Bilingual acquisition is a situation in which a child learns two languages right from birth. According to estimates, the number of children who are raised up speaking two languages may be as many as those who speak just one. It means that more and more of them are being brought up as bilinguals. In some cases, bilingual acquisition is necessary as the parents of a certain child may not be fluent in the dominant dialect spoken within the community. Hence, the child may be taught one language at home and the other at school. On the other hand, bilingualism can sometimes be a choice as parents wish their child to learn another dialect event if it is not their first language (Gass, 2013).
In recent times, researchers have been active in conducting studies on bilingual acquisition. Although all the findings are yet to be presented, more is known about the crucial aspects of bilingualism than before. Bilingual acquisition happens to be a rather complex process. Usually, a monolingual child learns language from his or her parents. By comparison, a bilingual child may also learn from grandparents, tutors, childcare workers, and playmates. The extent to which a bilingual child is exposed to his or her languages can also differ significantly. A good example is when the child learns one dialect from a parent working at home and another from a parent based away from home. Also, exposure to language can vary substantially over time if, say, a parent who teaches one of the dialects works in another city and is not available full time (Yang & Montrul, 2017).
There are two ways in which bilingual acquisition can occur. One is simultaneous acquisition that takes place when a child is taught two languages from birth. Another scenario is if the second dialect is introduced before the child is three years old. Children who learn two languages at the same time undergo similar developmental stages as those learning just one. While a bilingual child may begin talking marginally later than a monolingual one, both will still begin verbal activity within the normal range. Simultaneous bilinguals appear to pick up two distinct languages right from the time they start learning them. They can differentiate the two dialects and can switch from one to the other depending on who they are speaking to.
The other way is sequential acquisition, which takes place when a child begins to learn a second dialect after the first one has already been well-established. Generally, this occurs when the child is more than three years old. According to Kandhadai, Danielson & Werker (2014), children may go through sequential acquisition if their parents move to another area where there is a different first language. They can also experience it if they exclusively speak their mother tongue while at home and then enroll in school where teaching is done in another language.
It has been proven that bilingual people are more creative when compared to monolinguals, and are better at coming up with solutions to complex problems. Code-switching necessitates a lot of brain effort. An individuals brain has to selectively discriminate a certain dialect as he or she speaks another, when both are being used at the same time. Such a feat requires a significant amount of brain processing function. Children who learn more than a single language have to cope with higher demands for brain processing, a situation that increases brain activity. Such increment improves the brain system used for planning, problem solving, multi-tasking, focusing, and so on.
References Gass, S. M. (2013). Second Language Acquisition: An Introductory Course. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.
Kandhadai, P., Danielson, D. K., & Werker, J. F. (2014). Culture as a binder for bilingual acquisition. Trends in Neuroscience and Education, 3(1), 24-27.
Yang, C., & Montrul, S. (2017). Learning datives: The Tolerance Principle in monolingual and bilingual acquisition. Second Language Research, 33(1), 119-144.
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