Bilingualism Effects on Cognitive Development | Free Essay Example

Bilingualism Effects on Cognitive Development

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Topic: Psychology
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The 21st Century has been characterised by a multicultural and diverse society (Cavaluzzi, 2010). The proportion of children taking English as a second language is also increasing tremendously. A survey carried out on London schools in 2000 showed that the children spoke more than 300 languages (Edwards, 2004).

Statistics show that by 2010, one in every five pupils in schools in London will be from minority groups. Consequently, this is likely to affect the classroom practices and principles, in addition to placing specialised and specific demand for teachers.

The 2000 Race Relations Act identifies the promotion of racial equality by teachers and schools as a statutory duty. It is important therefore for teachers in schools with students for whom English is a second language to become conversant with the process of learning language so that they can support all children effectively, and allow them to realise their full individual potential.

Besides, there is a need to ensure that classroom practices examine the learning process of a language and its supporting elements. There are a number of benefits accrued from bilingualism. Some of them include the increase of cognitive abilities and the enhancement of cultural identity, among others.

In order to establish the benefits of being bilingual in a global society, there is a need to understand what bilingualism is. This essay will look at the different definitions of bilingualism, addressing child cognitive development and learning. It will also address first language acquisition as well as second language acquisition by looking at Piaget’s Theory of Intellectual Development, and Vygotsky’s theories of learning.

Because language acquisition can be taught, as such the paper will also look at how help learners achieve communicative competence in foreign languages through a range of technologies such as computer-assisted instruction, the internet, interactive video, email, the web as well as CD-ROM to help learners reinforce their linguistic skills as they also learn contemporary culture and the lifestyle of the target language.

It then discusses the implications of bilingualism. It also looks at the role of the parent and the school in facilitating second language development. Of particular interest will be how parents as teachers go about equipping learners (their children) and enabling them to develop and utilise their linguistic and cultural knowledge, thus, allowing them to take advantage of the benefits of bilingualism.

The paper also explores the various practices and learning styles for teaching second language learners. Culture deals with the artefacts and ways of doing. Culture and identity are very important in language development. Culture and identity are pervasive but invisible until they are pointed out.

Most people are not aware of their cultural identity until they are confronted with other cultures and identities through language. Cultural learning through language teaching and the relationship between language learning and identity is also discussed in the essay. Finally, the paper discusses the economic benefits of bilingualism.

In an effort to understand how bilingualism facilitates, it is important to try to arrive at the definition of the term bilingualism. Learning an additional language facilitates a child ability to develop diverse world perceptions and a different cultural understanding. Cavaluzzi (2010) asserts that a ‘bilingual child is a bridge between different generations.’

In other words, with the understanding of the inheritance of language, the child will be able to commune with relatives and particularly the older generations, along with those who live in their country of birth. This allows the child to remain connected to the family tree. Moreover, the child is also able to preserve a bond of affection with direct relatives, as parents are often more relaxed with regards to stating and showing love in their native language.

Macnamara (1967, p 732) states that a ‘bilingual is anyone who possesses one of the four languages skills’. These skills are listening, speaking, reading and writing, in a language other than their mother tongue language. Bloomfield (1935, p 23) also states that bilingual is to be able to speak two languages perfectly.

According to Grosjean (2010, p 4), a bilingual does not necessarily have to be ‘fluent in the non-native language.’ This means that a bilingual can either be a passive or active speaker.

An active bilingual can communicate in both languages through speaking and writing, while a passive bilingual can communicate in the second language through listening, reading, as well as through perceiving. The first language can always be acquired naturally without formal education. Some children may acquire two languages at ago, although one language will be more dominant.

This may occur when monolingual parents raise their child in a community that speaks a different language from their native language. It may also occur in a situation where bilingual parents raise their child in an environment dominated by one mainstream language.

However, sometimes a child may acquire bilingualism if he or she is raised in a multilingual environment, especially where there are the national language and several native languages. A child is also likely to develop bilingualism if both the father and mother speak different languages, and further raise the child in a third language environment.

Baker (2001, p. 4) suggests that to be able to understand the meaning of bilingualism, there are many interesting, as well as, ‘over-lapping dimensions’ to be taken into account.

These dimensions include the ability demonstrated by a child when speaking and writing in both languages; the use of those languages and where the child uses these different tongues; the ability to balance acquisition and use; and the age at which the child learns to speak the two languages. De Houwer (2009) states that a ‘child may acquire two languages to go from his or her initial stages of language development.’

The other dimensions to be considered include the level of development of the languages against the age of the child; the cultural background of the child; and the context of language acquisition and development. This could happen when children have to move with their parents to a different country for a few years, perhaps due to work reasons. In this case, they must speak the new language in order to communicate with others.

The context of language development is applied in situations where one acquires and speaks the language because it is necessary at the moment or in the surrounding. For example, when one goes on vacation, he or she may acquire some words in the foreign language to enable him, or she communicates with the waiter while ordering food. In such a case, the individual would only acquire some forms of correspondence in the foreign language.

The last dimension is the elective bilingual, which means, one who chooses to learn a language (Baker, 2001,p 4). This simply means that a person adds a second language without losing the first one, as may be the case with immigrating children. In my teaching experience, I have often come across such children.

They easily and quickly adapt the concepts of the second language, and within a fairly short time, they will have achieved fluency in the language.

Baker (2001, p. 4) contends that it is not easy to come up with one definition that covers all these dimensions of bilingualism. Therefore, in simple terms, a bilingual is a person who can communicate in more than one language, regardless of the form that this communication takes.

According to Piaget’s intellectual development theory, there are certain ages, at which it a child’s cognitive development is fast and moves into entirely new areas while the child is improving his/her cognitive abilities (Piaget 2011).

He observes these changeovers as taking place at about 18 months, seven years and 11 or 12 years, respectively. This has been taken to mean that prior to these ages, children are not capable (no matter how brilliant), of understanding things in certain ways. This has been used as the basis for the preparation of the school curriculum, as seen in figure 1 below.

Piaget's four stages of cognitive development
Figure 1: Piaget’s four stages of cognitive development adapted from Cohan (2002, p37)

Enose (2010, p. 367) believes that for teachers in pre-secondary schools to organise, carry out and assess learning successfully, they need to have a ‘good understanding of the process of cognitive development in children as well as the child first language acquisition, as this will enable them to aid the child more effectively.’

Perhaps the most important theory that supports the acquisition of more than one language is Vygotsky’s theories of learning. Vygotksy (1962) suggests four different stages for the development of thoughts and language. These stages are similar to those presented by Piaget.

These stages include pre-intellectual and intelligence where the language is still non-verbal; the stage of practical intelligence; the stage external symbolic representation; and finally, the stage of internalisation of symbols. All these theories show how a child’s cognitive development occurs and how a child is able to learn the first language, and from that, how the child will be able to learn the second languages and become bilingual.

Vygotsky (1962) points out that a child initially uses language for ‘external social interaction, but at some point, this language goes underground to become a vital part in the structure of the child’s thinking and development.’ He goes on to explain that a child develops as a social being from the beginning and struggles to deal with abstract ideas.

Children have a “zone of proximal developments” which is the range of activities that a child can independently perform, as well as, those that he or she can perform with the assistance and guidance of an able instructor, adult or a more-skilled child. This theory expresses the role of the parent, the teacher, as well as those around the child in helping him or her to acquire and develop fluency in a language.

Children coming to school already possess a multitude of learning experiences and a number of existing language skills. There is a need, therefore for teachers to not only recognise this but also to appreciate it. This would allow them to enrich the ‘cultural capital’ of the child. The language experiences of a child as school differ from those at home.

For example, child-initiated talk is more pronounced at home while at school, the emphasis is on coverage of objectives and the pace of learning. We also need to realise that a child who is learning an additional language is not an indication that he/she has special educational needs. In the same way, insufficient English language skills are not an indication that a child is experiencing learning difficulty or cognitive challenges.

Teachers should use a range of technologies such as computer-assisted instruction, the internet, interactive video, email, the web as well as CD-ROM to help learners reinforce their linguistic skills as they also learn contemporary ‘culture and the lifestyle of the target country’ (Kramsch 1998, 31). Teachers are highly encouraged to teach using multimedia materials that have original videos.

The videos should have been filmed in environments which are culturally genuine. The internet is a valuable resource for materials on bilingualism. The internet makes it possible to develop socio-cultural competence in foreign language learners more easily as compared to the use of the textbook (Krashen, 2011). The learners should, therefore, be given assignments on culture and linguistics on the target cultural group to research on the internet.

Given my experience in teaching, I have come to acknowledge the significance of bridging the cultural differences among students through effective communication. They should teach and talk to learners on differences between individuals and also show the learners how the differences between them make learning better.

The teacher should use cooperative learning in order to help learners expand their knowledge and experience. As the language teacher, you should attend community events of the learners and be able to discuss these events with the learners.

The environment for learning of the language should be appropriate to allow learners to express their multicultural viewpoints. Therefore students understand that a notion does have a variety of contextual interpretation depending on the language used to express it.

The teacher should also vary teaching approaches in order to accommodate the diverse learning styles as well as the language proficiency that learners come with into the classroom. This should include the use of cooperative learning, learners-directed discussion groups and the use of literature circles (Brisk & Harrington 2000, p. 233). When using texts, a teacher can make use of those texts with high quality, and with supportive and interesting illustrators.

It is important to note that visual clues enable children to decipher meaning from the provided narrative and as such, teachers should integrate them into their teaching strategies. The reading repertoire should also include dual texts.

Teachers should also make a habit of incorporating traditional tales as part of their teaching strategy because a number of them include repetition, and this tends to reinforce learning. By relating the text to the experiences of the children, the teacher is in effect, scaffolding it. Moreover, teachers should make use of role-play activities, hot-seating and drama as a way of engaging the students in higher-order learning.

The teacher can also invite members of the community who speak the language to talk to the learners. The teacher is not supposed to play a passive role in the learning of the language. The teacher has to be creative and provide an inclusive learning environment. This should allow learners to express their assumptions, values as well as their identities that have been shaped by both the local and the global socio-cultural environments.

Educational materials often ignore the linguistics requirements and needs of learners who will use them. The teacher has to provide for real-life experiences like relationships, play and a good learning environment to shape the children’s learning (Baker 2006,p 287).

He or she should be aware of the different backgrounds of the children and therefore put emphasis on the social contexts in which the learning takes place and in which bilingualism can easily be developed, promoted and also maintained (Bialystok 1991, p 126).

The teacher has to be aware of the cultural background of each child and should also check the child’s performance in other subjects so as to determine whether the child has a unique problem in learning the language. In other words, teachers should provide individual attention to these learners so as to understand the limitations in the child’s command of language.

The teacher should record the reasons for concern on each child in learning the target language and maintain a record of progress for all the learners in the classroom. The teacher should also be able to know to the level of proficiency of each pupil in his or her first language and evaluate whether the level is appropriate with age.

The teacher can, therefore, use the language skills acquired by the pupil in his or her first language to help him or her learn the target language (Hall 1995, p 332). The teachers should make learning enjoyable. Learning of the language should take place outdoors and should be carefully planned (Datta & Pomphrey, 2004, p 44).

Learners should be involved in simple activities in the local environment using natural resources. This would enable the pupils to sing and create playground rhymes, and the teacher can also teach the pupils traditional songs and poems.

The pupils get the opportunity to create themes of poems of what they see in the environment. The pupils will find such activities delightful and inspirational, and they will be ready to learn the language and acquire more about the culture. I have learned that as a parent, I need to provide my children with play materials that enable them to perform tasks independently so as to develop cognitive skills.

It also calls for guiding the child in understanding concepts in the language by teaching him or her vocabularies in the language, reading fairy tales to the child and telling stories in the language. My experience as a mother has proved that it is important to allow and encourage the child to play with other children around him or her.

As a mother, I reinforce what the child learns at school by teaching the child more about the language and confirming what was learnt at school. As a parent, I have twice implemented a program for helping each of my two children improve their ability in the language with the aid of a native speaker or a tutor.

From my own experiences as a mother and a teacher, I have noticed that my children learn better whenever they are with the family at home country, as they get to interact with many other children like them. Burns (1995, p 16) also believes that in order for learning to happen, there must be some social surrounding. It is therefore important to provide the child with the company back at home.

As a parent, I should be able to facilitate cultural learning in the target language by helping my children understand the different cultures between the native language and the target language.

Translating phrases and idiomatic expression from the native language to the target language will help my children acquire cultural learning in the second language. This is because I have learnt that involving my children in dialogue makes them internalise the language faster.

Other than dialogue, there are other techniques that I can use with my children to facilitate bilingual learning. As a parent, I have always involved my children in drama, music and movement. Speech and drama helped my son and daughter link drama with grammar as well as vocabulary.

Speech and drama; and music and movement helped my children learn role-play and rhythm, dialogue and ditties as well as mimes and rhymes. These have enabled my children to learn how to read, write and connect sounds of spoken words from the target language.

I see myself a parent-teacher to my children, and as such, I have categorised learners (my children) according to their learning types and their different levels of language acquisition as advocated for by Fleming’s VAK model (Leite, Shi, & Svinicki, 2009).

This has allowed me to use the learner types to develop different learning styles to help each of my children grasping concepts of the target language. Coupled with the use of songs drama and dialoguing, this has created the necessary environment for bilingual learning, as Halliday (1975) explains.

I have come to understand that it is important to incorporate various classroom practices to learners to help my children achieve fluency in the language. I teach my son and daughter effective decoding strategies such as breaking words in parts which are meaningful and easy to pronounce.

This could consist of suffixes, prefixes, compound words, onsets, as well as inflectional endings from the target language on a daily basis. This exposes them to various vocabularies and words in the language. To help aid memory, I develop charts for learning and memorising concepts.

The next important question is; how does a parent encourage cultural learning among second language learners. Cultural teaching begins by appreciating the different cultural backgrounds. The learners (my children) are encouraged to embrace and value the differences that make learners from other cultures different.

I take time to teach my children the important aspects of each culture, which foster understanding and acceptance. This is attained through incorporating creative activities which help teach important elements of the culture (Solanki 2010). Such activities could include songs, art, and drama, among others. The songs need to be from different cultures.

To further encourage cross-cultural understanding, I read to my children stories from different cultures, and provide personal reflection about these stories. All these activities enable my children to understand why cultures believe in certain things, as well as why they behave in certain ways.

I also allow my children to discuss what they have already learnt by talking about their own experiences and how they felt about what they have already learnt. Books which have pictures allow visualisation how people from other cultures live. Apart from pictures, I engage my children in watching documentaries about people from other cultural groups and explaining the most important aspects of other cultures in the documentary (Solanki, 2010).

The relationship between language learning and identity is another interesting and significant part of bilingualism development (Norton, 2000). The identity of the language learner is usually perceived to be multiple and could always change as the learner struggles to overcome second language learning difficulties.

The various conditions under which the learner acquires fluency in the second language are influenced by the level of motivation in the language from others around the person. As a result, every time my children communicate in the second language, they are involved in identity construction, as well as negotiation.

This encourages him or her to reframe his or her relationship with the target language (Bloomfield 1935, 26). They thus develop a strong identity position in the language, and this enhances his or her language learning.

My children are encouraged to learn the target language if there is equal participation of each child which leads to language development resulting in enhanced commitment.

This means that as a parent-teacher, I should be able to communicate to the learner the cultures identified with the language and a range of possibilities that comes with learning the language. As the learner struggles to learn the target language, he or she develops an imagined identity he or she would like to achieve (Norton & Pavlenko, 2004).

There are several benefits of bilingualism. There are quite a number of benefits related to the acquisition of bilingual language competence. Being bilingual makes one more sensitive to language and also extra flexible in thinking as bilinguals have greater sensitivity to language and also pay greater attention to meaning as well as the structure in the language.

This means that bilinguals are more responsive to the language needs of those they communicate with or address as compared to monolinguals. It also makes one become a better listener. Learning of one’s language also forms the foundation of learning one’s culture. The knowledge of many languages increases one’s carrier opportunities as the individual can now perform several jobs in different societies.

Bilingual people have added cognitive abilities such as lexical options in analysing a subject. A child who can confidently speak in two or more languages can use several words to refer to an object. This facilitates the cognitive flexibility in such children.

By building connotation and ideas around a concept, they learn children are able to gain a better understanding of the environments surrounding them. This, therefore, implies that a bilingual person is capable of developing more flexible and creative thinking.

Being bilingual also enhances intellectual growth. It enriches an individual’s mental development. Recent research has established that bilinguals perform better in IQ tests than monolinguals. According to Hitti (2004), the bilingual brain has been found to develop more densely. Language, as well as memory intellect, are contained in the grey matter.

This difference is more significant on the left side of the brain, which is responsible for controlling language as well as communication skills. Researchers say that being bilingual structurally modifies the brain. This effect is more prominent on people who had acquired the second language before age five. Being bilingual also helps protect the brain (Hitti, 2004).

It keeps the brain sharper for a longer time. Bilinguals between the age of 30 and 88 years exhibit mental sharpness than their monolingual counterparts (Hitti 2004). Being bilingual can thus protect the brain against mental decline during old age. Bilinguals are better able to control their attention to complex things that have been fast changing task demands. Bilingualism helps reduce the age-related increase in distractibility.

Dreifus (2011) states that there is a significant difference in the way bilinguals and monolinguals understand and process language. Cognitive systems of bilingual learners have the ability to focus on important information while ignoring the distractive information. Bilinguals have an executive control system in their brain, which enables them to be more efficient in their perceptions and communications.

Bialystock and Martin (2004, p 326) also believe that bilingual children have more advanced inhibitory control which enables them to ignore perceptual information based on the context of the information, as well as, the rules applied in such situations. Bilinguals have wide perceptions of situations or almost everything and also faster in their thinking (Deifus 2011).

Bilingualism expands the brain structure, particularly the language centres. They are therefore better equipped to solve both verbal and non-verbal problems as compared to monolinguals. My extensive work with learners as well as my children have proved that bilingual children have a higher ability to grasp concepts in the language and in other subjects such as mathematics as compared to their monolingual counterparts.

They can translate a vocabulary or phrase used in other languages to understand the implied meaning better and therefore enhance their problem-solving ability. This expansion in their brain structure enables them to perform activities which require multitasking. Deifus (2011) also assert ageing bilinguals have better cognitive functioning as compared to ageing monolinguals.

There are many cultural benefits associated with bilingualism, as explained by Baker (1995, 13) in ‘ A Parents and Teachers Guide’ to Bilingualism. He emphasises that obtaining another language facilitates a child development of diverse world perspectives and different cultural understanding. A bilingual experiences systems, traditions and practices of different cultures.

He or she becomes more tolerant of differences that result from diverse cultures and races. In addition, bilingualism enables an individual to become a bridge between different generations. Baker (1995, 13) emphasises that children who speak two languages represent the necessary elements for building bridges between people of diverse colour, faith, civilisation and language.

Jones and Lorenzo-Hubert (2008) believe that one is able to develop sense cultural as well as personal identity by learning his or her heritage language. By learning the language of both parents, each parent is able to communicate his or her cultural practices and beliefs of their own culture to the child. Parents will be able to interact with their children in their native language.

Moreover, the parents will be able to encourage value and belief systems among other social skills, and as a result, the parent is able to pass on his or her own heritage to the child (Alred, Byram and Fleming 2002, p 61). Bilingualism helps hold the families and communities together since members are able to communicate easily with one another despite the increasing diversity in families and communities.

Bilinguals are also beneficial at the national and international level. This is because of their wider perspectives on issues and knowledge of various cultures, values and world views (Chorney 2004). I have often witnessed leaders and politicians negotiate in conflicts between communities and countries. Bilinguals also help come up with policies which take into consideration the various cultures in the country.

They contribute positively to national and international debates and conferences to represent the interest of various cultures and nations. Bilingual politicians are able to interact effectively with different communities, and sway communities to change their attitude and behaviour or to cool political temperatures.

I have learned that as a parent, I need to provide my children with play materials that enable them to perform tasks independently so as to develop cognitive skills. It also calls for guiding the child in understanding concepts in the language by teaching him or her vocabularies in the language, reading fairy tales to the child and telling stories in the language.

My experience as a mother has proved that it is important to allow and encourage the child to play with other children around him or her. As a mother, I reinforce what the child learns at school by teaching the child more about the language and confirming what was learnt at school. As a parent, I have twice implemented a program for helping each of my two children to improve their ability in the language with the aid of a native speaker or a tutor.

From my own experiences as a mother and a teacher, I have noticed that my children learn better whenever they are with the family at home country, as they get to interact with many other children like them. Burns (1995, 16) also believes that in order for learning to happen, there must be some social surrounding. It is therefore important to provide the child with the company back at home.

As a parent, I should be able to facilitate cultural learning in the target language by helping my children understand the different cultures between the native language and the target language.

Translating phrases and idiomatic expression from the native language to the target language will help my children acquire cultural learning in the second language. This is because I have learnt that involving my children in dialogue makes them internalise the language faster.

I see myself a parent-teacher to my children, and as such, I have categorised learners (my children) according to their learning types and their different levels of language acquisition as advocated for by Fleming’s VAK model (Leite, Shi, & Svinicki, 2009).

This has allowed me to use the learner types to develop different learning styles to help each of my children grasping concepts of the target language. Coupled with the use of songs drama and dialoguing, this has created the necessary environment for bilingual learning, as Halliday (1975) explains.

There is a relationship between culture and second language acquisition. Culture deals with the artefacts and ways of doing. Culture and identity are very important in language development. Culture and identity are pervasive but invisible until they are pointed out. Most people are not aware of their culture or identity until they are confronted with other cultures and identities.

The ability to make sense of the world is conditioned, if not determined, by the language that we speak. People cannot see what they cannot name. For instance, the Hopi Indians have no conception of time because there is no tense or time in their language. However, the issue of whether how we talk has something to do with how we think, and our conception of reality is still controversial.

The next important question is; how does a parent encourage cultural learning among second language learners. Cultural teaching begins by appreciating the different cultural backgrounds. The learners (my children) are encouraged to embrace and value the differences that make learners from other cultures different.

I take time to teach my children the important aspects of each culture, which foster understanding and acceptance. This is attained through incorporating creative activities which help teach important elements of the culture (Solanki, 2010). Such activities could include songs, art, and drama, among others. The songs need to be from different cultures.

To further encourage cross-cultural understanding, I read to my children stories from different cultures, and provide personal reflection about these stories. All these activities enable my children to understand why cultures believe in certain things, as well as why they behave in certain ways.

I also allow my children to discuss what they have already learnt by talking about their own experiences and how they felt about what they have already learnt. Apart from pictures, I engage my children in watching documentaries about people from other cultural groups and explaining the most important aspects of other cultures in the documentary (Solanki 2010).

The relationship between language learning and identity is another interesting and significant part of bilingualism development (Norton, 2000). The identity of the language learner is usually perceived to be multiple and could always change as the learner struggles to overcome second language learning difficulties.

The various conditions under which the learner acquires fluency in the second language are influenced by the level of motivation in the language from others around the person. As a result, every time my children communicate in the second language, they are involved in identity construction, as well as negotiation.

This encourages him or her to reframe his or her relationship with the target language (Bloomfield 1935, 26). They thus develop a strong identity position in the language, and this enhances his or her language learning.

My children are encouraged to learn the target language if there is equal participation of each child which leads to language development resulting in enhanced commitment.

This means that as a parent-teacher, I should be able to communicate to the learner the cultures identified with the language and a range of possibilities that comes with learning the language. As the learner struggles to learn the target language, he or she develops an imagined identity he or she would like to achieve (Norton & Pavlenko 2004).

Bilingualism is also associated with several economic benefits. I have come to realise that being bilingual improves one’s prospects of getting a well-paying job. Bilinguals have a wider field of employment opportunities to choose from as compared to monolinguals (Issa & Eve 2009).

With the increasing globalisation and diversity, many economic sectors, and organisations give more preference to bilinguals in order to improve their services and market base.

Such sectors include teaching, tourism, banking, air travel, public relations, and translation among others. Their ability to communicate in more than one language brings several advantages to institutions and business organisations; this gives them the basis for negotiating higher salaries.

Bilingualism also enhances an individual’s ability to do business in a culturally diverse environment (Issa & Oztürk, 2008). The individual is able to communicate with customers from different cultural backgrounds, including clients from overseas.

In the globalised world where jobs are advertised and are open to anybody with the necessary qualifications and work permit, bilinguals have higher prospects of getting such jobs since they are able to work in most parts of the world. Bilinguals are better placed to make complex business negotiations and deals with businessmen or organisations based in different parts of the world, and who speak a different language.

Such an individual finds it easy to deal with international business partners or employees. Such business persons are able to design their products and services to reflect the different cultures of the people in the market place. Thus, they provide products and services which are culturally sensitive. At the international level, countries that share common language tend to establish significant trade between them.

As a teacher, I have come to realise that bilingualism improves an individual’s prospects of getting high paying jobs in different fields. Bilinguals have superior social skills and can communicate in different languages. This gives them an economic edge over those who speak one language in the job market. They can choose from a variety of carrier opportunities, locations and even high paying jobs as compared to monolinguals.

They can be employed in public relations, administration, tourism, translation, banking as well as teaching among many other fields. In a classroom situation, students can benefit more by learning a concept from a bilingual teacher in their own second language. Bilingual teachers are seriously being sought for especially in multicultural regions as they can better assist second language learners.

If someone wishes to live a better lifestyle and to be successful in their new destinations, it is important that he or she speaks the language. This will give him or her opportunities for better jobs as well as competitive salaries. Depending on the customers’ demands, some companies seek bilingual persons to satisfy the customers.

Both companies that conduct business overseas and those that have large market share locally are increasingly seeking to employ workers who can speak more than just one language. Employers are willing to pay higher salaries for bilinguals. Bilinguals pay more than that of their monolingual colleagues by about 5-20% (Santrock 2008, 335).

They are able to negotiate high salaries since their roles in the company attract many customers from different regions. With the increasing immigrant population, employers need bilinguals who are able to effectively negotiate business deals with these communities in order to increase the customer base.

When prospective employers ask about the number of languages you can speak, they also want to know if you can also speak in other languages other English. With increasing globalisation, a person who is fluent in English only may not fit into the employer’s requirements. Being fluent in several languages is necessary for those working or planning to work in some fields such as healthcare, financial services and the air transport industry.

In health care, for example, health care providers have to be careful to get what the patient is saying correctly. They should also provide culturally sensitive nursing, meaning they have to know different cultures. Again to get a job today, you have to move to where the jobs are found. Currently, China has the biggest labour market. Being bilingual allows one to navigate countries looking for a job.

Despite the realisation that there is no agreeable definition of the term bilingualism, bilingualism is so influential in learning that it is part of teaching-learning. In the teaching-learning process, bilingualism enhances the cognitive processes of students to the extent that it results in their minds as well as intellectual development according to Piaget’s and Vygotsky’s theories of Intellectual Development.

Teachers, as well as parents, have a role to play in enhancing bilingual assisted learning. This can be attained either at home through a number of tools and techniques. These tools and techniques include the involvement of the cultural aspect of the target language, which increases a student’s contact with the said language. These include songs, dram and stories.

Furthermore, there is an audiovisual tool that can be used to boost instruction in bilingual assisted learning. These include the use of computer-assisted instruction, the internet, interactive video, email, the web as well as CD-ROM to help learners reinforce their linguistic skills as they also learn the contemporary culture and the lifestyle of the target language.

Bilingualism has other benefits such an increase of intercultural ties, enhancing of better opportunities as well as increasing professional competence. Furthermore, bilingual employees rank higher than monolingual employees. All this proves that bilingualism a critical skill that ought to be acquired in a world that is increasingly becoming globalised.

Reference List

Alred, G., Byram, M., and Fleming, M., 2002, Intercultural experience and education. Sydney: Multilingual Matters LTD. p. 61.

Baker, C., 1995, A parents’ and teachers’ guide to bilingualism. Bristol: Multilingual Matters Ltd. p. 13.

Baker, C., 2001, Foundations of bilingual education and bilingualism, 3rd Edition. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. p. 4.

Baker, C., 2006, Foundations of bilingual education and bilingualism, 4th ed. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters Ltd. p. 287.

Bialystok, E., & Martin, M., M., 2004, Attention and inhibition in bilingual children: evidence from the dimensional change card sort task. Developmental Science, Vol. 7, No. 3, pp. 325–39

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