abstract thoughts, and vocabulary growth will be less optimal as well.
Giving recommendations for programs and practice, they clearly state (with reference to Krashen) that "literacy developed in the home language will transfer to the second language" (p.6). They advise the teacher to comfortably use the child's home language if he speaks that language. If not, he should provide materials of the child's home culture throughout the learning environment and "can learn a few selected words in the child's language" (p.7) in order to demonstrate his efforts and to value the child's cultural background. If the teacher is faced with many different languages in the classroom, he can additionally try grouping together children with the same background at specific times of the day.
Schwartz (1996) focuses on Hispanic preschool education, particularly of children from poor families. Those children are entitled to the Federally-funded Head Start program (for three-to-five year-olds), under which, aiming at the development of English literacy skills, it is left to the individual school to decide whether to provide bilingual or monolingual instruction. A similar freedom in choice of instructional strategies is reported of Even Start, a Federally- funded intergenerational literacy program.
The author agrees with the NAEYC position paper (NAEYC 1995) and the assumption that "young children learn most readily when instruction builds on what they already know from experience" (Schwartz 1996), thereby advocating native language instruction and incorporation of the children's home culture.
Rather practical suggestions are also given by Hildebrand (1997):
1. incorporate cultural differences into the group activities to enrich children's experiences
2. learn a few words of the children's mother tongue
3. find out about the most common interlingual interference error sources
4. interpret the initial silence of newcomers as the result of being confronted with the new, different, and perhaps incomprehensible school situation
5. introduce English gradually on an individual and small-group basis but mind building a bilingual base and reinforce the children's cultural background
6. encourage the English-speaking children in the class to talk with the non-English speaking children in order to provide models (important learning flows in both directions)
I want to conclude this review with a thought about perception and judgment. All people tend to judge others on the basis of the way they talk. If children just do not have the language the others have, "many times the school treat self-concept goes down each time" (Saracho those children as if they were mentally 1990). But, in fact, they are mentally just as retarded", that is, as "dumb-dumbs, and their capable.
As a function of ethnic composition, the linguistic composition of a multilingual preschool classroom varies owing to the interplay of three factors:
a. the proportion of native English speakers,
b. the proportion of non-English native speakers, and
c. the number of non-English native languages present in the classroom.
As a result, classrooms can be (by mother tongue)
1. monolingual (Hispanic only for example),
2. bilingual (English and one non-English language),
3. multilingual (English and more than one non-English language),
4. bilingual (two non-English languages), or
5. multilingual (more than two non-English languages).
Furthermore, the proportions of speakers may vary from one speaker of a language to all but one speakers of a language. This diversity has major implications for potential teaching methods, especially with regard to the issues of languages of instruction and availability of target language speakers.
Probably even more influential is the status of the languages in a classroom. Being the de facto official language of the United States, "Standard" American English generally has the highest prestige among all other languages because it is through English that higher education and success in society is attainable. Academic and economic underachievement compared to federal or national mean figures, school drop-out rates, and poverty rates (Garcia 1991; Spener 1988; Corson 1993; Cummins 1986) of for example the Hispanic American population (Zentella 1997) suggest a proportional relationship between the prestige of a speech community and the prestige of their language in society.
Hoffmann (1991) explains why members of a language minority group attribute higher status to the majority language. She claims that "personal wealth, professional standing and general technological advance are seen as attributes of the high-status group" (p.191) and those wishing for "upward mobility, improved living standards and/or a share of power" (ibid.) transfer the high status to the majority language.
Evidence for the perception of the low status of one's own language has been found by Garcia (1983) in his empirical analysis of language switching in bilingual mother-child discourse with children 2.4 - 3.0 years, which shows that "Spanish was perceived by mothers as the weaker language" (p.143).
The direct link between the perception of socioeconomic status and school achievement has been given evidence in a 1999 study. It investigated the connections between home and school literacy and documented "a strong relationship between the immigrant minority parent's perception of her socioeconomic status and her involvement in her son's education" (DAO 1997-9: AAC 9920566). Supposing that parent involvement is a major variable of student achievement, it can be followed that the perception of a family's own socioeconomic status determines school achievement.
The actual superior status of the majority language is reported in a 1998 study of Classroom Processes in a Two-Way Immersion Kindergarten Classroom. "English was the 'cash currency' for intra[ sic! ]-linguistic, ENS [English native speakers] -only, and at times, SNS [Spanish native speaker] -only peer interactions" (DAO 1997-99: AAC 9920566). Probably more important is that a "macroanalysis of the findings suggests a subordinate/superordinate relationship between SNSs and ENSs in this classroom. This relationship mirrors their parents' status in the society."
Ruiz (1988) points to the fact that even within one language, different status is attached to different varieties because "the status of a language in the United States is determined by its perceived utility" (p.544). He shows that, as a consequence, Black English (African- American Vernacular English = AAVE), one American English variety, sometimes is denied the status of a language at all (despite "well- developed linguistic arguments" given by Labov, for example, that prove "its status as a full-fledged language", Ruiz 1988: p.544) and clearly is subordinated to Standard American English or British-influenced forms. AAVE and other "subordinated" varieties such as Chicano English and Appalachian speech lack the "status as purveyors of social power"(ibid.) because they do not give the speakers the potential for upward mobility.
Parallels have been found in the 1998 study by Nicoladis et al., which investigated differences in Spanish achievement between African-American students and English native white children in the early grades of a Spanish- English two-way immersion program, controlling for intelligence. Results show that, although performing significantly lower than majority white students on English achievement tests, African-American students do not differ significantly in Spanish achievement (in math's and reading).
Nicoladis et al. conclude that the "results of this study point to the primary role of social/environmental factors in the comparatively lower scores of African- American children on standardized English achievement tests" (p.134). The authors relate their findings to the circumstance that Spanish is a "culture-free" and an equally new language for both groups of students. Yet they admit that "the present data do not point to which social/environmental factor or factors may play a role" (p.146) and speculate about similarities between Hispanic and African-American discourse and interactional styles.
Likewise it could be argued that the results are rooted in dimensions of ethnic and language status. At least, they prove false the linguistic mismatch theory, which centers around the assumption that poor academic achievement is mainly due to the linguistic mismatch between home and school.
With regard to non-English languages, Ruiz (1988), drawing on a distinction made by Ferguson and Heath in 1981, points to the widening gap in the status of ethnic and foreign languages. Efforts to maintain (the status of) an ethnic language have often been viewed as acts of separatism, leading to racial segregation. This view is strongly put forward by Glenn, who basically denies ethnic minorities the right to cultural maintenance. Glenn (1996) consequently argues against language maintenance, aimed at in some forms of bilingual education (pp. 356-60, 377-87). He avoids the matter of language status or prestige at all2. Ruiz explains such views on ethnic languages with the potential threats those languages inhibit socially and economically because they are attached to communities (p.545).
Foreign languages, on the other hand, are attached to individuals and have been the objects of an everrising interest (with the exception of the late 1910s and the 1920s). This contradiction has been traced back by Crawford (1998) to the Anglo-American tradition which assigns rights rather to individuals than to groups. Accordingly, a student has the "right to special assistance designed to overcome the language barrier and make academic instruction comprehensible" (p.15). But never has mother- tongue schooling for non-anglophone groups been formally recognized, he claims.
Both Crawford and Ruiz also explain obvious differences between ethnic and foreign languages in two aspects. Regarding dimensions of language capacity, ethnic languages are vernaculars, foreign languages are academic languages. Regarding language skills, learning a foreign language primarily requires proficiency in written language skills as opposed to oral skills for vernacular.
The resulting differences in status can again be explained in terms of "perceived utility". As academic language empowers the speaker in society and vernacular does not, and as proficiency in written language skills is indispensable in academic and thereby economic progress and oral language skills are less promoting, foreign languages have higher status than ethnic languages (Ruiz 1988: 544- 6). If an ethnic language was functionally fully developed, as for example the Spanish la nguage is in Spain (Castile in Andalucia), then it would have its standard variety that could fulfill its function as the high-status variety. In the United States, this function and thus the high status have been occupied by "Standard" American English.
Tracing back language status to socioeconomic status appears quite legitimate if we look at academic and economic achievement of different groups of the Hispanic population. Puerto Ricans are reported to have a better command of English but lower average income than other Hispanic groups; they also have "slightly higher levels of education than Anglos [in the study], but Anglos reported substantially higher incomes" (quoted in Zentella 1997; p.264).
A second Hispanic group with extra - ordinary achievement characteristics is the Cuban population: "Although 30 percent of the US Cuban population is monolingual in Spanish, 63 percent are high school graduates, 20 percent are college graduates, and Cuban median family income in 1989 was near the national level at $26,858." (Zentella 1997; p.298) From these statistics, compared to for example the Puerto Rican figures, it must be followed that it is not proficiency in English that decides upon achievement in society.
Zentella (1997) puts down these ostensible contradictions to racial, class, and occupational backgrounds of each group; time, size, destination, and objectives of their immigrations; and the history of their political relationship with the United States. She claims that "these factors determine the academic and economic success of a group more than its level of English proficiency or the type of English it speaks, both of which are determined by the same factors" (p.265).
Spener (1988), from observing the function of transitional bilingual programs, comes to a similar conclusion: "proficiency in standard English is not a causal variable in an individual's social status, but rather, is reflective of the individual's opportunities to participate in social settings where standard English is the language of the participants" (p.143, with reference to John Schumann).3 The perspective of both Zentella and Spener is commonly called the socioeconomic approach to issues of educational and societal achievement. It proves false the linguistic mismatch hypothesis and goes contrary to the cultural mismatch hypothesis.
US Cubans in Dade County
Since Cubans achie ve higher than other language minority groups, their example deserves some more attention. The greatest influx of Cubans occurred in the late 1950s and early 1960s after the Castro revolution and was composed of Cubans, among them many teaches, who were highly motivated to maintain their Spanish because they expected to return to their home country in a short time. The federal resettlement assistance amounted to nearly a billion dollars; along with supplemental funding and a Ford foundation grant (Glenn 1996) a bilingual program at Coral Way Elementary School in Dade County, Florida, was established.
In character, it was an maintenance / heritage / enrichment program for the Cubans and at the same time a Spanish immersion program for Anglo children from the same community. Before noon, students were taught in their mother tongue, after noon they switched over to the other; social mixing at breaks was encouraged, and students had joint programs of arts, music, and physical education (Romaine 1989 and Glenn 1996 with reference to Hakuta).
Evaluations in the 1970s showed the program's success:
- a steady increase in first language reading ability in both language groups
- a favorable comparison of the English- speaking students with monolingual English students on reading scores (but worse reading skills in Spanish than in English)
- equal ability in both languages for the Spanish-speaking students (Romaine 1989).
There have been, though, private low-tuition schools for US Cuban children of working-class background4 in Dade County established as well. Program characteristics run as follows:
- schools are staffed mainly by Cuban teachers
- classroom instruction reinforces Miami- Cuban values
- most subjects are taught in English but Spanish is the social language of the school
- literacy in Spanish according to monolingual Cuban standards is expected and attained.
Romaine (1989) reports that the pupils fare better than Cuban-Americans elsewhere and that "Garcia and Otheguy (1987: 89) attribute the success of these schools to the prestigious status accorded in Spanish" (p.224; see also footnote 3).
Moll (1992) reports that Garcia and Otheguy discovered during their studies in Dade County in the 1980s that their research questions (matters of language dominance, length of instructional use of the first language, language of initial reading, time of mainstreaming or transferring students to English-only instruction, and character of language tests for evaluating program effectiveness) were irrelevant or inapplicable to the schools they were studying. In fact, the community educators showed "remarkably little interest in language questions" (p.90, emphasis in original) and dismissed the researchers' issues as irrelevant if not nonsensical.
Instead, their primary concern was with pedagogical issues and academic development. "Spanish and English fluency and literacy were simply expected and developed as unquestioned, valuable, obvious goals ... and ... the use of both languages is considered the only natural - indeed the only conceivable - way of educating children" (Moll 1992; p.20). Garcia and Otheguy (1987) admit that they had uncritically accepted limited visions of what is important in education. Notably, the same research questions rule in the debate on bilingual education, probably leading to the same fallacies.
Today, Coral Way Elementary School students "score at or above district, state, and national averages on standardized tests. Test scores are particularly high in mathematics" (Pellerano, Fradd & Rovira 1998).
It is widely acknowledged that "the school plays a powerful role in exerting social control over its pupils. It endorses mainstream, and largely middle class values" (Romaine 1989; p.217). Some theorists argue that educational institutions serve to maintain the power differential between groups because they reproduce the structure of production as they serve as sorting mechanisms. (Valdes 1998)
Jim Cummins (1986) claims, drawing on the works of Ogbu, that "the dominated status of a minority group exposes them to conditions that predispose children to school failure even before they come to school. These conditions include limited parental access to economic and educational resources, ambivalence toward cultural transmission and primary language use in the home, and interactional styles that may not prepare students for typical teacher/student interaction patterns in school" (p.22; with reference to Heath and Wong Fillmore).
The curricula and the character of interactions in school then, Cummins explains in 1994, "reinforce the lies, distortions, and occasional truths upon which national and dominant-group cultural identities are built" (quoted in Valdes 1997).
Evidence for predisposing conditions at school has been found in a 1993 study investigating the behavior of teachers towards different groups of children in a multicultural preschool setting: "International children had significantly lower frequency and quality of positive behaviors and significantly higher frequency and quality of negative behaviors displayed toward them than American children" (DAO 1989-93: ACC 9327054). And Gomez (1991) explains that "children's attitudes toward their race and ethnic group and other cultural groups begin to form early in the preschool years".
One consequence of status matters ("perceived utility" Ruiz 1988) is the subsequently low status of minority language schools. Because of transferring the higher status of the majority group to its language, parents may wish their children not to enroll in a school where most of the time the minority language is used as the medium of instruction. Those schools, Fishman claims, "may actually be questionable from the point of view of objective achievement" (quoted in Pattanayak 1986; p.6). Hoffmann (1991) explains that this applies to "a population that is well aware of the need to be able to master the language of the dominant group" (p.191).
Given the success of the Dade County schools, we can conclude that the primary concern should be with setting appropriate goals: fluency and literacy in both languages as unquestioned and valuable goals. This perspective, along with appropriate curricula, automatically assigns much more prestige to the children's first language. Accordingly, it should be possible to create an environment that promotes the status of an otherwise low-status language.
But if language is a second-order matter along with academic and economic achievement, both being determined by first- order levels such as power relations in society, we should ask whether using the children's home language at school might change anything at all. Yet the difference language can make is to challenge and change its own status in the specific setting of the schools. And if children's home culture and language is valued in school only, it is valued in school at least. This will contribute to positive self-concept and social identity, provide (culturally) relevant learning contexts, and enhance motivation, all of which improve educational achievement although group relations in society are not affected directly.
Positive effects of participation in a bilingual program on the self-concept of Asian- American kindergarten children were observed in a 1983 study. It also found "a significant correlation between the self-concept and the subtest fluency of the creative thinking test (.23), with originality (.18), and imagination (.30)" (DAO 1983-88: ACC 8314401). Causal variables are not specified, but the general impact of a bilingual program was shown.
Deriving sociolinguistic principles from comparing failing and succeeding strategies in promoting bilingualism, Ofelia Garcia (1997) concludes that "low-status languages most often need the support of an educational setting in their maintenance and development [because] bilingualism, and especially biliteracy, are rarely obtained without the support of an educational setting" (p.416). Furthermore, she claims that "the use of two languages in school should complement their use in society at the initial stage of developing bilingualism" (p.417; emphasis added). (She does not, though, differentiate between function and quantity of language use.) Similarly, Romaine (1989) contributes the success of the Dade County ethnic schools to the strategy to "support via instruction the language which is less likely to develop for other reasons" (p.253).
Zentella (1997) also concludes that schools should value and incorporate students' home dialects, thereby expanding students' linguistic repertoires. Consequently, her tenor is on language politics too. In the very last paragraph she states that young Puerto-Ricans "must be able to count on the support of the dominant class, via realization of national language policies" (p.288). This view does not fully acknowledge her own statement about the factors determining academic and economic success. In fact, her conclusions do not go beyond the cultural mismatch hypothesis and the socioeducational approach.
The results of a non-bilingual preschool program show the effects of intervention aiming at enhancing positive attitudes towards diversity. "Children showed significant gains on their measures" (ED282647).
The Notion of Empowerment
In his landmark essay Empowering Minority Students: A Framework for Intervention, Cummins (1986) considers power relations: "Minority students will succeed educationally to the extent that the patterns of interaction in school reverse those that prevail in the society at large" (p.24). He defines educational failure as "a function of the extent to which schools reflect or counteract the power relations that exist within the broader society" (p.32).
Cummins discusses strategies in four areas:
(1) incorporation of students' culture and language into the school program, (2) inclusion of minority communities in the education of their children, (3) pedagogical approaches that liberate students from instructional dependence, and (4) leaving discriminatory assessment practices in favor of practices that scrutinize educational and social conditions. Following these strategies instead of only paying lip- service to similar-sounding goals, he claims, can empower the students instead of disabling them through their school experience, as they "develop the ability, confidence, and motivation to succeed academically" as a result of "a confident cultural identity" (p.23).
In 1994 Cummins goes even further as to say that educational equity requires no less than educators challenging the societal power structure by creating an educational context where "the assumptions and lies underlying dominant group identity become the focus of scrutiny rather than the invisible screen that determines perception" (quoted in Valdes 1997).
Cummins's work is much acclaimed by proponents of the socio-economic approach to matters of education and language, among them Richard Ruiz. Nonetheless, he is critical of Cummins in one aspect, that is the issue of voice. Ruiz (1997) does not see "any action on the part of those who are to be empowered" (p.323) as for Cummins students are empower ed or disabl ed through educators becoming advocates for them. Accordingly, Ruiz asks: "If empowerment is a gift from those in power to those out, what kind of power would they be willing to give up?" (ibid.).
With reference to the Pedagogy of the Oppressed by P. Freire (1970), he explains that "for Freire, the language and culture of the child constitute the curriculum" (Ruiz 1997: p.324; in italics in the original), whereas for Cummins they merely "should be 'included' in the curriculum of the school" (ibid.). He proposes self-empowerment through the privatization of the "cultural capital" of minority communities (which to discuss here would go beyond the scope of this essay).
It seems as if this concept does not apply to early childhood education as young children appear not to be likely to empower themselves. Yet if we think through this concept using "voice" at its center, self-empowerment for young children becomes imaginable when their voice (here not the grammatical category) is put at the center of the curriculum.
With regard to the bilingual education debate in the USA, Cummins (1991a) claims that "enrichment or 'empowering' forms of bilingual education are seen as representing a threat to the societal power structure in that they institutionalize and valorize languages and cultures other than those of the dominant group" (p.184).
The character of curriculum, assessment procedures, the status attached to certain cultures in school, staff expectations, and other related factors may have a severe impact on language shift. Schools do play a role in language loss. Hoffmann (1991) claims that "one of the most powerful causes of language shift can be seen in those areas where the school language is that of the high-status group and no provision is made for the children of the low-status group to learn to read and write the language of their ancestors" (p.191).
In the USA, English is the language of the high-status group. It is used as the exclusive medium of instruction in places where language legislation, local education policy, and community and staff beliefs coincide in expecting better knowledge of English from English-only curricula.
Baker (1998) stresses that it is a widespread suggestion that, as a measure against high drop- out rates among immigrant children, children should be taught English as early as possible, preferably in preschool programs because (as English Only advocates claim) early childhood is an advantageous time to learn a second language. (This could be true for most phonological features and certain aspects of syntax only.) Expected is sufficient command of English on school entrance. Yet the opposite will be the case; language loss and disruption of family communication will occur if the above mentioned beliefs are put into reality. (Other effects will be discussed later.) "Educators often overlook the fact that when they're not in school, students are immersed in a sociocultural milieu that requires the use of the non-English language" (Gonzalez & Maez 1995).
The importance of preschool children's native language has been observed in a 1993 study of two Chinese girls who spoke no English on preschool entry. The "significance of native language peers in satisfying language minority children's needs" is stressed, and "the social functions of native language use and the emotional import carried by it in initiating and mediating these children's interaction with the teacher and the peers" is pointed out (DAO 1989-93: AAC 9329186).
In 1990, the National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE) initiated a national survey to document the consequences of English-medium preschool education. The pattern emerging was that "in families where children received their preschool education exclusively or partly through the medium of English, there was a greater shift to using English ... than in families where preschool children were educated exclusively through their mother tongue" (Baker 1998: p.493).
The NABE study identified a number of worrying consequences:
1) The home language of the children tends to decline.
2) The children's English may not develop properly when contact to good model speakers is rare.
3) Entering primary school with insufficient command in both home language and English leads to a pattern of failure that can continue throughout school career.
4) Problems can be created in family relationships. Without a common language to communicate in, parents cannot discuss problems with or give advice to their children and convey their own personal, cultural, and religious values to the next generation.
A subtractive bilingual situation can be created by an English-only preschool experience, as is demonstrated in a case study in the 1991 guide of the National Preschool Coordination Project, San Diego, CA. (ERIC 1982-91: ED334058). The English-only experience lead to academic failure, disrupted family communication, and dropping out.
Another article (by Saville -Troike) in the same guide found that children who were "most at risk academically were children who had lost or failed to develop their native language while not becoming proficient in English; such children had been immersed in an English- dominant environment before age 8" (ibid.).
Simply educators lack of knowledge is made responsible for pejorative attitudes towards communicative styles that use codeswitching. Teachers' ignorance towards "the grammatical rules it honors, and the discourse strategies it accomplishes", can be devastating. Zentella (1997: p.269; with reference to Cummins) explains that, "linguistic insecurity ... often leads to loss of the native language, with potentially severe repercussions for the successful development of their English".
Being motivated not only by the use of English in the media and the larger community, but also at school, children may opt to speak English at home before they have become competent in it. If parents also decide to speak English, both speak a language in which they have little competence and "an imperfect and inadequate model of English is perpetuated" (Baker 1998: p.493).
Parents may decide to speak English to their children because
a) their children do not speak the home language sufficiently any more, or
b) parents mistakenly believe that the switch to English would help their children.
Sometimes misinformed teachers encourage parents to do so.
Both Zentella (1997) and NAEYC (1995) stress that parents should be advised to speak to their children in a language they have "full" command in. Speaking insufficient English is detrimental to the children's linguistic development. Instead, as for literacy, "rich literacy activities, in any language" are the "most significant predictor of later academic achievement", Gándara (1997) summarizes research on parents' language choice. The language one knows best naturally provides better conditions.
Lily Wong Fillmore's When Learning a Second Language Means Losing the First (1991a) describes the effects of language loss in children on family communication. She reports a case where the limited command of the home language had the effect that the children could not verbally express the (cultural specific) respect for an elder relative. They were beaten for their "lack of respect", which lead to the children being taken into protective custody.
Furthermore, Wong Fillmore identified consequences of the breakdown of family communication explaining that parents cannot:
- teach their children about ethical values, responsibility, and morality,
- provide emotional and social support (in a situation where diversity is rarely valued otherwise),
- tell when their children have problems adjusting to social and academic expectations, or when they are involved in dangerous activities,
- have moral authority and control over their children. (Gándara 1997) Consequently, Wong Fillmore argues for the maintenance of the home language in children.
Other studies found that students who maintained their home language "consistently outperformed academically" those "who were more acculturated to American society" (Gándara 1997). The studies attribute their finding to the chance of the former to "rely on the moral resources of their own familial and ethnic ties", to remain "securely ensconced in their co-ethnic community", while assimilating to American culture "in a paced and selective fashion" (Gándara 1997). It is explained that the native language bounds the children to protective features of the native culture.
Another domain of potential language use, the peer group, is no setting for language maintenance when it also is dominated by the majority language: "resistance to the peer language .. is unlikely to be of long duration" (Vihman & McLaughlin 1982: p.36).
In following his critique on Cummins (1986), Ruiz (1997), with reference to Heath, makes a distinction between the maintenance of a language ("the efforts of those outside the community to preserve the language" p.326) and the retention of a language ("the community acts out its language loyalty" p.326).
Ruiz agrees with Kjolseth who wrote in 1982: "Parental insistence upon the use of Spanish by themselves and their children within the private family domain is the only realistic hope." (quoted in Ruiz 1997: p.326)
Hoffmann (1991) also claims that "once a language ceases to be the language spoken at home, its continued existence will be seriously threatened" (p.192). It seems clear that the primary force in language retention at preschool age can only be the family. Yet the preschool can make a difference too.
The acculturation theory or model views language as just one aspect of culture, not as an issue also influenced by culture. Defining culture as specific sets of references, as Bowman (1989) did, language as one set of references appears to be a subsystem of culture.
This theory was proposed by Schumann, who wrote that "the degree to which a learner acculturates to the target language group will control the degree to which he acquires the second language" (quoted in Baker 1993).
The process of acculturation "requires cultural and psychological adaptation" (Yawkwey & Prewitt-Diaz 1990). Accordingly, acculturation has to take place before the development of a second language.
The theory claims that second la nguage acquisition is facilitated when both the target language group and the second language learner (SLL) group:
- have little equality distance,
- desire assimilation of the SLL's social group,
- expect the SLL group to share social facilities as operated by the target language group,
- have positive attitudes and expectations of each other; and when the SLL group:
- is small, not very cohesive, and assimilatable,
- has a culture rather similar to the target culture,
- expects to stay with the target group for longer (Baker 1993).
It seems that this model can effectively incorporate the issue of valuing culture as it explains the relation between adjustment to the environment and the development of a second language in young children. Factors such as attitude and motivation can be incorporated as well.
The acculturation theory is consistent with observations regarding the impact of cultural differences on language learning and learning and communication in general.
A Bicultural and Bilingual Study of Read- Aloud at Home and School (DAO 1997-9: AAC 9716332) investigated the differences between the settings, such as the language used, the cultural repertoire needed for understanding, curriculum arrangement and personal read- aloud styles. Among them, "it is the different cultural impacts of home and school on read- aloud that appear to be most obvious and influential".
Discontinuity between mothers' perceptions and their children's preschool experiences was investigated with a cultural perspective in a 1995 study (DAO 1994-6: ACC 9505548): The greatest discontinuity was experienced by the Mexican-American dyad, followed by the Korean-American and the African-American dyad. The Anglo dyad experienced the least discontinuity. As an example, traditional written notices from the school were congruent with the information needs of the Anglo mothers only. There were further discontinuities regarding gender-based teacher decisions, the use of drill and practice, and parent-teacher collaboration.
The teaching strategies of parents of minority children differ quite often from the strategies employed at school. Chicano mothers of Head Start children were found to use direction-giving strategies in 25% of the interactions recorded, but only 3% goal identification strategies. These strategies are suggested to be considered in the choice of preschool teaching strategies (DAO 1983-8: AAC 8317649).
Cultural patterns dominate teachers' interactive styles. In a classroom with 25 Haitian preschool children it was found that "Haitian teachers' rhetoric of verbal control is based in the notion of a hierarchical moral community with shared values (... similar to ... Hawaiian classrooms), whereas U.S. mainstream verbal control strategies are embedded in a framework of individual rationality" (DAO 1989-93: ACC 9322297). Consequently, conflicts in styles and underlying values will emerge if no adjustments are made.
McLaughlin (1995) points to the fact that, for example, Native American children "are not accustomed to speaking alone in front of other children and resisted the teacher's efforts to have them do so" because this behavior is regarded as arrogant in their culture. Likewise, they could be embarrassed when being told to be proud of themselves. Instead, it is suggested, for Latino and Asian children it will be more appropriate to tell them that their family will be proud.
Among the strategies strongly put forward by McLaughlin (1995) are those that validate cultures and use familiar communication patterns. They are much more effective, he claims, than "occasional celebrations of the history and traditions of different ethnic groups".
In essence, these studies provide evidence for the cultural mismatch model; the acculturation theory provides a framework. However, cultural mismatch does not explain all variation in school achievement. (This was shown in Language Status.)
The linguistic potential of individual speakers is mainly characterized by the number of languages spoken by the individuals. Henceforth we can differentiate between unilingualism (monolingualism), bilingualism, and multilingualism. It should be noted that sometimes the term multilingualism is used to name those cases where two languages are spoken. (This may be due to the more extensive meaning of multi culturalism.)
Considering the individual linguistic potential, we need to differentiate bilingualism in the individual (individual bilingualism) from bilingualism in society (societal bilingualism) and from bilingualism in education (the usage of languages in instruction). Although bilingual ity should be the more appropriate term - because an - ism tends to represent a concept rather than a description of the state of affairs - I follow all researchers in not differentiating between process and result nor between conditions and concept and use bilingualism also as the term for the fact that an individual speaks two languages.
There are, of course, different definitions for the term bilingualism, ranging from "maximal" definitions (such as "native-like control of two languages" from Bloomfield) to "minimal" definitions (such as "producing complete meaningful utterances in the other language" from Haugen). In order to acknowledge the diversity in bilinguality and to avoid the introduction of completely new terms (such as multi-competence from Cook), bilingualism can be subcategorized (as in the subsequent chapters).
Early childhood bilingualism necessarily involves the emergence of competence in another language than the native language in early childhood. As language is acquired throughout (early) childhood, we may well use the term bilingual language acquisition when we refer to the simultaneous acquisition of two languages. In case of a restricted command of a second language - such as limited receptive knowledge only - bilingual language acquisition can be used as well since language acquisitions begins with reception only.
Bilinguals rarely achieve the same level of proficiency in both languages. The competencies in all functions and registers of one language are limited for bilinguals compared to monolinguals of the language in question. But "limited" proficiency in a language is often seen as evidence of inferiority in ability or intelligence. It seems evident that native-like proficiency in both languages can not be the norm for bilinguals also because, on the other hand, "the bilingual child's total vocabulary will usually be considerably larger than that of the monolingual" (Baker 1998: p.43). Accordingly, there merely is the need to establish norms for bilingual development.
"It is estimated that nearly half of the world's population is functionally bilingual, and that most of these bilinguals are 'native speakers' of their two languages" (De Houwer 1995: p.220, with reference to Wölk 1987/8). It seems as if bilingualism itself could evolve as one potential major norm.
The linguistic potential of individual speakers varies according to, among others, societal parameters that constitute (in our case)
These are, according to Hoffmann (1991: pp.40-45):
1) Immigration (settling once and for all in a host country): often results in native language loss in the third generation.
2) Migration (seen as temporary movement only): Migrants often aim at language maintenance but service is provided by the host country only rarely. (Here the outcome is less predictable than for immigrants.)
3) Close contact with other linguistic groups (in multinational countries with rich linguistic diversity through urbanization or internal migration): Bilingualism is common among children as well as adults.
4) Schooling (immersion for majority language children, foreign boarding schools, the compulsory use of a second language as a medium of instruction at the level of secondary education).
5) Growing up in a bilingual family: The maintenance of the home-only language is uncertain, depending on perceived need and social support.
As the introductory demographical notes indicate, this paper is mainly concerned with the bilingual pattern immigration, not schooling. (Here it becomes quite obvious that Hoffmann's categories are not at all clear-cut. Schooling as such definitely is a set of parameters that has a tremendous impact on bilingual language acquisition of minority children as well as of majority children.)
As a matter of fact, the patterns we are mainly concerned with can not be classified as close contact with other linguistic groups although it sounds appropriate. This is because this pattern presupposes an equal status of the linguistic groups as nations within one country. As early as at preschool, status differences of the languages used manifest themselves in all domains of communication.
Whereas bilingual patterns describe settings that contribute to individuals becoming bilingual,
aim at describing those family backgrounds of individuals that can lead to bilingualism. Accordingly, Hoffmann (1991; pp.46-8) classifies, with reference to Skutnabb-Kangas, bilinguals into four groups:
A) É lite bilinguals: They have freely chosen to become bilinguals or are the children of families often changing their country of residence or they are educated abroad. The acquisition of both languages proceeds unhindered. Failure has no serious consequences.
B) Children from linguistic majorities: The learning of a second language is considered advantageous but there is little or no pressure to become bilingual and the consequences of under-achievement are relatively small.
C) Children from bilingual families (parents have different mother tongues): Bilingualism is desirable because of the need to communicate with both parents and the need of acquiring the language of the country. Hoffmann claims that the consequences of failure to become bilingual are problematic only to the extent that the child is required to communicate in the language of the parent(s).
D) Children from linguistic minorities: They are under "intense external pressure to learn the language of the majority, particularly if the language of the minority is not officially recognized" (p.47). Also, they are quite often forced to keep on learning the minority language as it is the language of their social relationships. The risks of failure are greater than for any other group (loss of educational opportunities on the one hand, alienation from home culture on the other hand).
Types A) to D) can be placed in the same order on a continuum "risks in case of failure", from "low" to "high". The different categories of Societal Patterns and Types of Bilinguals certainly overlap but do not match each other. (Yet Hoffmann herself does not sort out those differences. So won't I.)
Both patterns and types (derived from societal parameters) define status relations and involve different types of conditions for bilingual language acquisition. A frequently used classification scheme stems from Harding and Riley and is derived from three factors: native language of the parents, language of the community, and the parents` strategy in language use with the child.
It follows what Romaine labels "Types of Bilingual Language Acquisition in Childhood" (but before had named "types of early childhood bilingualism" which indicates that both process and result can be meant with bilingualism): one person - one language / non- dominant home language / non-dominant home language / without community support / double non-dominant home language without community support / non-native parents / mixed languages. These labels in fact are too vague to be of any use other than assign studies of elitist bilingualism to.5
A similar categorization has been presented by Vihman & McLaughlin (1982) and been labeled Conditions of Bilingual Presentation (p.37). They distinguish the two basic environments home and community and assume three simplified types of language use: one person, one language; mixed use by each person; environment-bound language. Accordingly, they arrive at a matrix inhibiting nine types of language presentation. They also admit the potential role of language status and consider environmental changes over time.
Instead of re-presenting their typology, I prefer to point to the diversity in the types of linguistic environments only. This seems to be legitimate as some typologies are under scrutiny.
De Houwer (1995), as an example, dismisses two of the three factors which Romaine (1989) put up as not sufficiently decisive. The native language of the parents would only have an impact on language attitudes; and the language of the community (at large) would only play a role to the extent that it prevails in the child's linguistic microcosm.
She claims that, instead, apart from defining the language used with the child, it is "important to find out approximately how much time the main input carriers each spent with the child" (p.225) because the diversity in language exposure is two high to be classified into two or three types, especially for young children, which De Houwer is mainly concerned with. She names the two factors General Exposure Conditions.
Instead of cross-sectioning several categories and arriving at a matrix (typology) requiring precise (and thereby too complex) labels, De Houwer lists the categories only, keeping them separate.
Language separation in the input can mean the separate language use of the parents or of family and caregivers or other input carriers. An input continuum can be established related to the degree of language separation by person(s).
According to De Houwer, two phenomena have not yet been studied. One is the language separation not by persons, but (of the same persons) by situation, for example inside / outside the family or community. The other is the absence of language separation in communities with unavailable or nonexistent monolingual norms.
Changes in input conditions deals with the likeliness of early childhood language loss, which has not been studie d sufficiently yet, and with the amount of input. Some researchers claim a direct proportionship between input and speed of language development, some claim that there is no simple relationship between a child's proficiency in each language and the amount of input in that language from caregivers and others; some claim that receptive vocabulary is not affected by unequal amounts of input in each language, others claim that the quality of input precedes its quantity.
Other factors related to the input are, according to De Houwer (1995), parental discourse strategies (feedbacking: correction, clarification; mixing-behavior; metalinguistic discourses) as well as parental expectations and knowledge about children's language development.
Considering the general exposure conditions, we can identify the parameter time, that is the beginning of a child being exposed to a (second) language. Presupposing that a child is exposed to at least one language from birth (and before), a continuum evolves for the beginning of exposure to a second language.
"Bilingualism as a first language" is a term that has been coined by Swain for bilingualism evolving from the beginning of language development. The commonly used term "bilingual language acquisition" is employed by De Houwer (1995) in a more narrow form: "Bilingual language acquisition, then, refers to the result of the very early, simultaneous, regular, and continued exposure to more than one language" (p.222). Very early here means that exposure starts before the age of two. As it seems questionable to me why acquisition should be restricted to the result of acquisition, I will use bilingual language acquisition for the process of acquisition as well.
Then, she makes a further distinction between Bilingual First Language Acquisition (beginning between birth and a month after) and Bilingual Second Language Acquisition (the exposure to a second language begins not earlier than a month after birth). Yet this distinction is only suggested for research that needs to consider time of first exposure - it does not contribute to structuring her essay.
McLaughlin introduced the distinction between simultaneous and sequential (or successive or consecutive) bilingualism, the latter referring to the "situation when one language is established first and a second is learned subsequently" (1984: p.10). As he could not, however, define when the first language is established, McLaughlin arbitrarily set the cutoff point at three years because the child "has had a considerable head start in one language" (p.73). Accordingly, "the child who is introduced to a second language after three is said to be successively acquiring two languages" (p.10).
I do not follow McLaughlin in his development of a matrix / typology because I find his classification problematic in one regard. It is based on the assumption that "most aspects of a language are acquired by age three" (McLaughlin 1995). This assumption contradicts research results on the duration of first language acquisition and gives the impression that, in the category of successive bilingualism, the first language is already acquired and does not need support for development anymore. Also, it does not consider categories such as context-embedded vs. context-reduced communication. Thus McLaughlin's dichotomy rather undermines efforts that are based on concepts that call for the continuous maintenance of the children's first language.
Most of the children we are concerned with are introduced to the second language English before the age of three. But in case all main input carriers speak the children's mother tongue those children may (or may not) have receptive competence only. If children do not speak the school language on entry, their language development is called successive, sequential or consecutive. It follows that, at preschool age, we are concerned with both simultaneous and sequential bilingualism.
It is not only deriving typologies that the parameter time is important for. Much more interesting is the role of changes in input conditions over time. The growing child becomes old enough to enter the community of other children at the playground, who may speak in another language, which leads to a major change in linguistic input characteristics.
There is no doubt that the transition to a preschool environment is a major change in input conditions for every child.
Very often, a care provider at home or a nurse in a day care center provide input in a second language or are even unable to speak the child's mother tongue. The latter represents a drastic change in the exposure conditions as a second language is added and the child is probably forced to acquire a new code of communication if it wants to "negotiate shared meaning".
Secondly, there is a change in the composition of the main input carriers and their time spent with the child. The input from a care provider may cease, and suddenly there are several unfamiliar input carriers - one (or more than one) adult, and several children of similar age with possibly heterogeneous linguistic background. Needless to say that degrees of language separation and feedbacking strategies vary as well.
Seen from another angle, it is the potential influence of early childhood teachers on the development of preschool children about which this paper tries to summarize research results. He or she has a direct influence on the linguistic input of the children as one main input carrier, and indirect influence as an advisor to parents as the primary input carriers.
Very often bilingualism is subcategorized according to the outcome of bilingual language acquisition. This coincides with the restricted use of Bilingual Language Acquisition for the result only (De Houwer 1995). On the one hand, we can try to define the outcome of language development at any time. On the other hand, these typologies mostly have in mind linguistic or academic achievement of students and do thus not directly relate to early childhood. But they can become useful in detecting future problems in language and general school development.
A balanced bilingual is "someone who is approximately equally fluent in two languages across various contexts" (Baker 1993: p.8) as opposed to unbalanced. But the use of this term is problematic because it turns out to be an idealized concept and raises the question of what is fluent. Thus it is only useful for comparison.
The balance of two languages in one individual is more often captured by the concept of language dominance. However, as Kiernan & Swisher (1990) remark, "language dominance can refer to language proficiency, language preference, and/or overall usage patterns" (p.708), three completely distinct phenomena.
Whereas balance is a function of dominance and dominance is a function of comparison, the object of comparison is the proficiency (in one skill or subskill) in a language. Not being "sufficiently" proficient in either language has often been called semilingualism. But this term has been dismissed by some researchers (see Baker 1993: p.9-10 and McLaughlin, Blanchard & Osanai 1995) for several reasons: it has a negative connotation; it conflicts with the fact that there are no norms for "full -lingualism"; limitations in proficiency are interpreted as communicative deprivation even when they are due to a developmental phase.
The dichotomy additive vs. subtractive bilingualism draws attention to the goal of proponents of bilingual education, additive bilingualism: "a second language is added without cost to the first" (Lyon 1996: p.57; with reference to Lambert). "When the second language begins to dominate to the detriment of the first" (ibid.), we can speak of subtractive bilingualism.
Subtractive bilingualism often leads to continuos failure whereas additive bilingualism can have advantages in cognitive skills. This (circular) definition can be used in naming the outcome of developments we want to define effective conditions for. Therefore we should actually rather speak of additive or subtractive bilingual situations, as only some researchers do. Now this dichotomy can serve as a means of describing certain settings (which lead to certain types of bilingualism , such as subtractive situations leading to "semilingualism").
Sometimes a line is drawn between receptive (passive) and productive (active) bilingualism. Obviously, receptive bilingualism refers to one language ability only.
McLaughlin (1984) stresses the importance of differentiating passive from active bilingualism. Many children in the United States, he claims, are passive bilinguals when entering (pre)school. One phenomenon can be a fairly rapid progress in developing active competence in the second language, supposing there is opportunity and motivation for second language production.
But there may also lie a danger in not considering the comparatively weak foundation in second language skills when the children "give the appearance of being rapid learners of a language because of their surface fluency, when in fact they have not mastered the language to the extent of being able to use it effectively in school-related tasks" (McLaughlin 1984: p.190). Furthermore, the transfer of passive comprehension skills to active production skills "is not automatic" (p.191). Obviously, there lies a danger especially in assessment procedures, which may lead to stigmatization and a vicious circle of underachievement.
Another distinction is made between folk and elite bilinguals. A folk bilingual is bilingual "by background", an elite bilingual"by hard formal study" (Hakuta 1990). Hakuta also points to the "fundamental similarity in the cognitive and linguistic processes", as "research at the psycholinguistic level indicates" (ibid.). He traces those "sociolinguistic differences" back to "beliefs among various groups (e.g., students, teachers, parents, school and community leaders)" that have to be "systematically addressed" (ibid.). I would put down this contradiction to status differences between ethnic and foreign languages (as explained in Status of Non-English Languages).
Again, it seems necessary to evaluate the outcome of bilingual language acquisition with the help of several parameters rather than with typologies. First help can be provided with the four language abilities (plus sub-skills) in certain contexts. Then we could define language dominance and, consequently, language balance in certain language abilities and certain skills.
Several sociolinguistic theories and principles have contributed to the development of knowledge about bilingual language acquisition. It has been mentioned that interactional theories (e.g. Wells) established the claim that communication will take place in case there is the need to employ communication in interaction. The notion of "negotiating shared meaning" indicates that language is seen as a vehicle for one function in human interaction (that is, communication). Reversing this thought, interactional theories arrive at claiming that an indispensable condition for eliciting speech is the need to negotiate reality.
Wong Fillmore (1991b) proposes a model of second language learning based on social context. Attributing learner characteristics and differences to social factors, she identifies three components in a language learning situation:
1) learners motivated to learn the target language (TL),
2) TL speakers that serve as models,
3) a social setting for frequent enough contacts.
The contacts must be meaningful, that is the learners must be involved in the situation and must have an idea of what is negotiated in order to understand the input. This is possible because the learners can apply their prior linguistic and concept knowledge: awareness of grammatical form (lexical item, clause , phrase), knowledge of speech acts and functions of language (declarations, interrogations, affirmation / negation, un-/ certainty, promises, denials, questions), and concepts of space, time, color, and its numerous sub-categories.
Optimal conditions occur when TL speakers outnumber learners and when the social settings "are structured in ways that maximize interaction between the two groups" (p.63). When TL speakers outnumber learners and both groups can interact freely with one another, social learner characteristics such as sociability and communicative needs are predictors of language learning.6
The study by Chesterfield et al. (1983) found that "in classrooms where English- preferring children dominated, those children who used relatively more English with their peers ... showed the greatest increases in English proficiency" (p.416). They suggest that in these classrooms, learning activities should be structured as "cooperative tasks to be worked on by small linguistically heterogeneous groups" (p.417).
Social characteristics are no useful predictors in settings where the TL speakers availability is restricted by number or too few opportunities for contact. In these cases, "characteristics such as verbal memory and pattern recognition" (Wong Fillmore 1991b: p.51) were higher predictive of language- learning outcome. For these settings, input has to occur in more structured (formal) activities, very often provided by the teacher.
Such classrooms were also studied by Chesterfield et al. (1983), who report that "children who showed the greatest increases in English language proficiency were those who used relatively more English over time with the teacher" (p.416). For these classrooms, emphasis on adult-child interactions is suggested.
Wong Fillmore's model further assumes that the TL speakers may speak an "interlanguage", and that their attitudes and beliefs affect their role: what they think about the learners' abilities, about their own potentials for language learning, how they feel about interacting with the learners.
The use of these potentials in the TL speakers is suggested in Hirschler (1994) who examined the native speakers' role in interactions in a multilingual mixed-age (3-5 yr.) preschool classroom. The author concludes that "native speakers should be trained to interact with second language learners" because "special language such as simplification and high pitch promotes language acquisition" and "children have the ability to adjust their language to meet the needs of conversational partners with less linguistic proficiency".
Among the strategies suggested by this study that have specific benefits for second language acquisition are repetition, restatement, and request for clarification. Higher rates of initiations, turn talking, and utterances per turn are reported as an outcome of the program intervention.
A strategy proving successful in classrooms without proficient TL speakers has been reported in Fassler (1998). There, the only TL model can be provided by the teacher. However, it was observed how "in informal contexts for peer talk, children of like and different background served as resources for each other's use of English. They ... pushed each other to elaborate and clarify their English" (p.379).
It is argued that "most support for L2 learning may come from ... a balance of different participation structures" (Fassler 1998: p.384; with reference to Johnson): whole group activities with major exposure to the teacher's English, small group activities and individual work. She observed how the children enacted "roles of both the good learner and the good language facilitator" (p.401) and could, better than adults, "tailor their interaction more sensitively to other children's interests and language level" (p.403; consistent with Hirschler 1994) and created "imaginative scenarios with words" (ibid.).
When children that are new in a group of majority language children do not speak the majority language, they are said to pass through four stages or waves of language development (based on Tabors and Snow; reported in Baker 1998 and in McLaughlin et al. 1995):
1) Most children try to use their home language. They fail; the resulting frustration makes them give up speaking their language.
2) In this non-verbal or silent period, they may not talk at all, only employing non-verbal actions for help. It may be a short or a long period during which, however, they actively "crack the code" by playing with sounds or repeating elements of the new language in a low voice.
3) Children dare to "go public" with telegraphic speech and the use of formulas.
4) They move beyond stage three in becoming productive: they unpack formulas, acquire and employ grammatical rules.
Because of individual variation, the silent period lasts from a few weeks or even less up to a year or more. The stages overlap; formulaic speech is used in the stage of productive language use, for example.
The use of formulaic speech has been described extensively in Wong Fillmore's dissertation The second time around: Cognitive and social strategies in second language acquisition. Doctoral Dissertation, Stanford University, 1976. It has also been reported in McLaughlin (1984: pp.160-70).
Formulas (or routines) are "memorized phrases treated as units or multiword 'chunks'" (Vihman & McLaughlin 1982: p.48). To give a few examples: "Wait-a-minute", "Look-it", "Shaddup-your-mouth", "Whose-turn-is-it" (McLaughlin 1984: p.160).
Wong Fillmore studied children five to seven acquiring English at school in a bilingual situation (both Spanish and English were used as medium of instruction; there was no explicit instruction in English). She observed three stages in the language acquisition process and put up a model of social and cognitive strategies that her children seemed to have employed (slightly abridged):
Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten
These strategies certainly overlap with the waves of the above mentioned model of consecutive bilingualism. But they also show more relevance for teaching strategies in that they stress - in specific ways - the importance of situational context for language acquisition:
The social strategy (1) is necessary because otherwise nobody would talk to the learner and no input would be provided. The native speakers were observed to tailor their speech. The cognitive strategy (1) is employed in order to establish relationships between speech utterances and objects or a meaning under negotiation.
But native speakers will continue to address learners only if the latter speak a few words too. Accordingly, social strategy (2) is necessary and is employed through cognitive strategy (2). This is where formulaic speech comes in. It is only the productive use of formulas that can provide the condition for further analysis of the relationship between words and objects. Also, it permit the speakers to further participate in activities that provide new contexts and feedback for their guesses in language use (whether one word or formula).
Cognitive strategy (3) is the first step in breaking down the formulas into single units. First it leads to formulaic frames such as "I- wanna" and "I-don't-wanna" with the following position representing a constituent type that can be filled with elements from other freed formulas or newly learned words. At the same time, portions of the rule system emerge. Further differentiation takes place until all constituents can be used separately.
In Wong Fillmore's study, "52% to 100% of the utterances of the children in the early stages were formulaic, to a low of more than 37% in the most advanced learner at the end of the year" (McLaughlin 1984: p.168). Krashen and Scarcella criticized Wong Fillmore's results in saying that the learning situation was atypical in its predictability through routine in the school environment. But McLaughlin argues that these characteristics apply to learning situations for children in general.
Furthermore, Vihman & McLaughlin (1982) "observed the heavy use of formulaic speech by her daughter, Virve, especially in the early stages of learning her second language, English, from 1 yr. 9 mo. on" (p.48) in a family situation without any peer or school pressure. The choice to use Estonian was available, her Estonian was more than adequate, parents rather encouraged her to speak Estonian only.
(I would claim that the use of unanalyzed forms is a feature unique to language acquisition in general. Unanalyzed forms in (bilingual) first language acquisition would refer to the one-word and the two-words stage, where, as an example, a noun-verb phrase seems not to be broken down into its smaller units when used the first times. Vihman & McLaughlin admit that routines may also occur in the early stages of first language acquisition, though not in all learners, not in all strategies, not for all languages.)
The relationship between research in second language acquisition (SLA) and in bilingualism is bifold. On the one hand, very often bilinguals were the objects of studies in SLA because of the need to investigate processes involved in (foreign) language acquisition. On the other hand,
have contributed to research in bilingualism. Major contributions have come from
who has become an advocate of bilingual (maintenance) education through his research in second (foreign) language learning. His comprehensible input hypothesis
a) starts out from the commonplace that input must be comprehensible (the gap between existing knowledge and input must be bridgeable)
b) assumes that "we acquire a second language by understanding messages, by obtaining comprehensible input" (Krashen 1991)
c) adds that "background knowledge can help make second language input more comprehensible, and can thus assist in the acquisition of the second language" (ibid.).
He concludes that the use of the native language as a medium of instruction provides knowledge that later will serve as the context (both as subject knowledge and concept development) for comprehending input in English. It follows that, on the one hand, instruction in the native language can and does help in the acquisition of the second language.
It follows, on the other hand, that input in the second language must have the quality of being comprehensible. "Without quality input, however, quantity is meaningless" (Crawford 1992). Accordingly, all so-called "sink-or- swim" approaches are no adequate ways to teaching speakers of other languages because they do not provide comprehensible input. "The brain does not process what it cannot understand; hence any benefit of second- language exposure is lost" (Crawford 1992).
Regarding literacy, Krashen concludes that
1. Learning to read in a language one already knows is much easier because there is more comprehensible input as "we learn to read by reading that is, by making sense of what is on the page" (Krashen 1997; with reference to Smith).
2. Learning to read the second language will be much easier when the ability to read has already been acquired because this ability transfers to other languages.
Crawford (1992) comments: "If anything defies common sense, it is teaching children to read in English before they have acquired English, needlessly complicating the task."
The concept of transfer has its origin in the works of Vygotsky who, applying his transfer of skills theory to learning a second language, wrote in 1962 that "the child can transfer to the new language the system of meanings he already possesses in his own" (quoted in Ambert 1988: p.32).7
Evidence supporting this concept has been found in a 1983 Goldman study that examined children's use of first language knowledge in acquiring a second language. They found that "knowledge guiding story comprehension in a first language is also used to guide story comprehension in the second language" (Ambert 1988: p.33).
Other evidence may be seen in results from studies investigating age differences in SLA. Crawford (1992) quotes Canadian studies that have shown that "one year of second-language study in the seventh grade is worth three years' in the first grade" and concludes that older learner understand more of what they hear because of greater knowledge and intellectual attainment, which leads to more comprehensible input.
Collier (1995) summarizes study results from the 80s and 90s: "academic skills, literacy development, concept formation, subject knowledge, and learning strategies ... will all transfer".8 Mind that these five categories are not just different skills but rather five different dimensions of linguistic and cognitive development.
Another variable conceptualized by Krashen (and coined by Dulay and Burt) is the affective filter, a set of subjective (affective) influences (motivation, self-confidence, and anxiety) that may hinder SLA. Crawford (1992) explains, with reference to Smith, that "the right attitude ... involves two things: an expectation of success and a desire to join 'the club' of those who speak that language".
On the other hand, "a negative sense of self can be a formidable obstacle to language learning". As the enhancement of children's self-esteem can only be provided through valuing its culture and/or its individuality, it must be followed that valuing children's home culture and language facilitates learning. This coincides with what has been said about the status of languages.
Krashen also points to the phenomenon of a silent period in SLA, that is, to go for as long as six months without producing speech in the second language. Crawford (1992) explains that, in this silent period, "as long as there is comprehensible input in English, English acquisition is taking place".
5.2. Age Differences
Research in the relation between age and SLA has yielded results different to those from research in bilingual language acquisition. Reviews of Long suggest that "deterioration in sensitivity to linguistic material begins as early as age 6 in some individuals" (Johnson 1998).
Other studies are reported to have shown that "those who had arrived before the age of 15 were strikingly more likely to be rated as native speakers or near-native speakers than those who had arrived after the age of 15. Length of exposure and type of exposure ... had no effect on the ratings" (Johnson 1998; with reference to Patkowski). Another study found that children who arrived in the USA prior to age 7 performed native-like in grammar, whereas performance deteriorates with age of arrival. (Johnson 1998; with reference to Johnson and Newport)
Krashen hypothesized that the development of advanced thinking processes around puberty (between 11 and 15, on Piaget's stage of formal operational thinking) somehow inhibits language learning ability as learners "become afflicted by affective inhibitions like self- consciousness, ego impermeability ... and so on" (Johnson 1998).
These result seem to support a relatively early beginning of L2 acquisition. Yet they do not sufficiently differentiate between the different language abilities. As we are concerned with preschool children in the USA, the latter studies do not apply. Whether the "sensitive period" for language acquisition affects all stages of language development and all language abilities, has not become clear.
But Hakuta (1987) agrees with the critical period hypothesis in saying that "there is good evidence to suggest that some time after puberty is a period when the capacity to acquire a second language deteriorates" (p.33). Contrary to this claim, the 1989 research review by Singleton states that there is no support from international research for a critical period between the ages of two and 14. There are, though, advantageous periods, as for example the age before 12 seems to be for the acquisition of authentic pronunciation. (Baker 1998)
A 1997 neuropsychological study investigated the cortical representation of first and second language as a function of age of acquisition. Findings show that "second languages acquired in adulthood were spatially separated from native languages", but "when the second language had been acquired during the early language acquisition stage of development, native and second languages tended to be represented in common frontal cortical areas" (PsycLIT 1996-98: AN 1997- 05358-001).
These findings tell the difference, but they are no support for neither early nor late beginning of SLA because they do not attribute value to spatially separated vs. common cortical representation of languages. Also, they contradict what Baker (1998) summarizes about the lateralization of languages in the human brain: "Bilinguals did not seem to vary from monolinguals in neuropsychological processes, ... they do not differ in hemispheric involvement in language processing a bilingual's languages are not stored in two different locations" (p.85; with reference to Vaid & Hall; Paradis; Grosejan).
Another 1997 study investigated the influence of age on speech-perception in noise. Results show that, for both monolinguals and early bilinguals (fluent in English before age six), speech was intelligible at significantly higher levels of noise and context-benefit was significantly greater, than for late bilinguals (fluent in English after 14). It is concluded that, at least in the presence of noise, early SLA is important for "the acquisition of efficient high- level processing" of the second language (PsycLIT 1996-98: AN 1997-06705-016).
Early childhood bilingualism involves natural exposure to a second language (or to two languages). That is, we are concerned with
untutored (vs. tutored), undirected (vs. directed) acquisition (vs. learning) of a second language (or of two languages).
If the acquisition of a second language is, in some regards, a function of certain skills in the first language, findings from research in first language acquisition (FLA) deserve some attention.
Chomsky's model of the language acquisition device certainly has facilitated models such as common underlying proficiency, his claim that children acquire important syntactic structures up to age ten, has been confirmed by more recent findings. We acquire:
- throughout life: the lexicon, complex writing skills,
- up to age 8: phonetic and sound system
- up to age 12: most complex aspects of grammar, such as passive forms (Volk in Williams & Fromberg 1992: p.222)
- up to age 12: subtle phonological distinctions, vocabulary, semantics, syntax, formal discourse patterns, and complex aspects of pragmatics in the oral system (Collier 1995)
- up to age 10/11: complex grammatical structures, along with vocabulary, literacy, semantics, and a repertoire of linguistic styles appropriate for various occasions" (Crawford 1992).
Following the idea that learning in one's native language is easier, and acknowledging transfer, we should conclude that at least up to grade four or six, first language skills should be developed (and valued) in school.
Furthermore, parents should be warned not to give up speaking to their children in their first language just because of the misconception that this could help in the acquisition of English. On the contrary, "the schools must promote bilingualism in the parents in order to facilitate the development of two languages in their children", claims Malavé (1997) in her study on parent characteristics.
Her findings are consistent with Zentella's (1997) warning: "When the parents' version of English does not include the full-length exposition of argumentation, subordination, clarification, etc., that they communicate with in Spanish, children are being denied significant linguistic input" (p.275).
Research from FLA turns out to support the NAEYC recommendations (see p.6).
Initial research into bilingualism and cognitive functioning and into bilingualism and educational attainment often found bilinguals to be inferior to monolinguals. It was assumed that the brain had only limited capacities, and that L1 and L2 are separately stored. (A related model was the picture of two language balloons inside the head competing for space.) Yet both assumptions are not valid, as research has shown.
Because this misconception is still very common, it has to be stressed that the existence of two languages inside one individual "does not hamper the overall language proficiency or cognitive development ... there does not appear to be competition over mental resources" (Hakuta & Garcia 1989: p.376). Instead, balanced bilinguals tend to have cognitive advantages (Malavé 1997; Hakuta & Garcia 1989; see the chapter on bilingualism and cognition).
has carried out research in bilingual language acquisition, and then put up several hypotheses and models. One of them is the differentiation between conversational (context-embedded or contextualized) and academic (context-reduced or decontextualized) language proficiency. He shows that children can acquire conversational skills in a second language very quickly (one to two years) but need considerably more time (five to seven years) to develop proficiency in academic -related tasks (Cummins 1998; Crawford 1992).
If the development of academic proficiency in L1 is denied to the children, they will perform below grade norms in academic achievement for five to ten years, before being eventually able to catch up with their monolingual peers (Cummins 1991b; Cummins 1998; footnote 2; with reference to Collier; Ramirez; Beykont).
Furthermore, he reports that research (Snow in Bialystok 1991; Gonzales) has shown that "contextualized and decontextualized language skills are relatively independent of each other among bilingual students" (Cummins 1991b: p.72). In support he cites studies that "showed consistently higher correlations between English and Spanish reading skills ... than between English reading and oral language skills" (p.75).
The danger, he claims, lies in misinterpreting easily acquired surface fluency as sufficient evidence for mainstreaming those children into English-only classrooms.
This dichotomy adds on a model to the warnings of McLaughlin (1984) derived from distinguishing passive and active bilingualism, and is consistent with the transfer hypothesis as it explains, in other terms, the advantages of advanced L1 speakers in SLA.
Following his distinction between academic and conversational skills and the transfer hypothesis, Cummins developed threshold models, which involve the claim that certain levels of achievement in a first language constitute a threshold for the adequate acquisition of a second language. In other words, "the key to understanding the role of the first language in the academic development of the second language is to understand the function of uninterrupted cognitive development" (Collier 1995).
Transfer is explained by Cummins with the concept of common underlying proficiency (CUP), which is a model related to the interdependence of first and second language. His interdependence principle says that "to the extent that instruction in Lx is effective in promoting proficiency in Lx, transfer of this proficiency to Ly will occur provided there is adequate exposure to Ly (either in school or in environment) and adequate motivation to learn Ly" (Cummins 1998; for a review of research see Cummins 1991b). Common underlying proficiency refers to the cognitive (academic) proficiency that underlies linguistic performance in both languages.
In support of his model, he cites studies that found in additive bilingual situations
1) a moderately strong correlation between L1 and L2 academic literacy
2) high crosslingual correlations between L1 and L2 communicative skills
3) significant relationship between L1 and L2 rhetorical effectiveness
4) moderately strong relationships between reading performances in languages with different writing systems (Cummins 1991b; p.75-80).
It has to be remarked, though, that correlation does not mean that L1 skills automatically lead to better L2 skills in any sociolinguistic situation. In his debate with Rossell and Baker, Cummins himself makes the point that his principle is a linguistic principle, and a principle of interdependence, not of facilitation.
He stresses the importance of a holistic view on linguistic and instructional factors as "intervening variables whose effects will be significantly influenced by sociocultural and sociopolitical conditions" (Cummins 1998; footnote 3). Accordingly, he derives from his hypothesis that "the transfer of conceptual and linguistic knowledge across languages can compensate for the significantly reduced instructional time through the majority language" (ibid.; emphasis added).
Hakuta also found, in a three-year study, a "pattern of increasing correlation between Spanish and English vocabulary scores in several groups of Puerto Rican children in bilingual education programs" (Hakuta 1990).
Other researchers, such as Baetens Beardsmore, share Cummins' view in saying that a unified underlying system, that is, "certain shared rules and linguistic characteristics", serve distinct languages (Ambert 1988).
On the question of whether children should learn to read in their native language or in English, Cummins claims that it depends on the character of native language and on other circumstances. For him, "the promotion of literacy in bilingual students' two languages throughout elementary school is far more important" (Cummins 1998).
Also, he stresses that he does not say "that English academic instruction should be delayed for several grades until students' L1 literacy is well-established" (Cummins 1998). Instead, there should always be a "strong English language literacy development syllabus built in to the overall plan" (ibid.).
Additive bilingualism, he claims, is positively associated with linguistic, cognitive, or academic growth.
He also coined the term bicultural ambivalence, that is an alienation from both worlds because of "hostility toward the dominant culture and shame towards one's own" (Crawford 1998). The first side of the coin represents the potential effects of what Krashen named affective filter.
Following Cummins' claims, we have to conclude that preschool should aim at developing native language skills. If the development of academic literacy is a precondition for an additive bilingual development, children's native language must be nourished (and honored) at preschool, that is, both conversational and academic communicative skills need to be considered in L1 preferably.
It does not follow, though, that English should not be used at preschool. Provided that conditions are optimal for the further development of L1, additional exposure to English at preschool will contribute to the development of additive bilingualism.
Comparing bilingual to monolingual language acquisition, it has been summarized that both rely on the same developmental processes, pass through the same stages (with bilinguals showing no major delays), in short, they are highly similar (De Houwer 1995; Baker 1998).
McLaughlin (1984) also claims that basic features and developmental sequence of language acquisition are equal for bilinguals and monolinguals. He adds that the additional task (for the former) of distinguishing the two language systems has not proven to require special language processing devices.
Several studies confirm this claim. Garcia (1983: p.49) found "very little systematic difference between bilinguals and monolinguals for combined counts of specific morpheme categories" for his subjects 3;0 - 4;0.
De Houwer (1995) found, comparing bilingual and monolingual English learners, the same use of natural gender pronouns with referential appropriateness and "very strong similarities ... for the use of plural v. singular nouns, the internal structure on NP's with a noun as head, the incidence and types of elements occurring between finite and nonfinite verbs in clauses with a multicomponent verb phrase, the incidence of negative interrogatives, interrogative pronoun usage, and the comparative usage of declaratives v. interrogatives" (p.243).
She furthermore found, for both Dutch and English, "parallels for ... most structural aspects of verb usage, the types of proposed elements in affirmative sentences, the incidence of nonadultlike word order, nonfinite verb placement, clause types, sentence types, conjunctions, the incidence of subclauses, the number and type of clause constituents, and question inversion", and for English "similarities ... for auxiliary usage in questions, the use of tags, interrogative pronoun usage, the use of the pronoun it, the variety of structural patterns, and the use of indirect v. direct objects" (p.243).
Are Young Bilinguals Disadvantaged?
Bilingual language acquisition is natural and attainable for many preschool children in general. Garcia (1986) reports that Skrabanek described the continued acquisition and support of both English and Spanish among preschool children in the southwest of the USA, commenting that "this phenomenon has existed for the past hundred years with no indication that it will be disrupted" (p.101).
Several studies support the claim that bilingual experience does not necessarily retard the acquisition of L2:
- "Children who were operating at complex levels in Spanish were not retarded in English as compared to other matched monolingual English-speaking children" (age 3.0-4.2; Garcia 1983: p.126).
- Padilla and Liebman found no overall reduced or slower rate of language growth for bilingual three-year-olds as compared to monolinguals. An initial lag in language acquisition is confirmed by some studies but not found in others (Garcia 1993).
- "French-English preschool bilingual children were not delayed in reported age of first word" although scoring lower on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (McLaughlin 1984: p.193).
Oller et al., in a review of research in early bilingualism, conclude that for both simultaneous and sequential learners "competent functioning in two languages .. commonly occurs" (ERIC 1992-9: ED408843). For the latter type of le arners, poor linguistic or academic performance is associated with a subtractive learning situation.
It is not only that disadvantages of bilingualism have proven false; there is evidence for
Advantages of Bilingualism.
For instance, Cummins' claim that the effects of transfer can compensate for reduced instructional time through the majority language, has been confirmed in several studies concerned with vocabulary development (for cognitive advantages see the following chapter).
Garcia (1983) compared two groups of children age 4.3-4.8 in their responses in learning the English prepositions "on" and "behind". The children in the first group had learned the words and their meaning beforehand in Spanish. Superior learning of the L2 stimuli occurred under the bilingual condition. These results could be explained in terms of transfer.
A study by Kiernan & Swisher (1990) proved that prior knowledge of words in L1 (Spanish) clearly facilitates the acquisition of these novel words in English. In subjects -6 years old, a bilingual condition lead to fewer trials in receptive learning than a monolingual condition.
In addition, for some speakers, the sum of the trials in L1 and L2 was lower than the number of trials for speakers under the monolingual condition. For these speakers, in terms of the number of trials, the effects of instruction in L1 completely compensated for less instruction in L2. "One might say that they learned two words for the price of one", Kiernan & Swisher comment (p.712).
They furthermore found that facilitation was not dependent on dominance patterns. It occurred for both L1-dominant and balanced bilinguals.
They speculate about potential reasons:
a) The presence of the L1 in the learning task may allow "a greater quantity and perhaps quality of associations to occur" (p.714).
b) Conjunctional learning in general seems to be more effective than learning of separate items.
c) A positive affective attitude towards a learning situation involving one's native language is probable. (The experimenter noted "confidence and relaxed manner" in the L1 learning situation. p.714)
Suggestions a) and b) may be explained in terms of common underlying proficiency and transfer; suggestion c) is consistent with Krashen's affective filter model.
These studies are examples of the (partly full) compensation of the reduced instructional time through the majority language with the effects of instruction through the minority language. Yet they do not provide sufficient evidence for a compensation theory because they were carried out at some single instances of vocabulary development. But they prove that compensation through transfer is possible and indicate that it is likely to occur.
In the area of social problem solving, bilinguals have also been found to outperform monolinguals. This was reported in the 1997 study of Bilingualism, Creativity, and Social Problem Solving in balanced bilingual Hispanic preschool children compared to proficient monolinguals (DAO 1997-9: AAC 9729615). In the area of creativity, this study found no bilingual advantages (contrary to the following chapter).9
Learning a second language in childhood has been shown to be associated with positive cognitive gains: concept formation, classification, creativity, analogical reasoning, and visual-spatial skills are positively related (for reviews see Diaz & Klingler 1991; Diaz 1985; Baker 1993 and 1998). The effects of the bilingual experience on metalinguistic awareness will be reported later on.
It has and will be stressed that these advantages have only been reported for additive bilinguals. Garcia (1983) reports a study where "monolinguals and unbalanced bilinguals scored significantly lower on a Piagetian and traditional test of cognitive development than did proficient preschool bilinguals" (p.199). Regarding the differences between simultaneous and successive bilingualism, it is suggested that "within successive bilingualism, the level of balance between the two languages needs careful attention as outcomes on cognition vary as a function of this balance" (Bialystok & Cummins 1991: p.223; with reference to Diaz & Klingler 1991)
As it seems quite natural that, in general, better language learners have better cognitive abilities, it has to be shown that significant correlations involve a causal relationship. Diaz (1985) concluded from his study that "degree of bilingualism appears as the causal factor affecting children's cognitive abilities" (p.1376).
The correlation was higher for children with lower second language proficiency. Accordingly, he concludes that "degree of bilingualism will predict significant portions of cognitive variance only before a certain level of second language proficiency has been achieved" (p.1386). (This may contradict Cummins' threshold hypothesis.)
The question whether cognitive advantages are related to "bilingualism or other (potentially cultural) variables associated with bilingualism" (McLaughlin 1984: p.198) seems to remain, however, unanswered.
The positive effects of bilingualism on several age-appropriate tasks of cognitive ability have also been reported for preschool children.
McLaughlin (1984) reports a study by Feldman and Shen that found that "bilingual 5- year-old children were better than their monolingual peers at re-labeling objects and using labels in simple relational sentences" (p.200).
A 1985 study investigated Cognitive Flexibility in Bilingual Preschool Children age 3;5 to 5;4 from lower class to lower middle class in a Head Start Center. It found a proportional relationship between the extent of bilinguality and the ability to "recode objects and break set", especially "under the more difficult condition of conflicting cues being present" (DAO 1983-8: AAC 8502701). The latter was interpreted as a greater ability to analyze nonverbal material. (Not to forget to mention: "I.Q. did not significantly affect cognitive flexibility.")
Diaz & Klingler (1991) report a study by Diaz, Padilla, and Weathersby that examined the private speech during the performance of cognitive tasks by preschoolers age three to six. Their results suggest "a positive effect of bilingualism for both frequency and quality of private speech" (p.183). Assuming that language can be used for different cognitive mediating functions, they reasoned that quality (functions of language use) and frequency of verbal mediation indicate cognitive efficiency. (abstract in PsycLIT 1988-92: AN 1992-29152- 001)
Johnson (1991) reports a study by Bain and Yu that investigated differences in the performance of bilinguals and monolinguals in tasks involving conflicting cues. Their subjects age 2-4 tended to show bilingual advantages in "tasks requiring linguistic control of overt action in situations where verbal action conflicts with motor action" (p.216). This is consistent with the assumption that private (self-regulatory) speech is an overt evidence for cognitive processes, as Diaz & Klingler (1991) reasoned above.
Opponents of bilingualism in education very often use the phenomenon of "language- mixing" as an argument against the use of the native language in education. They blame the bilinguality of the setting for the use of more than one code in communication, which they see as detrimental for (English) language development.
Romaine (1989) summarizes her observations in saying that "many professionals such as speech therapists view normal language mixing as harmful" (p.213). Quite often, parents have given up to bring up their children developing their mother tongue too, mislead by "uninformed warnings by people in authority concerning the supposed negative effects of a bilingual upbringing" (De Houwer 1995: p.222). Research from the 80s and 90s shows rather the opposite.
Genesee et al. (1995) have shown that the children in their study (1;10 - 2;2) "were clearly able to differentiate between their two languages" (p.611). They did so even when both parents were present, which is contributed to "a high level of linguistic control" (p.627). Their language use with a monolingual stranger suggests that language differentiation is not a habit (with certain persons), but "rather an adaptive response to their immediate language context" (p.627).
This study also found that (in inter-utterance mixing, not in intra-utterance mixing) the tendency to mix languages was higher when children were using their non-dominant language than when using their dominant language.
The use of mixed utterances is often called language-mixing when it occurs in children. For adults, in earlier works the term code-switching had been used, indicating that "a particular code in order to negotiate interpersonal relationships" is selected and interpreting this as "exhibiting behavior that is socially highly significant" (De Houwer 1995: p.244). The same behavior in children had been put down to insufficient language differentiation and the successive (seemingly) indiscriminate use of both languages.
Yet research has shown that the use of mixed utterances follows context and speech partner's dominance also in children (according to De Houwer 1995: p.245-6):
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De Houwer (1995) concludes that "both knowledge of the interlocutor's linguistic capabilities and sensitivity to the norms for code choice upheld by their interlocutors are the major factors determining language choice in bilingual children even before the age of two" (p.247).
From this evidence it seems clear that "mixing" is not an indicator of mental confusion as many people still think. It also follows that there is no need to differentiate between language mixing and code switching on the criterion of age, that is, the former referring to the young bilingual child's seemingly indiscriminate use of both languages. (This earlier view also assumed a single language system.)
Notwithstanding the functional character of both adult and infant language mixing, several suggestions have been made for reasons that count for patterns in language mixing in young children:
- it is modeled on mixed utterances provided in the input
- parents' discourse strategies may encourage or discourage particular choices in code selection.10
Baker (1998) agrees in saying that "codeswitching is also learned behavior" (p.38). The degree of parents' language separation is one variable of their children's degree of language mixing until the age of three, she claims.
A 1998 study of The Code-Switching Behavior of Three Mandarin-English Speaking Children at preschool age has found no relationship between mothers' code-switching patterns and the children's, at least in the proportions of intrasentential vs. intersentential code-switching. Physical settings were also no primary determinant of the children's language choice.
But this study confirmed the claim that code-switching at an early age does not reflect first language loss or second language deficiency but does reflect communicative competence and metalinguistic awareness: interlocutor's linguistic background, marking a change in role relationships, and other conversational purposes, displaying attributes similar to adults' code-switching. (DAO 1997- 9: AAC 9812709)
Lanza (1997) goes as far as to say that "in many cases of bilingualism, language differentiation means both language separation and language mixing in appropriate contexts" (p.325). For the latter, language differentiation means the ability to differentiate when it is appropriate to mix and when it is not (as one aspect to be learned in the course of language socialization). But the term context differentiation would be more appropriate.11
McLaughlin et al. (1995) explain this ostensible contradiction as follows: "Speakers build on the coexistence of alternate forms in their language repertory to create meanings that may be highly idiosyncratic and understood only by members of the same bilingual speech community". Accordingly, mixing is used "for definite communicative needs". Yet mixed speech can become a habit, used to indicate informality and in-group identity.
But McLaughlin (1995) also maintains a major distinction between adults' and young children's mixing: "Younger children mix languages to resolve ambiguities and clarify statements, but older children and adults typically switch codes (or languages) to convey social meanings." Lanza (1997) explains, more specifically, that "extensive use of code- switching as a stylistic device does not appear until the ages of 5 or 6" (p.68; with reference to McClure).
Educators should value mixing as a sophisticated linguistic device. It would be a mistake to maintain a rigid rule of speaking only one language. Communication should be the major goal. Teachers who switch "are merely adjusting their speech to the language of the child's community and culture" (McLaughlin et al. 1995).
The appropriate choice of language by bilingual children is one indicator of
which has been defined as the "ability to think about and reflect upon the nature and functions of language" (quoted in Lanza 1997: p.64; with reference to Pratt and Grieve). As monitoring speech has been found to be shown by children as young as 2;7 (Lanza 1997), and regulatory mechanisms such as repair in conversation have been found in children 2 and 3 years old, we can assume the emergence of certain, though not all, forms of metalinguistic awareness in early childhood.
The choice of the other language as a way to clarify a meaning by translation has been found to occur quite often in three-year-olds. (Lanza 1997; with reference to McClure) This behavior is also regarded as metalinguistic awareness.12
Lanza (1997) summarizes the findings of her own studies: "bilingual children as young as 2 years of age can and do use their languages in contextually sensitive ways. [They] were able to link social meaning to linguistic form already from an early age." (p.319).
Metalinguistic awareness has become one field, among others, which bilinguals have even been found to have advantages in, compared to monolinguals.
Baker (1998) reports that Ianco-Worrell found bilingual four-to-seven-year-olds to feel more often than monolinguals that a cow could be called a dog and reverse. They conclude that bilinguals are more aware of the non-fixed relationship between objects and their labels.13
From five years onwards, bilingual children "consistently judged more accurately whether the sentences were grammatically right or wrong ... [and] ... were developmentally ahead of monolingual children in their ability to count the number of words in a sentence. They were more sure about what constituted a word and could better separate out words from meaningful sentences" (Baker 1998: p.73; with reference to Bialystok).
Galambos & Goldin-Meadow (1990) report that their bilingual preschool children detected more grammatical errors than same age monolingual children (controlled for
proficiency). Also, the bilingual cohort
"adopted a primarily grammar-oriented approach to corrections by pre-kindergarten while the monolinguals' corrections were not primarily grammar-oriented until kindergarten" (p.49).
They summarize that the bilingual experience "speed[s] the transition from a content-based to a form-based approach to language at certain levels of awareness (detection and correction [of errors]), but had less of an effect on explanations [of errors]" (p.2), and conclude that it "hastens the development of linguistic awareness in young children at certain levels of awareness, but does not alter the course of that development" (p.53).
The examples show that the bilingual experience does not "confuse" the children. On the contrary, there is some evidence indicating advantages of bilingual children compared to matched monolinguals in the development of certain metalinguistic skills.
The ostensibly "indiscriminate use of two codes at an early age", that is, the use of words from two languages in the first months of producing speech, had lead to the debate over whether language at the initial stages is based on
The mixing of words at the initial stage had been interpreted by some researchers as evidence for the children trying to form a single language system. The single system hypothesis and a three-stage-model had been proposed by Volterra and Taeschner:
1) Stage I (a single system, which children reportedly start out from and which is said to contain words from both languages and no translation equivalents)
2) Stage II (same syntactic rules are applied to the two languages emerging).
These claims have been shown not to be consistent with evidence from the 1990s:
1) (a) Evidence can only depend on the absence of forms (methodological problem); the absence of one member of a pair can be due to a gap in the input. (b) Studies by Quay show that crosslinguistic equivalents (translation pairs) are used "from the beginning of interpretable speech on wards" (De Houwer 1995: p.232), that is, at age 1;5. The study of children 0;8 - 2;6 years by Pearson et al. (1995) shows that "30% of all words were coded in the two languages, both at early stages ... and later" (p.346). This result shows that, even at the beginning (vocabularies 2-12 words), translation equivalents exist in the bilingual lexicon.
2) Stage II has been criticized on several methodological / analytical and theoretical grounds (see De Houwer 1995: pp.233-5, for a review).
Also important is the notion that, given that language acquisition begins at or before birth, the "baby hears distinct sound patterns from different speakers, ... start[s] associating certain sounds with certain speakers" (p.234). Supposing that, furthermore, perception and comprehension are related to speech production, the differentiation in listening can provide a good basis for the differentiation in speaking.
Separate "voicing systems" have been found for bilingual subjects 1;7 -2;3 (De Houwer 1995: p.234; with reference to Deuchar and Clark), separate phonological development is indicated in a study of a 2 years old child (reported in Lanza 1997: p.60; with reference to Ingram).
The claim that "the morphosyntactic development of a preschool child regularly exposed to two languages from birth which are presented in a separate manner proceeds in a separate fashion for both languages", has also been labeled Separate Development Hypothesis (De Houwer 1995: p.236). Supporting evidence has been found in, as an example, Deuchar's subject (1;7 -2;3) marking subject-verb agreement in language-specific ways from the very beginning.
Baker (1998) agrees in summarizing research supporting the separate system development. Yet, on the next page, she contradictingly claims a mixed vocabulary system at the beginning, and a "combination of the grammatical rules of both languages" (p.36) on the stage of vocabulary separation. (Both claims are the essence of the single system hypothesis).
Lanza (1997) acknowledges the claim of separate development that language mixing can be attributed to the language input. But she argues that the theoretical question of one system or two does not count for language mixing and might therefore better be disentangled from mixing phenomena.
She agrees with one claim of the single system hypothesis, that is, that there is a differentiation process, but adds that this does not presuppose a single language system. According to her view, differentiation does not take place from one system into two, but of"his or her languages according to the needs of the social situation, or preferences" (p.319).
One problem in the debate over 'one system or two' may be seen in the difficulties to exactly define what is meant by language system. Furthermore, it is probably not that important whether we assume 'one system or two'. Assuming that research in BLA has to redefine norms of language acquisition that were once defined for monolinguals, we may well suggest to drop the model of a language system at all, as it is a model trying to explain the development of monolinguals.
Thinking about early childhood education, we can remark that the debate over one system or two is related to the notion of capability of bilingual children. The one-system-hypothesis may be used as an argument for educational strategies that avoid bilinguality as such. Assuming two systems can provide one basis for legitimating the promotion of bilingual development in children.
Another directly educationally relevant aspect is the question whether languages should be separated in the input or not. Separate development on the morphosyntactic level at age 3;0 - 4;2 has been noted in Garcia (1983), whose subjects had parents using both English and Spanish, as well as mixed utterances, in addressing their children.
De Houwer (1995) concludes, also from other evidence, that "young bilingual children develop their two languages independently from one another as far as morphosyntax goes", and that "it may not be absolutely necessary that a bilingual child's two languages are separated in the input for the separate development of two grammatical systems to take place" (p.240). (This claim is contrary to the principle of 'one person - one language'.)
Literacy emerges in the preschool years. Understanding the relationship between (visual) symbols and (audible) words plays a decisive role.
The awareness of the symbolic representation of print was found by Bialystok (1997) to be better in bilingual children than in monolingual children (age 4 and 5). "Even the 4-year-old bilinguals were better than the 5- year-old monolinguals" (p.437). She argues that "the separation of form and meaning makes it easier for bilingual children to selectively attend to form and ignore meaning" (p.439). These results add another potential advantage of bilinguals over monolinguals.
For the Chinese-English cohort, Bialystok (1997) observed an initial lag in performance at age 4. But by age 5, this group "had surpassed all the others on the most difficult items". She explains that, "when the initial stage of confusion is resolved, the benefit of the richer experience enables children to apply their new knowledge to both languages" (p.438).
Cultural patterns play an important role in establishing literacy, Baker (1998) claims. For example, the tendency towards parent- controlled conversations in Chinese families "closely mirror[s] the type of language behavior expected in many formal classrooms Thus a certain form of literacy behavior and literacy use was established" (p.601). For Mexican- American children, a mismatch is recorded between patterns of language and literacy in home and that expected in school because family communication tends to occur more between adults only and children only. A 1998 study of the Influences on Early Writing of Linguistically Diverse Children age four and five found no relationship between socioeconomic level and writing ability and no relationship between being bilingual and writing ability. But writing ability was a function of being read to on a daily basis and of direct writing instruction. (DAO 1997-9: AAC 9905930)
An important issue is whether the acquisition of literacy should be approached in the minority language or in English. Krashen (1997) argued for first learning to read in the native language (comprehensible input) and transfer learning to read into the second language afterwards (transfer and comprehensible input). Cummins' interdependence principle is in compliance with this view.
The above mentioned awareness of the connection between oral language and print is one ability that does not need to be learned in L2 because of its transfer from L1. Other concepts and strategies such as "scanning, skimming, contextual guessing of words, skipping unknown words, tolerating ambiguity, reading for meaning, making interferences, monitoring, recognizing the structure of text, using previous learning, using background knowledge about the text", and other decoding strategies "readily and easily transfer from first to second language literacy" (Baker 1998: p.608; with reference to Garcia & Pearson and others; for a review of studies in the transfer of literacy see Cummins 1991b).
If the writing systems are similar, transfer can additionally occur in the general value of the grapheme-phoneme correspondence. Indication of transfer of reading skills from L1 to reading skills in L2 has been found in an experiment on pre-school bilingual children (Devaki 1990: p.20).
Crawford stated that you cannot learn to read in a language you do not understand. Oral skills have to be developed when reading is aimed at. This view is consistent with the principle that "Introduction to literacy must be meaningful" (Hamayan & Pfleger 1987) because learning takes place naturally when there is something to be figured out or to be negotiated.
A 1986 study of First Grade Crow Indian Children supports the view that language competence is an important prerequisite for learning to read. It found a "statistically and educationally significant positive correlation between level of oral language proficiency at the onset of reading instruction and reading achievement at the end of the first grade" (DAO 1983-8: AAC 8528050). The causal character of the relationship was established from an extensive literature review, including theoretical constructs and empirical evidence.
Findings are diverse. Gonzales & Maez (1995) give an account of a study by Seda and Abramson that investigated emerging literacy in a LEP kindergarten classroom. "Perhaps the most important finding was that learners need not be proficient in English to benefit from oral and written transactions in English."
However, Williams & Snipper (1990) suggest preliterate minority children to "begin to read and write in their native language" (p.79), while at the same time acquiring oral English skills. They should continue native literacy development until fourth grade, but the printed word should be incorporated gradually as part of English-language instruction (p.113). Baker (1998: p.607) shares this point of view: "It is generally preferable for minority children to establish literacy in their home language first."
Garcia (1991), in his effectiveness study, identified in successful programs:
- students that "progressed systematically from writing in the native language in the early grades to writing in English in the later grades" and
- students that "made the transition from Spanish to English themselves, without any pressure from the teacher to do so", and of course
- that "students were allowed to use either language".
(Whether the second observation is a causal variable of the effectiveness or an effect variable of another, not specified causal variable, has not been investigated.)
The Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Language Affairs accommodates the view of the National Research Council: "If language minority children arrive at school with no proficiency in English but speaking a language for which there are instructional guides, learning materials, and locally available proficient teachers, then these children should be taught how to read in their native language while acquiring proficiency in spoken English, and then subsequently taught to extend their skills to reading in English." (OBEMLA 1998; Snow et al. 1998)
The research council further suggests that, if provisions can not be made in L1, "priority should be to develop the children's proficiency in spoken English" (Snow et al. 1998). Formal reading instruction in English should be postponed until spoken English is adequate. Note that here is not a point made against native reading instruction; this is merely a strategy suggested when conditions cannot be met.
Another path to literacy can be followed by learning to read in two languages. The relationships between reading achievement, language development, and attitude were investigated in a 1984 study of children three to five years in an early bilingual reading program (DAO 1983-8: ACC 8409439). The study yielded the following results:
- both Spanish and English performance was average or above compared to a control group in a preschool program without early reading
- the early reading instruction had not impaired the language development
- attitude toward reading appeared to be the most influential factor for reading achievement.
The last result is consistent with the concept of the affective filter. It is concluded that, also for low-income children as those in the study, learning to read in two languages can be an effective strategy, provided a positive attitude towards reading can be maintained.
The Carpinteria Preschool Program
In 1981, a Spanish-only preschool program was implemented in the Carpinteria Unified School District, CA., serving Hispanic children from families of low socioeconomic and educational levels, in order to enhance the children's kindergarten readiness. It was funded under Title VII and substituted a bilingual program with emphasis on English (Cummins 1986).
Based in theory on Cummins interdependence theory, it had three major components:
1) "a strong conceptual foundation in children's L1 through the almost exclusive use of Spanish for interaction" (Campos & Keatinge 1988: p.300),
2) strong parental involvement, and
3) an interactional approach (language learning in meaningful contexts that require negotiation; and concept development through meaningful linguistic interaction).
"Language was used constantly for conversing, learning new ideas, concepts and vocabulary, thinking creatively, and problem-solving to give the children the opportunity to develop their language skills in Spanish to as high a degree as possible within the structure of the preschool day" (quoted in Cummins 1986: p.31).
A) Results have been recorded in three groups of abilities:
1) Scores on the School Readiness Inventory:
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The scores show steady improvement of the program group until parity with the majority children is achieved at the end of the project. Campos & Keatinge (1988) conclude that Spanish-dominant children from disadvantaged backgrounds can achieve parity in school readiness "within one year using an approach that fully utilizes the child's dominant language in meaningful contexts" (p.303).
2) Spanish receptive skills and math's (administered in Spanish and measured in percentile of nationwide achievement):
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Title VII children clearly outperformed non- Title VII children in both math's and Spanish receptive skills. It is interesting to note that the non-Title VII Spanish-speaking children suffered in their Spanish-language development, probably as a result of their participation in the English-mostly Day Care Center.
3) Achievement on the Bilingual Syntax Measure (structural proficiency in oral English; figures in % for those at level 3 or higher - level 5 is native-like):
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Note that these results were obtained although the non-Title VII children were in an English- mostly environment. In the first year, the Title VII children even outperformed their counterparts by large in English proficiency although they had instruction exclusively in Spanish! - Cummins (1986) reports that Campos and Keatinge trace this back to the fact that "although project participants were exposed to less total English, they, because of their enhanced first language skill and concept knowledge were better able to comprehend the English they were exposed to" (quoted on p.32). This explanation is consistent with the comprehensible input theory.
B) Follow-up Results:
3) Bilingual Syntax Measure:
Oral English proficiency was again tested upon entrance into first grade in 1982:
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These figures also show that, contrary to popular beliefs, conducting the preschool program entirely in Spanish does not impede the acquisition of English but can rather enhance it.
4) Reading readiness and math's concepts (administered in Spanish after kindergarten in percentile):
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These results show that the type of preschool program makes a difference later on too. The advantages of the Title VII children have certainly also been caused by the implementation of the interactional approach (as opposed to teacher-centered before) in the kindergarten.
For Cummins (1986), the Carpinteria preschool program was then one of the few that "explicitly incorporates the major elements hypothesized" (p.30) in his framework for empowerment.
C) Follow-up studies at Elementary and Junior High:
Campos carried out follow-ups at elementary and at Junior High School with his cohort. He found that the advantages of the Title VII group on standardized and criterion-referenced tests were sustained throughout elementary school. English proficiency was sooner acquired so that they could be mainstreamed earlier. Cognitive advantages could not be sustained at Junior High. Campos reasons that the Junior High School program "represented a major departure from the elementary school program" (DAO 1992: AAC 9226555).
Other Preschool Programs
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Example (2) shows that it is possible to enhance L2 acquisition in a bilingual setting. Example (3) shows the case often reported, that is, that gains are greater when only English is measured as an outcome. Example (4) shows what appears natural: L1 proficiency is enhanced in an bilingual program. Example (1) reports on a dual language program but mentions no results for the acquisition of the majority language English.
Rodriguez et al. (1995) studied the effects of bilingual two-way (dual language) preschool programs on 3 to 5 year olds in several classrooms across California compared to matched stay-home groups. Program children were instructed in Spanish during the morning hours and were exposed to English in the afternoon through informal instruction. Individual communication was conducted in the language they best understood throughout the day.
After a six-months treatment, scores in English were significantly higher for receptive and productive abilities and for verbal complexity. Spanish proficiency was maintained. The authors conclude that a bilingual preschool experience can facilitate
English language development without endangering the development of the children's home language
This study was conducted in a response to the NABE No-Cost Study, which I largely drew on in the considerations of language loss. Rodriguez et al. criticize the NABE study in saying that, in their sample, regular exposure to English did not lead to a decline in the home language (NABE assumption 1). One reason for this ostensible contradiction lies in the NABE study confounding English-only and bilingual preschool programs.
Yet Rodriguez et al. do not deny the danger of language shift. But it may be caused by language preference as well, they claim, not leading to the loss of L1 receptive abilities. They admit that the "the social impact of a bilingual preschool experience on the language preferences and family socialization" (p.489) remains uncertain, and maintain that beneficial preschool programs as the one they studied should be promoted and further studied.
It also remains to say that the dangers of loss may lie - as several authors point out - in the long term only, and have not been captured by this study.
The successful consecutive bilingual language acquisition in additive situations has been illustrated in some studies. A five-year-old girl was enrolled in kindergarten shortly after the family's arrival in the United States with no proficiency in English, but was reported to show native-like proficiency after eighteen months (Williams & Snipper 1990; with reference to Hakuta). Another, younger girl was reported to have only receptive competence in English upon entry into preschool. Within 4 weeks, English moved to the productive stage so that she "was able to conduct role -play exclusively in English" (ERIC 1982-91: ED324102).
Malavé (1997) studied parent influences on the bilingual development of their children, who were born or had arrived to mainland U.S. at an age no older than two or three years old. She reports that "almost a third spoke only Spanish ... before entering school", but "were bilingual by the third grade". Bilinguality by grade three was measured in oral proficiency, defined here as "the ability to speak fluently ... with native speakers".
Malavé concludes that "bilingualism can emerge during the first three years of school for young children who do not speak English at home". Yet we have to remember the distinction between conversational and academic language proficiency. In this case, the measured oral proficiency definitely represents what McLaughlin termed "surface fluency" and often is misinterpreted as an evidence for the mainstreaming of these children into English- only classrooms.
In 1985, the U.S. Department of Education commissioned a four-year nationwide study comparing the effectiveness of English Immersion, early-exit, and la te-exit transitional programs for limited English proficient students.
In immersion classrooms, English is used almost exclusively, the students primary language may be used by the teacher for clarification. In early-exit programs, the primary language is used in instruction "no more than 30-60 minutes per day" (Ramirez 1986: p.124) or one third of the time (p.146), and children are mainstreamed at the end of grade one or two. In late-exit programs, the primary language is used for half the time (p.124), or two thirds (p.146) throughout grade six.
Investigators found no differences between the immersion and the early-exit transitional program types, but "most students remained in these programs much longer than expected" (Ramirez et al. 1991). Late-exit students, "with substantial instruction in their primary language (40%)" are reported to "successfully continue to increase their achievement in content areas such as mathematics, while they are acquiring their skills in English", whereas "students who are quickly transitioned into English-only instruction tend to grow slower than the norming population" (ibid.).
The authors conclude that "providing substantial instruction in the child's primary language does not impede the learning of English language or reading skills" (Ramirez et al. 1991), that is, it helps them to catch up with their English speaking peers in Mathematics, English language and reading skills, provided a gradual introduction to English as the language of instruction. Almost exclusive instruction in English does not help them to catch up, so that by grade six, the latter may fall further behind their English-speaking peers (reported in Baker 1998: p.558).14
Ramirez et al. (1991) conclude that "If your instructional objective is to help kids stay where they are - around the 25th percentile - then give them immersion or early-exit and they'll keep their place in society. If your concern is to help kids catch up to the norming population, use more primary language." (quoted in Crawford 1992)
I quote this en large, because this study has often been used by opponents of bilingual instruction to argue that "bilingual instruction" (early-exit) does not help students compared to immersion programs. Ramirez et al. add that a late-exit program does not cost more than an immersion program. "It's just a philosophical or political question." (quoted in Crawford 1992)
Another aspect deserves to be mentioned. Gains in the development of the home language of the students were not recorded. Given our results in FLA, BLA, and our considerations of language status and language loss, any greater gains in home language proficiency would add to positive effects of a program. It seems clear that these gains would have been higher in the late-exit program type.
These findings do not tell, however, whether better attainment was achieved because of the use of the students primary language, or because of other factors associated with this use, such as the value thereby attributed to that minority language. The direction of causality notwithstanding, for preschoolers follows also from this study that the primary language must not be neglected, and that English instruction should be introduced gradually, if at all at preschool.
Other long-term studies have been carried out by Thomas and Collier. Their series of studies reveal results that are, at first sight, contrary to those from SLA that claim a critical period. Thomas and Collier found that "non- native speakers of English with no schooling in their first language take 7-10 years or more to reach age and grade-level norms of their native English-speaking peers. Immigrant students who have had two or three years of first language schooling in their home country before they come to the U.S. take at least 5-7 years to reach typical native-speaker performance" (Collier 1995).
The contradiction is resolvable: The studies in support of a critical period measured English surface fluency and correctness; Thomas and Collier measured many aspects of academic achievement. Collier explains their results with the continuous development of academic skills in L1.15 This evidence can be seen as an argument for the use of students' home language and culture in kindergarten and the first primary grades.
The key finding of the long-term study of Thomas & Collier (1997) into the effectiveness of school services for language minority students is stated as follows: "Only those groups of language minority students who have received strong cognitive and academic development through their first language for many years (at least through Grade 5 or 6), as well as through the second language (English), are doing well in school as they reach the last of the high school years" (p.14; bold in the original).
It follows that, first, cognitive (and academic) development in the first language must not be interrupted at preschool, and second, that the forthcoming development in the second language might be considered for preschool.
In order to specify the latter, we look at the results for elementary school types in Thomas & Collier (1997), all drawn from students who once began kindergarten with no proficiency in English. Among the elementary school type variables studied, the following explained the most variance in student achievement:
1. Amount of L1 support (academic work in
L1): at least half the day in elementary (and possibly into middle and high school); explains for 12-21% achievement deviation;
2. Type of L2 support: teaching ESL through
academic content v. through formal instruction; explains for 10% deviation;
3. and variables such as teaching style,
sociocultural support, and integration with the curricular mainstream (pp.53-64).
Without L1 academic support, the students did not close the achievement gap (10% or more below national average), even when all other four variables were provided. But with all five variables provided, the students scored above (2% in one-way developmental and 11% in two- way developmental bilingual programs) the national average of native-English speakers' annual progress.
It follows that children without L2 instruction in preschool can score above national average later in high school when appropriate school service is provided in school (as characterized above). The research outcome is also consistent with what was concluded from the Ramirez report.
So far, it has been shown that there is no need for an early beginning of SLA. The results from the effects of age on SLA are inconsistent. If there is a critical period, it does not end before puberty.
On the other hand, several arguments have been made n support for the maintenance of children's first language:16
- The views about the impact of language status suggest that children's home culture and language should be valued throughout (school) life.
- The considerations of language loss call for the development of the home language aiming at age-appropriate proficiency.
- Results in first language acquisition argue for the development of the first language throughout the primary grades.
- Theories and basic research in second language and in bilingual language acquisition provide strong arguments for the continuos maintenance of the children's home language.
- Long-term school achievement at or above national average occurs only if academic skills are continuously developed in L1.
It follows that, provided that home culture and language is valued and age-appropriate home language proficiency is developed, there is no evidence against SLA at whatever age. On the contrary, it is suggested that proficiency in two languages can be developed from an earliest age on. What is important is that "the acquisition of a second language does not detract from mastery of the first language" (Baker 1998: p.41), in other words, that an additive bilingual situation is created. An English-only preschool environment is likely to create an subtractive bilingual situation (see Schools and Language Loss).
There is no doubt that academic skills must be developed in English as well. Yet the studies in successful consecutive BLA show that conversational skills can be acquired within the first three years of the primary grades. And the Thomas and Collier studies show that children who begin the acquisition of English at kindergarten, score at or above national average if provided with an effective program of developmental (maintenance) bilingual education.17 In other words, beginning ESL in kindergarten is not to late for the successful development of the L2 academic language skills.
If the children's home language can be used in the preschool, it should be used. It may be used exclusively until children exit out into kindergarten. If the children's home language can not be used in the preschool (because care providers are not proficient), everything should be done to value the children's home culture as well as to value diversity as such, to view it as an enriching environment, as the norm.
Concludingly, it has to be stressed that effective instructional practices (Garcia 1986, 1991) determine development and academic success to a higher degree than the mere question of the language of instruction, which is one variable only.
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1 In fact, Volk does not really say this; she claims that her four-year-olds "were already competent
allocators and active conversationalists in a complex bilingual classroom context" (Volk 1992, p. 384), and that they "possessed some conversational skills which are not in the repertoires of monolingual children", that is they were "aware of speech partners language dominance" (p.382).
2 Rather contradictingly however, he quotes without comment Garcia & Otheguy, who found in about "a number of non-public schools in the Miami area ... 'These ethnic schools provide middle and working class Cuban American children with a context where Spanish is to some degree the language of power and prestige' (Garcia & Otheguy, 1988, 177)." (Glenn 1996; p.359)
3 Spener concludes that "transitional bilingual education programs, which provide only a limited period of native-language instruction and do not ensure English mastery, prevent immigrant children from attaining academic fluency in either their native language or in English." (Spener 1988; p.133)
4 As an example, Pellerano, Fradd & Rovira (1998) report, with reference to the Dade County Public Schools 1997 Statistical Abstract and the Miami- Dade County Public Schools 1998 Information Services, that "Coral Way does not serve an economically advantaged population. This past year, 64% of the students received free or reduced price lunch."
5 Romaine (1989) herself is well aware of the ambiguities in this typology. "Or perhaps type 6 conflates what are really two different situations." (p.169)
6 A 1995 study into relationships between social behaviors and second language learning in Asian preschool children (3;2 - 4;4) confirms this assumption: "Children with the highest level of social skills talked he most. In a teacher-controlled classroom the Asian children spoke less often, conversely, the children spoke more often in learner-controlled classrooms." (DAO 1994-6: AAC 9518875)
7 The use of transfer in this sense should not be confused with its use in Comparative Analysis, where it sometimes describes the negative impact of L1 structures on L2 structures.
8 Some more specific transferable skills have been mentioned in A Social Model of SLA.
9 However, is has to be stated that there is no use in proving the advantages of bilingualism over monolingualism. If there was, bilingualism would and even should be a goal for all people. On the contrary, bilingualism is a matter of fact for a high percentage of young children in the USA who have the same right to be helped in their development as monolingual children.
10 It has been found that decisive for establishing active bilingualism are "particularly the strategies of the minority language-speaking parent" (Lanza 1997: p.326). This is too natural, as active competence in the minority language makes the difference between passive and active bilingualism and can be attained rather with the help of the parent speaking that language than with the help of the parent not speaking that language.
11 If language differentiation involves mixing too, we should ask whether the term language is still appropriate when mixing is one feature of a "language". We have to redefine at least one term in order to resolve the contradictio in termini. Lanza does so later on in using the term bilingual awareness, subordinating the context differentiation to communicative competence (p.67). The model that it is not only languages that are switched has found support in a 1998 study on preschool children who "switched from one culture to the other as well" (DAO 1997-9: AAC 9805682). This finding is consistent with the acculturation theory.
12 Vihman & McLaughlin (1982) report that at age 2;1, Vihman's daughter translated, her son began to talk explicitly about language, beginning to translate at 2;2. She admits, though, that the results from the study of psycholinguists' children have to be held tentatively as they can easily have been caused by individual differences. Whether they reflect common bilingual experience, remains unknown. At least, they indicate the potentials of a bilingual experience.
13 McLaughlin (1984) claims that the research of Ianco-Worrall is questionable because "bilingual children do not show better understanding of the underlying principle than monolingual children do (Cummins, 1978a)" (p.212).
14 Worthwhile to note that the federal overseer of this study was Keith Baker, a pronounced opponent of the use of the primary language as a medium of instruction (Crawford 1992).
15 Contributing academic success primarily to L1 language development seems contrary to the limitations imposed by language status unless we conclude that the use of a (minority) language for advancing academically attributes a higher status to that language, as is suggested in the corresponding chapter.
16 These claims are valid for situations where the children`s first language is a low-status minority language. Language majority children can even be immersed without a serious threat to their first language because it is supported otherwise in society.
17 The advantages of bilingual education over monolingual sink-or-swim classes have been shown most clearly in the meta-analyses of studies on the effectiveness of bilingual education by Willig (1985) and by Greene (1998). Willig, statistically controlling for methodological inadequacies, found "small to moderate differences favoring bilingual education" (p.269). Greene, calculating the effect-size of the studies, concludes that "native language instruction has a significant, positive impact on children learning English".
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