Term Paper: Teaching Foreign Language to Infants

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Teaching Foreign Language to Infants

Consider the following facts and/or statistics (http://www.wordiq.com/definition/Bilingual,2004):

Most populace in the regions of southern China, are usually Cantonese-Chinese speaking and Mandarin- Chinese speaking

In ex-Soviet republics and Warsaw Pact countries, many people are fluently speaking Russian, especially in Slavic countries

Brussels is the bilingual capital of Belgium with a total percentage of 15% Dutch-speaking population

10% of the populace of the province of Quebec, are English-speaking while 35% people in the province of New Brunswick, Canada are French-speaking majority of the population in sub-Saharan Africa is bi- or trilingual

Many Koreans living in Japan speak both Korean and Japanese

All the facts and figures stated above supported the idea of bilingualism or knowing a foreign language. Bilingualism or being adept with a particular foreign language is considered as a phenomenon distinct to the many members of population all over the world. This is having a first language and then eventually learning any second language used in many different purposes. Many tried learning their second language in their developmental years such as during their high school years or even during their college years. There are also others who encourage their sons and/or daughters to learn second language during the child's infant years.

Is it really beneficial to teach an infant with a foreign language?

Knowing a Foreign Language

Being adept with a foreign language or a second language (L2) or being bilingual offers various concepts and information that needs to be deeply understood. For one, many linguists have distinguished various types of bilingual competence, which are roughly being put into the following categories (http://www.wordiq.com/definition/Bilingual,2004):

Coordinate bilingualism - refers to the linguistic elements, such as words and phrases, in the speaker's mind that are all related to their own unique concepts. That means that a French individual with English as his second language could possibly have a different associations for 'chien' and for 'dog'. This type of bilingual speaker usually belongs to different cultural communities that do not frequently interact. These speakers are known to use very different intonation and pronunciation features, and seldom assert the feeling of having different personalities attached to each of their languages.

Compound bilingualism - this refers to the speakers who are reported to have less extreme differences in their pronunciations. Such speakers are often found in minority language communities, or amongst fluent L2-speakers.

Subordinate bilingualism - this is the category wherein the linguistic elements of one of the speaker's languages are only available through elements of the speaker's other language. This type is typical of, but not restricted to, beginning L2-learners.

Coordinate and compound bilinguals are reported to have a higher cognitive proficiency, and are found to be better L2-learners at a later age, than monolinguals. The early discovery that concepts of the world can be labeled in more than one fashion puts those bilinguals in the lead. There is, however, also a phenomenon known as distractive bilingualism. When acquisition of the first language is interrupted and insufficient, or unstructured language input follows from the second language, as often happens with immigrant children, the speaker can end up with two languages both mastered below the monolingual standards. (http://www.wordiq.com/definition/Bilingual,2004).

Advantages Knowing a Foreign Language

Learning a foreign language is proven to be advantageous. It does not only allow an individual to know and be familiar with another language, but it also enable one to communicate with many other interesting people around the globe, and travel a country or even a continent with so much ease. It is also a great skill creating paths to many jobs and employment. An individual becomes unquestionably more "marketable" if he/she uses two languages. Furthermore, learning a second language also increases cultural sensitivity, and also their own. It would also develop better grammar skills in English, with the awareness of gender, word placements, and lexical indifferences, among others (Davis and Keyser).

Meanwhile, there are also significant reviews which states that having two languages provides benefits to one's psychological state. A research by Dr. Kenji Hakuta from Stanford University shows that people who speak more than one language have a greater ability to understand and analyze concepts because they have more than one language system to rely on. Being fluently bilingual increases our access to multiple perspectives and ways of life in an international, multicultural society (Davis, and Keyser).

Contrary to the above stated advantages, there are still some myths which have sprouted that are seemingly arguing with this. Below are some of the most common myths regarding learning a foreign language and the corresponding arguments towards it (http://www.nethelp.no/cindy/myth.html,2004):

Learning two languages confuses a child and lowers his intelligence. There was an old study done primarily in the United States which claimed that they have acquired enough evidences showing that bilinguals had lower intelligence than monolinguals. But recent researchers have found several loopholes on the said study. The most obvious flaw is that the bilingual children were recent immigrants, with poorer knowledge of English and more stressful life situations than their monolingual counterparts. Newer studies with more careful controls have shown that bilinguals are better at some specific tasks, such as language games, but that otherwise the differences between bilinguals and monolinguals are negligible.

A child should learn one language properly first; then you can start teaching the other. Like the first myth, this is an old belief which was also based on flawed research. Children who learn two languages in a loving, supportive environment learn them both well. In fact, children who learn two languages in a stressful environment may have language development problems - but so will children learning only one language in that same sort of environment.

A child who learns two languages won't feel at home in either of them. He or she will always feel caught between two cultures. Relatives, friends and strangers will often caution about the "identity problems" children may develop if their parents insist on maintaining a bilingual home. The children, they believe, will grow up without strongly identifying with either of the languages and, therefore, the groups that speak them. However contrary to this belief, adults who, themselves, have grown up bilingual, reported that they never had problems knowing what groups they were a part of. Some even find this concern to be rather bizarre. Moreover, children who feel accepted by both their cultures will identify with both.

Bilinguals have to translate from their weaker to their stronger language. This is very untrue. The overwhelming majority of bilinguals can think in either of their two languages. They do not, as some monolinguals assume, think in one language only and immediately translate into the other language when necessary.

Children who grow up bilingual will make great translators when they grow up. Yes, this could be very advantageous but, honestly speaking there is no significant evidence showed that bilinguals are good at translating, nor have any studies shown that growing up bilingual gives one an advantage or a disadvantage over those who became bilingual as adults when it comes to translating. There are many other skills involved, and bilinguals, just like monolinguals, are too different to allow for easy generalizations.

Real bilinguals never mix their languages. Those who do are confused 'semi-linguals'. Bilinguals sometimes "mix" their languages, leading monolinguals to wonder if they are really able to tell them apart. Usually, the problem is not genuine confusion - that is, inability to tell the languages apart. Many, if not most, bilingual children will use both languages at once during the early stages of their language development. Semi-lingualism is a far more serious, and relatively rare, situation that occurs when a child in a stressful environment is trying to learn two or more languages with very little input in any of them.

Bilinguals have split personalities. Some bilinguals do report feeling that they have a different "personality" for each language. However, this may be because they are acting according to different cultural norms when speaking each of their languages. It is important to note that the change in language cues a change in cultural expectations.

Bilingualism is a charming exception, but monolinguals rule the world.

No accurate survey of the number of bilinguals in the world has ever been taken; for fairly obvious practical reasons, it is likely none ever will be. But it is very reasonable to guess that over half the world's population is bilingual.

Learning a Foreign Language While Young

Learning two languages is proven to be beneficial. But learning this during the early childhood years (or even during infancy years) is even more beneficial.

There is a famous saying which says that "One cannot teach an old dog with new tricks." This goes the same in learning a foreign language. It said that being adept with a foreign language could be very beneficial, so how can one person take good advantage of those benefits if will not be using that on a long time basis? Hence, to maximize the usage of the learned foreign language, one should have… [END OF PREVIEW]

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