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Language Processing In The Bilingual Brain

2344 words - 10 pages

With the rapid development of globalization, international business, and education in the last century, bilingualism has become a necessary skill in enabling communication across national borders and overcoming cultural differences. This social phenomenon has caused bilingual education to expand rapidly, and according to the Hanen Centre, the number of bilinguals today is equivalent to those of monolinguals. However, this leads to a fundamental question: how are bilinguals and monolinguals different in their thought process? In order to understand this distinction, this essay will respond to the question: discuss how the advantages and disadvantages of bilingualism reflect the ...view middle of the document...

There is indeed a possibility that their first speech may be delayed; regardless, this impact is often considered negligible, for these disadvantages falter quickly, and children soon learn to separate the two languages as they learn to switch from one language to another. On the contrary, children who learn with the latter undergo several stages; an expected effect, for they are only capable of communicating through their first language in the beginning, unlike the former type of bilinguals (“Bilingualism in Young Children”). The stages are shown in Table 1 below:

Stages of Sequential Acquisition:
Phase Description
Home language This indicates the child’s initial stage in which they are only able to communicate in their first language.
“Silent” or “Nonverbal” period This is the initial stage of language acquisition, in which the child attempts to communicate through gestures, and fewer words.
Phrases The child begins to apply memorized phrases in their speech.
Own words The child will eventually compose their own sentences.
Table 1: The table above displays the process that bilinguals who obtain language through sequential acquisition undergo when learning a new language.

Language acquisition is a significant impact affecting children’s bilingual experience, for these experiences are affected by the type of acquisition process; the way they learn a new language will directly affect their interactions among their peers and academic performance in school. In addition, these processes further lead to how information is stored and processed in the bilinguals’ memory, thus to the concept of compound and coordinate bilinguals, which will be discussed later in detail.

Language Processing in Bilinguals
Despite the fact that language acquisition has been examined through multiple investigations, language processing is still in question, though possible models have been proposed. These models are generally divided into two theories – the common store and separate store. Common memory stores refer to two languages being acquired in a single concept-based system “with a language tag attached to it”, demonstrating the interdependence between the languages, as supported in a study involving English-Spanish bilinguals (Hamers & Blanc 168); they “were instructed to recall the language of a stimulus in addition to the word itself, [and] they did this without errors” (Hamers & Blanc 170). The model is highly suitable in the explanation of what Bialystok mentions as compound bilinguals, for these types of bilinguals acquire language through concepts, generalizing and connecting instead of remembering based on language (101). In contrast, separate memory store points to the idea that languages are being stored individually as words rather than general ideas combining the two languages (Hamers & Blanc 168). This theory is appropriate for the description of coordinate bilinguals, whose memory is language-based as opposed to compound bilinguals (Bialystok...

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