The problem of language and methods of teaching languages can be considered one of the burning issues of contemporary society. Sometimes, children encounter difficulties in learning due to socioeconomic or sociopolitical situation in the country.
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However, more often children are treated differently at educational establishments because of their origin, native language, and language acquisition skills. In this respect, it is necessary to explore the current situation with treatment of bilingual children and their neighboring hostile representatives of monolingual community.
Means and methods of education and teaching bilingual children in different countries should be approached and analyzed. Bilingualism on a national level and bilingualism in terms of ethnic minorities facing discrimination should be treated differently in various cases. For instance, Romaine (1995) emphasizes the importance of cultural background in the process of language acquisition compared to mere language acquisition when no cultural criteria are addressed (p. 242).
The more children experience difficulties while learning cultural features of the language, the more hostile their monolingual classmates and neighbors become. In other words, the problem of discrimination of ethnic minorities in the sphere of education where children face linguistic insecurity while all students are taught in accordance with the concepts of prescriptivism should be solved.
When a problem exists, it should be solved in a corresponding manner taking into account the interests, beliefs, and values of all parties concerned. So, it is necessary to take into account the political powers and their vision of the situation in the educational sector, historic background and necessity of implementing changes, and social situation in the country regarding the demographic situation including migration policies and density of population in certain areas.
A general overview of bilingualism
Though there are many people in the world who are bilingual, they all have different reasons for that. Some people acquire a second language due to their religious beliefs whereas others may seek for a diploma in another language than the native one hence being educated in their second language (Romaine, 1995, pp. 30-33). In this respect, every individual can encounter necessity of acquiring a second language.
There are countries that have two or more national languages in order to provide their citizens with freedom in terms of the language to speak. Different measures are taken by the global community to protect certain minorities from discrimination and hostility. As a rule, these minorities are divided in accordance with their cultural, lingual, or racial differences with the majority of the same community. In other words, people have to adjust to the situation in order to enjoy equal rights with the majority population of the country or region.
The problem of bilingualism in education
Some children are treated as linguistically unsecured layers of society when they have to speak some other language than their native one. There are many reasons for children to acquire other languages. One of the reasons for children to acquire a second language concerns the migration tendencies and educational institutions that sometimes fail to adjust the learning environment to the needs of all minorities.
As reported by Swann (as cited in Fitzgibbons, 1996, p. 5), linguistic rights should be guaranteed to representatives of various minorities regardless of their status and native language. Students should be treated in accordance with their needs and legal rights concerning the language to speak and the language to acquire knowledge.
Sociolinguistics and Children
Features of language used with children
Children have to be taught in order acquire certain skills and knowledge. When the community fails to provide children with appropriate educational methods applied to children from different social and cultural layers, children start experiencing difficulties in terms of social skills used while communicating with other representatives of the international community. Language skills and an ability to shape the ideas using a second language mean a lot, especially for children.
So, children that speak a different language are often treated inappropriately and tutors use the wrong language with them concerning intonation and other features of the language usually used while talking to children. The more children are treated like adults, the more aggressive they may become towards those who treat them like that. In other words, children have to be treated respectively even finding themselves in an alien community with another language.
It is clear that some practices when language minorities faced discrimination “conjoined with nationalism and racism” (Dalby in Fitzgibbons, 1996, p. 10) can be observed in the contemporary community though with less activity. While adults can be treated in accordance with the rules and habits typical of some social layer, children are treated regardless of any rules by their peers and adults of monolingual society.
As reported by Dalby (in Fitzgibbons, 1996, p. 12), bilingualism can be regarded as a way of speaking to a certain group of people who do not belong to the native community. Thus, people have to learn different languages if they want others to understand them. However, this can be more difficult for children who are brought to another community and forced to acquire a second language for ordinary life.
Bilingual children in society
Some children have absolutely unique skills that provide them with a great variety of talents applicable to different sectors of human activity. While second language acquisition can be a real challenge for one child, another will not treat it as a problem because he/she is able to overcome all difficulties and feel the linguistic security as opposed to linguistic insecurity (Swann in Fitzgibbons, 1996, p. 4).
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Though many children need the second language as a method to communicate with other representatives of the local community, they may experience problems due to the lack of support and encouragement from behalf of tutors and absence of additional guidelines to follow in the process of second language acquisition.
As reported by Sebba (in in Fitzgibbons, 1996), there are many consequences of language contacts such as vocabulary and grammar borrowing, code switching, language convergence, pidginization, creolization, and language mixing (pp. 110-113).
As you can see, children can become active participants of language contacts process and contribute greatly to the hybridization of languages. Moreover, children can change languages after acquiring components of second language and adjusting its structure to the native one, habits of pronunciation, and other peculiar features that are usually used while mixing languages.
Bilingual children are likely to benefit from knowing more than one language but usually they are not treated equally to monolingual native speakers. In this respect, education can be one of the most productive ways of challenging the discrimination issues in society, especially when addressing children’s needs and interests.
Education for bilingual children
Some children encounter difficulties due to their monolingual origin after being moved from their habitual environment of their mother tongue to the rather hostile environment of educational institution where the majority of children speak another language.
As suggested in examples given in the study by Romaine (1995), children can be left in the monolingual majority of the class without any hints on how to act (245). These children encounter difficulties as a result of the immigration tendencies and absence of special conditions or additional tutorials for students that do not have extremely good knowledge of the second language.
A good example of transitional bilingualism aimed at assimilation of language minorities is “the provision made in the United States under the Bilingual Education Act for the education of children who have limited proficiency in English” (Romaine, 1995, p. 245). The more countries do to enable people enjoy equal rights, the less difficulties people experience in alien countries after having moved.
As reported by Dalby (in Fitzgibbons, 1996), “education is extremely effective and powerful in advancing use of the majority language as against those of minorities” (p.22). This means that children are forced to acquire the language of majority to be treated in accordance with the same rules and traditions applicable to the monolingual majority.
In other words, children are taught following the prescriptive doctrine and forced to acquire cultural features along with the linguistic ones. Educators use a great number of various mechanisms aimed at cultural and linguistic assimilation and language change provoked by the contact (Thomason in Fitzgibbons, 1996, pp. 84-96). So, children are doomed to overcome a number of measures approached to them to teach a second language.
Summary of discussion
Bilingualism can be considered one of the consequences of the globalization. However, the contact of different languages does not always result in bilingualism or multilingualism. More often, the bilingualism is the result of needs and interests of a person.
For instance, when children encounter necessity of acquiring second language, they can be encouraged and supported by the community members whereas more children are treated negatively due to tendencies in treating second language students all over the world. These tendencies should be explored in the further research as well as other interesting facts concerning the second language acquisition and methods of encouraging second language learners in different countries.
Recommendations for further research
Though this research can be considered rather effective, it is possible to include more evidence such as surveys by students of different age groups that encounter necessity of acquiring second language in order to be full-fledged members of the society they live in.
Moreover, some research on complexity of languages can be conducted in order to explore the attempts of people to acquire languages of different language groups. It would be interesting to learn the statistics of people that have to acquire different languages than their mother tongue for different reasons such as migration, job opportunities, economic and political conditions in the country and the world, and others.
Though some children are forced to acquire second language, some students willingly apply for the second language courses due to the necessity of applying language skills in the process of educating. In this respect, it is necessary to cover the sector of education and number of students who are not native speakers.
Romaine, S. (1995). Bilingualism. 2nd ed. Malden, Massachusetts: Wiley-Blackwell.
Fitzgibbons, N. (Ed.). (1996). Sociolinguistic. Montreal: University of Concordia.