Bilingualism is the ability to speak two different languages fluently. Research has shown that bilingualism is important in the modern world because of globalization, which has led to rapid immigration (Cenoz & Genesee, 2001). In many cases, children learn one language from their parents, and the other language at school.
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For example, many children learn their native language at home and another language such as English or French at school. Bilingual language acquisition takes place in two main ways that include simultaneous acquisition and successive acquisition (Cenoz & Genesee, 2001). In each of these ways, language acquisition is largely determined by certain factors such as age and comprehension of another language.
Simultaneous acquisition takes place when a child learns two languages immediately after birth, or when the child learns a second language before attaining the age of three (Houwer, 2009). In contrast, successive acquisition takes place when a child learns a second language after establishment of a first language. Simultaneous acquisition is more advantageous because children go through the same stages of development similar to stages undergone by children who learn a single language (Cenoz & Genesee, 2001).
However, it is different in the case of successive acquisition. Children usually experience ‘nonverbal” periods during which they try to understand the second language (Houwer, 2009). Age is an important factor that determines the length of the nonverbal period in children. Younger children go through shorter periods compared to older children.
Simultaneous bilingualism usually occurs among children who are addressed in two different languages for long periods that allow for acquisition of both languages (Houwer, 2009). In such a case, children acquire both languages as first languages. In contrast, successive acquisition normally occurs when an individual travels to another country where the language used is unfamiliar (Troika, 2012).
Therefore, the second language is learned as a foreign language. On the other hand, it occurs when a child attends school and receives instructions through a language that is different from the one used at home (Houwer, 2009). Some therapists argue that simultaneous language acquisition is harmful to the cognitive development of children.
They argue that a child should learn one language first and a second one introduced only after the first one is spoken fluently (Troika, 2012). According to them, successive acquisition does not affect the cognitive development of children. However, the other group of therapists argues that simultaneous acquisition does not affect the cognitive development of children in any way.
Successive acquisition is similar to first language acquisition because a child learns the second language through analysis of rules and making errors. Research has shown that there are cases of language interference in simultaneous acquisition. This happens because of codeswithcing that involves using two languages in communication (Troika, 2012).
It mainly happens because of the need to emphasize something or due to lack of an appropriate word to use when using one of the languages. Research has also shown that the ability to acquire language is different in both cases. Simultaneous acquisition is more effective than successive acquisition.
Children who acquire a second language through successive acquisition are usually less fluent and less cohesive (Houwer, 2009). This is in contrast to simultaneous acquisition because both languages are acquired as first languages. In this case, children are more fluent and cohesive in their communication. They are able to express themselves fluently and without challenges.
In conclusion, simultaneous and successive second language acquisitions differ significantly. Simultaneous acquisition is similar to first language acquisition and both languages are acquired together. In contrast, successive acquisition occurs after complete acquisition of a first language. In addition, lack of fluency and cohesiveness is observed in successive acquisition while it is not observed in simultaneous acquisition.
Cenoz, J., & Genesee, F. (2001). Trends in Bilingual Acquisition. New York: John Benjamins Publishing.
Houwer, A. (2009). An Introduction to Bilingual Development. New York: Multilingual Matters.
Troika, M. (2012). Introducing Second Language Acquisition. London: Cambridge University Press.