This essay will demonstrate the research that is implemented on children with bilingual ability; discussing three main issues in bilingualism which is: the maintaining children’s first language, social and cognitive benefits, also why bilingualism should be in cooperated into school programming/curriculum.
Bilingualism can be defined as the ability to speak and/or write in two languages. In Australia English is the main language although in 1996, statistics show that 15% (2.5 million people) of the Australian population communicate in a language other than English at home and 42% of the population is born overseas (Australian Bureau Statistics, 1996). Most recently there are around 22 million Australians that speak in approximately 400 different languages (Australian Bureau Statistics, 2009). These statistics highlight the fact that there is an increasing rate of people who communicate in more than one language hence language is increasingly changing throughout society (Arthur, 2001). This suggests the need for support and understanding of bilingualism within children, families and the community.
It is important to maintain children’s home language as it may help them learn and understand a second language. Barratt-Pugh (2000) discusses the benefits of bilingualism and maintaining it through early childhood settings, also mentions the concerns families have for their children maintaining two languages through schooling. Research within the article states that children who speak more than one language will have a higher level of understanding literacy content, form, genre, as well as understand the differences and translating within both languages. This demonstrates a contrast of strengths and experiences with literacy (linguistic capital) (Breen et al., as cited in Beecher, Ashton, Diaz & Arthur, 2006/2007/2008/2009). Another article by Purcell, Lee, & Biffin (2006) explains that bilingualism can be defined as having knowledge in both languages equally or in most cases one language is used more than the other with greater competency. It then suggests that parents should maintain their home language with their children as learning their first language at home can benefit the child by making it easier for them to learn and better understand basic grammatical and linguistic rules of a second language. This also prevents the possibility for the child to lose the ability to speak their home language, as it should be supported and consolidated at home by the family.
Respecting and recognising children’s bilingual abilities can be socially and cognitively beneficial for young children. Vygotsky (as cited in Garton, 1992) main theory is that speech is derived from social influences then advocates cognitive and linguistic development although, Gee (1996) argues that the assimilation of language is contextual to social, cultural and historical backgrounds this is called ‘sociocultural’; which influences a deeper and meaningful understanding of...