Monday, 2 April 2012

B is for Bilingualism

B is for Bilingualism. I chose this because I'm currently studying for my elementary bilingual teacher certification. I could write about so much here; bilingual education in general, what constitutes bilingual, how do you become bilingual... so much to delve into, and by no means enough time or space. But, I would like to relate it as much to myself as possible.
In my opinion, and probably everyone else, bilingualism means to be completely fluent in both languages, as if they were both native to you. This is not the case for me. I learned my second languages as foreign languages. The best chance someone has to be bilingual is to learn both languages together, while growing up. Both should then progress more or less at the same rate, in all areas, such as reading, writing, comprehension etc. This would be the goal, and this is possible with a good support system. As I did not grow up in this environment, I will always have to work hard with accent, comprehension, learning new words, and the like. Even a bilingual person will need to practise both languages equally. I see bilingual adults forgetting the language they use the least. Use it or lose it. But to have that opportunity to learn more than one language as a child is precious. It just really needs the structure and support of a great education, great teachers, and phenomenal parents. Otherwise, the child will end up lost and confused with a jumbled up mess of both languages. Unfortunately, I see this quite regularly.
I remember students from university who spoke 5, even 6 languages. They were lucky to live in countries where more than one language is common, and also have that support system in place. Furthermore, someone, or something somewhere inspired them to learn more, study more. I also remember other people who may not have been brought up in a multilingual environment, but they tried and tried, and practised and practised, and with their continuous efforts they managed to become bilingual or as close as possible to bilingualism. I admire these people immensely.
Even just to speak another language is like entering another person's world. All of their language intricacies, differences, accents and irregularities amaze me; what is natural to them is awkward and strange to me. Languages can be as deep and complex as a Greek philosopher's mind, so to master even part of it really is quite an achievement.
Bilngualism truly is quite an achievement. It takes a lot of work for both children and adults to acquire such skills, and it can help train the brain to become stronger and faster. It just by no means occurs naturally and will not work without dedication and a strong support system.


  1. I work with two women who are truly and naturally bilingual. They originally came from Mexico and grew up speaking both, like you stated. They can slip so easily and effortlessly from Spanish to English. I admire and envy them. ~ Barbara
    Life & Faith in Caneyhead

    1. Yes, I know several people like this. They are lucky to have had the opportunity to do this.

  2. Bilingualism is a wonderful thing. Sadly, unless it's taught, or spoken in the home, it doesn't seem to happen in the US. I tried learning other languages in High School and College, but never really went past "emergency" speaking, (ie, where's the bathroom?)



    1. Thanks for the comment. And that's exactly what I mean by a strong support system; basically a family which supports both languages and opportunity for children to learn both while they are young and their minds are like sponges.