REACTION PAPER ABOUT BEING BILINGUAL 5
ReactionPaper about being Bilingual
ReactionPaper about Being Bilingual
DoraJohnson’s article “What does it mean to be bilingual?” talksabout bilingualism in length and highlights significant issuesregarding the topic. Most people, majorly in the U.S. are mostlybilingual. As much as individuals who are bilingual are considered tobe less populated, the truth is that individuals who are monolingualare the minority. Dora argues that while some people might thinkbeing proficient in one language is normal, three-quarters of peopleglobally are either bilingual or multilingual.
Accordingto Dora, bilingualism might mean different things. For example, itmight mean having the ability to speak different languages fluently,but not having the capacity to write one of them exceptionally. Also,it involves having the mastery of writing in various languages, butnot being eloquent or speaking one of them. She provides an example,on how on September 11, 2001, the government required people whocould speak both English and Arabic but still encountered challengeswhen some could not write both or one of the languages (Johnson,2006). Bilingualism happens early in life, but it can also be addedwhen a new language is learned later on in life. This can occureither in class or because you are in a new environment and the newlanguage is prevalent.
Forinstance, if you have the mastery of speaking two languages, it ispossible that you lose the ability to speak one of the languages.This is common when one is in a new environment, and the languagethat is spoken by the majority replaces the original language. Doracalls this subtractive bilingualism, which is usually witnessed amongimmigrant families (Johnson, 2006). Even though it is possible torelearn the original language after it has faded away, it requiressignificant devotion and effort. However, the learning process willbe much faster than for a person who starts learning the languagefrom scratch.
Inthe United States, immigrant families in language majority areas havestarted special programs to teach their native language after schooland during Saturdays so as to keep their language alive. According toDora dual language programs have been popularized in the U.S. asparents seek to retain their heritage among their children (Johnson,2006). It is evidently not automatic to remain bilingual in life.Thus, dual language education has become popular and has helped manypeople experience additive bilingualism. True to Dora’s article,people become bilinguals in different ways. In the United States ofAmerica, most bilinguals are immigrant’s families whereby childrengrow up speaking their parents’ language at the same time speakingEnglish at school (Rodman et al., 2004). It is also very common thata child who comes from a home where both parents speak differentlanguages becomes bilingual and exhibits a mastery of both languages.For instance, if a child is exposed to English and Spanish, it ispossible that the child will grow up to be fluent in the twolanguages.
Usually,it is harder to learn a second language as one grows older, but it ispossible. Most people who study linguistics believe that at the ageof birth and puberty, it is easier to learn a new language especiallythe one that somebody is frequently exposed to. In many countries,most people are bilingual or even multilingual. Taking an example ofIndia, a young child typically learns more than one language (Lehrer,2005). Similarly, in most European countries, children are encouragedto learn a second language, which is mostly English.
Amatter of concern is whether it is hard for children to know morethan two languages. If people are constantly speaking the language inthe presence of the child, then it is easy for the youngster to pickup the language and become good at it. It does not require anyexceptionally unique skill to become bilingual (Rodman et al., 2004).Surprisingly, some individuals think that it is not good for a childto learn more than one language. Nonetheless, it is highly beneficialto be bilingual or even multilingual. For instance, in children,being bilingual helps in enhancing a child’s cognitive development.It also helps children feel like they are not outsiders, especiallywhen they are in a new environment.
Atthe end of Dora Johnson’s article, she says that the U.S. is guiltyof discouraging immigrants from retaining their original languagewhen they come to the country (Rodman et al., 2004). She goes aheadto suggest that by doing so it is a national loss and that we shouldfind a way of encouraging it. I do agree with the writer on thebenefits of bilingualism to an individual. Additionally, I concurwith her assertion that the English language that is used in Americais not in the danger of being extinct anytime soon because it isdeeply established not only in the U.S., but also throughout theworld. In fact, no language holds more ground throughout the worldlike the English language does (Lehrer, 2005).
Thesad truth, however, is that as immigrants come from all over theworld to America, they might not be able to speak English. Thus, theymight want to retain their culture and heritage by means of keepingtheir language (Lehrer, 2005). However, their grandchildren and greatgrandchildren will eventually be native English speakers, and theymay end up not being conversant with their original mother tongue. Asa result, it is much easier for young children to learn anotherlanguage that it is for older people.
Inconclusion, bilingualism is a unique experience to every individualthat speaks two languages. The quality of exposure to a language andthe experiences that one has when interacting with others, greatlyinfluences one’s bilingualism abilities. Moreover, even jobopportunities for bilingual individuals are more compared to a personthat has proficiency in one language.
Johnson,D. (2006). Whatdoes it mean to be bilingual?In the five minute linguist edited by E.M. Rickerson and BarryHilton. London: Equinox Publishing Ltd.
Lehrer,M. (2005). DoesSpanish Threaten American English?Linguistic Society of America. Retrieved fromhttp://www.pbs.org/speak/seatosea/officialamerican/spanishthreat/
Rodman,R. et al. (2004). What does it mean to be bilingual? TheFive Minute Linguist.Retrieved fromhttp://web.archive.org/web/20101219070344/http://spinner.cofc.edu/linguist/archives/2005/11/what_does_it_me.html?referrer=webcluster&