Language can be compared to a living organism, which is usually born, it grows and eventually dies. It can be considered a human faculty because it co-evolves with human beings. In fact, it the human beings who give language its life and may change it as they desire or even abandon it (Li Wei, 2007, p.3). All these changes occurring in language depend on the aspect of language contact, which refers to a situation where people that speak different languages meet each other. The meeting or the interaction may be due to different reasons including political, educational, economical, religious, cultural, or any other reason that may necessitate the interaction of different people, regardless of their languages. This results in bilingualism or multilingualism.
Bilingualism does not refer to a phenomenon of a language; rather, it refers to the features of its use (Mackey, 1962). It refers to a specific language behavior. Bilinguals are not different from the monolinguals. In fact, it is only possible to differentiate them by observing the way they use languages.
Bilingualism can be viewed from a societal viewpoint. For example, one may seek to find out why different languages have different status. It can also be viewed from an individual viewpoint. Here, one may seek to understand how bilingualism may influence the mental growth and intellectual development of individuals. Similarly, there are different approaches to bilingualism. These include linguistics, psychology, sociology, and neurology perspectives. Despite the manner in which we view or approach it, bilingualism is of great importance to us. In fact, bilingualism is becoming the norm in today’s world.
A bilingual can be defined in various ways. Despite the definition used, a bilingual must demonstrate the ability to use at least more than one language to communicate. It may be at the family level, in education institutions, in business, the person may be a translator or at work. Despite the age and other variables, researchers have defined a bilingual to be someone possessing two languages. However, it also includes those people with the ability to use more than two languages, regardless of the degree of their proficiency. According to the lecture 2 note, one in every three people in the world is able to use two or more languages in their daily activities.
Bilingualism has a relationship with biculturalism. This is brought about by the fact that language is closely attached to culture. Therefore, a bilingual person has the ability of successfully holding two or more cultural identities.
There are various points emerging from the reading. According to the reading, one is able to realize that some of the factors that are contributing to the growth of bilingualism are the heightened diversity and multiculturalism in the world. These factors have been brought about by the need for globalization. The two major areas where globalization is playing a significant role are education and business. There has been an increase in international education as well as trade. These have encouraged cultural diversity hence growth of bilingualism.
The other issue arising from the reading
is that various key variables affect bilingualism. These include age and the
manner in which one acquires the languages. Statistics have shown that children
who grow up learning or hearing two or more different languages find it easier
to use the languages compared to people who learn it at older ages. The other
factors include the proficiency level in these languages, the domains of using
the languages, and self-identification as well as attitude. These factors
define the strengths of individuals in use of bilingualism.
Mackey, W. F., 1967. Language teaching analysis, Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Li, Wei. (2007). The Bilingualism Reader: London : Routledge.