Thursday, November 28, 2019

Bilingualism - Definition and Examples

Bilingualism s Bilingualism is the ability of an individual or the members of a community to use two languages effectively. Adjective: bilingual. Monolingualism refers to the ability to use a single language. The ability to use multiple languages is known as multilingualism. More than half of the  worlds population is bilingual or  multilingual: 56% of Europeans are bilingual, while 38% of the population in Great Britain, 35% in Canada, and 17% in the United States are bilingual (Multicultural America: A Multimedia Encyclopedia, 2013). Etymology From the Latin, two tongue Examples and Observations Bilingualism as the NormBilingualismmore generally, multilingualismis a major fact of life in the world today. To begin with, the worlds estimated 5,000 languages are spoken in the worlds 200 sovereign states (or 25 languages per state), so that communication among the citizens of many of the worlds countries clearly requires extensive bi- (if not multi-)lingualism. In fact, David Crystal (1997) estimates that two-thirds of the worlds children grow up in a bilingual environment. Considering only bilingualism involving English, the statistics that Crystal has gathered indicate that, of the approximately 570 million people world-wide who speak English, over 41 percent or 235 million are bilingual in English and some other language. . . . One must conclude that, far from being exceptional, as many lay people believe, bilingualism/multilingualismwhich, of course, goes hand in hand with multiculturalism in many casesis currently the rule throughout the world and will become increasingly s o in the future.(Tej K. Bhatia and William C. Ritchie, Introduction. The Handbook of Bilingualism. Blackwell, 2006) Global MultilingualismThe political history of the 19th and 20th centuries and the ideology of one stateone nationone language have given rise to the idea that monolingualism has always been the default or normal case in Europe and more or less a precondition for political loyalty. Facing this situation, it has been overlooked that the vast majority of the worlds populationin whatever form or conditionsis multilingual. This is quite obvious when we look at the linguistic maps of Africa, Asia or Southern America at any given time.(Kurt Braunmà ¼ller and Gisella Ferraresi, Introduction. Aspects of Multilingualism in European Language History. John Benjamins, 2003)Individual and Societal BilingualismBilingualism exists as a possession of an individual. It is also possible to talk about bilingualism as a characteristic of a group or community of people [societal bilingualism]. Bilinguals and multilinguals are most often located in groups, communities or in a particular region (e.g. Cata lans in Spain). . . . [C]o-existing languages may be in a process of rapid change, living in harmony or one rapidly advancing at the cost of the other, or sometimes in conflict. Where many language minorities exist, there is often language shift . . ..(Colin Baker and Sylvia Prys Jones, Encyclopedia of Bilingualism and Bilingual Education. Multilingual Matters, 1998) Foreign Language Instruction in the U.S.For decades, U.S. policymakers, business leaders, educators, and research organizations have decried our students’ lack of foreign language skills and called for better language instruction. Yet, despite these calls for action, we have fallen further behind the rest of the world in preparing our students to communicate effectively in languages other than English.I believe the main reason for this disparity is that foreign languages are treated by our public education system as less important than math, science and English. In contrast, E.U. governments expect their citizens to become fluent in at least two languages plus their native tongue. . . .[F]oreign language instruction in the U.S. is frequently considered a luxury, a subject taught to college-bound students, more frequently in affluent than poor school districts, and readily cut when math or reading test scores drop or budget cuts loom.(Ingrid Pufahl, How Europe Does It. The New York Times, February. 7, 2010)

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