Bilingualism and Second Language Learning Presentation.

The following notes are from the presentation made to primary parents by Jackie
Holderness on Tuesday 25th January 2005. The session was attended by over 50 parents
from both the Anglophone and German sections. For further information about Jackie
Holderness and her background and training please click here.

Items in grey added by Jennie Wilson, Primary Coordinator.

                                    Jackie Holderness

Presentation Objectives:
    What it means to be bilingual
    The challenges of a bilingual learning environment for students and teachers
    The role of parents

Three main stages of Bilingual development:
   1) The child builds up a list of words, with words from both languages, but concepts
      are rarely present with translation.

   2) Words from both languages are used together in early sentences “Une big bird in
      the ciel..” However, the mixing of the two languages decreases, during the pre-
      school years, eg 30% of the sentences contained mixed language at the beginning
      of a child‟s 3rd year. By the child‟s 4th year, it had declined to 5%.

   3) As vocabulary grows in each language translations occur. Children become aware
      that there are two (or more) separate languages. Each language is attached to the
      people who speak it and the child may not appreciate it when the speakers step
      out of their language boxes!

   However, grammatical rules are conflated so the acquisition, understanding
   and application of separate rules takes longer.
   (Adapted from Crystal: 1987)

Being bilingual:

There are various kinds of bilingualism :

Subtractive, where a learner‟s mother tongue suffers by taking a lower status to L2
Additive, where becoming bilingual is seen as positive
Simultaneous bilingualism involves two languages from birth
Sequential bilingualism means L2 is learned after L1 is, at least orally established.
However the two languages start, it is likely, by the end of an international school career,
that most children will speak at least two languages, including English, fluently enough
to claim balanced bilingualism.
Elite bilingualism is where both languages enjoy high international status. Many
international schoolchildren evolve as elite bilinguals.
The benefits of bilingualism apply whether or not the two or more languages have high
international status.

With 5,000 languages and fewer than 200 countries, it is clear that bilingualism is more
common than monolingualism. However, less than 25% of countries give official
recognition to 2 languages. And only 6 countries recognize 3 or more languages.

EFL: English as a Foreign Language ESL ; English as a Second Language
ESOL : English as a Second or Other Language ; EAL: English as an Additional
Language LOTE: Language Other Than English ; ELL: English Language Learner
FLE Français Langue Etrangère

L1 means Language 1- the child‟s „mother tongue‟ language
L2 means language 2.
L1 and L2 still apply even when children grow up as simultaneous bilinguals.

Bilingual pedagogy:
Mainstream educationalists whose theories of learning have been influential in the
development of bilingual pedagogy include :

   Bruner for his work on the link between higher order language functions and
    thinking and learning skills.

   Vygotsky for work on language and conceptual development, socially constructed
    knowledge and 'zone of proximal development.'

   Maslow for recognizing the importance of socio-cultural factors; all children need to
    feel safe and valued in order to learn. They need a sense of belonging.

It has been proposed (Alexander: 2000) that self-concept is the most important learning
outcome of our schooling.

BASIS Model (Alistair Smith, 1996)

B- elonging A- spirations S- afety I- dentity S- uccess

Bilingual education

       TYPE I programme: Language 1 as medium of instruction, eg Maori in New
        Zealand. Language as preservation…
       TYPE 2 programme: national minority language which has official status in
        society , eg Gaelic/Catalan/Welsh/French in Canada
     Language as conservation/political force…..
    TYPE 3 programme: international minority language programmes, eg . Spanish in
     US, for immigrants and Spanish heritage students also Turkish in Germany
     Language as conservation……
    TYPE 4 programme: Bilingualism and biliteracy for majority language students,
     eg French immersion in Canada, European schools, I.B.schools, Dual language
                       (Cummins: 1996: Negotiating Identities: page 101)

Myths and misconceptions:
   Learning two languages means one becomes proficient in neither.
   It is better to start reading in L1 than L2.
   It doesn‟t matter when one learns a second language.
   Both parents should stop speaking L1 in order to help the child develop L2.
   Any kind of bilingual education is better than monolingual.

These myths were addressed during the talk and it was pointed out that there is no
evidence to support any of them.

The bilingual brain:
Interestingly, 85% of what we know about the brain has been learned in the last 15 years.
The new MRI scan technology has enabled us to reach new understandings about the
brain in operational activity. Joy Hirsch and her colleagues in New York studied early
and late bilinguals and discovered that the early bilinguals‟ brains were constructed or
“hard-wired” differently from the later bilinguals. A common area of language seemed to
exist which was shared by the two languages. In later bilinguals the two languages were
more distinct and separate.

All bilinguals start with the language they hear inside the womb. Babies react favourably
to the mother‟s language tones and intonations because they are most familiar with them.

By 1, babies have already forged 50,5000 neural pathway connections
By 2, they have more than adult!
By adolescence, they have half the synapses of a 2 year old.

Much evidence exists that bilinguals do very well academically. The greater mental
flexibility found in bilinguals transfers to other learning so it could be claimed that
bilingualism is good for the brain!

Ricciardelli (1992) reviewed 24 studies of bilinguals and found that in 20 of these
bilinguals performed at higher levels than monolinguals, in both convergent and
divergent thinking.
Several studies also suggest that syntactic and phonological awareness and
communicative sensitivity are better developed in bilinguals.
Research into bilingual education:
There has been a great deal of research over the past 2 decades into the development of
young bilinguals – international, national, and local including classroom based action
research. This has resulted in the development of a number of important theories,
principles and knowledge that underpin bilingual pedagogy.
Internationally, the work of Jim Cummins and Stephen Krashen has been particularly
influential in the development of pedagogy.

Afrikaans/English (Malherbe: 1946- South Africa):
Malherbe studied 19,000 students and concluded that bilingual students did at least as
well in each language as those instructed in only Afrikaans or only English. This
suggested an interdependence principle, where second-language learning skills are
facilitated by skills already developed in the first language.

Bilingualism in minority contexts: eg Fishman, USA (1967-1991); Skutnabb-Kangas:
Finland (1977-1987); Cummins, Canada (1980-2000) ;Hakuta (1986); Romaine (1988-
Skutnabb – Knagas and Toukammaa (1976) argued that there is a direct relationship
between a child‟s L1 competence and the child‟s L2 competence.
Hakuta (1986) reminded us that the relationship between bilingualism and intelligence is
complex and cannot be separated from the social circumstances of the two languages and
the child‟s home context.

Thomas and Collier: USA:
In 1995, ( USA ) Thomas and Collier‟s conducted a longitudinal study with 42,000
students. Successful bilingual programmes are dual language, developmental and reflect
high expectations of students.

The characteristics are:
    integrated schooling, with L1 and L2 speakers learning each other‟s languages
    equal status for languages
    close home-school links and parental involvement
    staff development “emphasising whole language, natural language acquisition
       through all content areas, co-operative learning, interactive and discovery
       learning, cognitive complexity for all proficiency levels.”

The data reviewed clearly imply
    that bilingualism and biliteracy should be promoted for all students
    bilingual instruction should place a strong emphasis on developing literacy in the
       minority language.

River Glen, USA (Christian et al : 1997):
60% of English L1 students were fluent in Spanish at the end of Grade 1. But by the end
of grade 5, 100% of the English L1 students were fluent and they had all caught up to
grade norms in Spanish reading as well.
French immersion: Canada (Peal and Lambert 1962):
French immersion students who had two thirds of their instruction in French performed in
English tests as well as students who had all their instruction in English.

The work of Jim Cummins: Canada:
Cummins, the Canadian educationalist and researcher, has developed useful theories and
models, which help us to look at the interplay between language development and the
cognitive and academic domain.
Cummins adapted the metaphor of an iceberg to distinguish between basic interpersonal
communicative skills and cognitive and academic language proficiency (BICS and CALP
for short). All children develop conversational skills first, in face to face, contextualised
situations, but take longer to develop academic language. The distinction between these 2
types of language and their rates of development is now recognised in the UK OFSTED
framework for inspecting schools with bilingual pupils.

Cummins‟s work also highlights the important role of the first language in the child‟s
                                    Common Underlying
learning and in their acquisition of additional languages. Those who have developed
CALP in their first language can transfer much of this learning to additional languages.
Children who move into a new language environment at an early age can benefit
enormously if they are given opportunities to continue to develop their first language
alongside L2, using both languages for cognitively demanding tasks.

Bilingual learners face two main tasks in school: they need to learn L2 and they need to
learn the content of the curriculum. These tasks must proceed hand in hand. The vast
majority of children learn their first language successfully at home. Children learning an
additional language in a classroom are learning under conditions that are significantly
different. Learning a language is more than just learning vocabulary, grammar and
pronunciation. Children need to use all these appropriately for a whole range of real
purposes or functions, functions they will need to perform in order to „do‟ Maths,
Science, History etc. such as questioning, analysing, hypothesising which are clearly
linked to thinking and learning skills.

A framework, of Academic Expertise (2004) proposes the need for maximum cognitive
engagement and maximum identity investment on the part of students. This framework is
based upon the notion of Multiliteracies pedagagy, from the new London group at
Harvard University. This is a constructivist approach aimed to develop learning for deep
understanding. Multiliteracies pedagogy aims to embrace two phenomena which affect
literacy: globalisation and 21st century technology.

Language Policy across the Curriculum: New Zealand:
Research at Richmond Road School illustrated that a whole school policy and language
teaching across the curriculum was beneficial. A useful website about New Zealand‟s
experiences and bilingualism in general is to be found on the NZ ministry of education
site concerning the Pasifika project. (www.

EAL/bilingual research : UK:
Research undertaken in the UK on behalf of the DfES or OFSTED has looked at:
       how well children from ethnic minority backgrounds are actually doing in our
       the most effective ways of managing support and the characteristics of effective
        schools: OFSTED (2001)
       The language and literacy skills of bilingual learners: See also the work of Eve
        Gregory and Tony Cline

Teaching Strategies to help ESL and bilingual students access the content of the
Teachers can support children‟s bilingual education if they:
 Refer to students‟ experience
 Give prior warning re topics so students can research them at home, in L1
 Supply key words
 Check textbooks for language problems
 Check student is familiar with genre of text and knows how to “read” the genre
 Simplify wording on board/ worksheets
 Overtly teach language forms and structures as well as vocabulary
 Use small co-operative learning groups
 Differentiate outcomes
 Support oral with written form
 Provide practical demonstration
 Use diagrams and videos
 Make the question formats simpler
 Repeat instructions
 Provide model answers
 Use concept questions to check understanding
 Explain vocabulary
 Be sure whether any assessment is testing content and not merely language, unless
    that is the goal.
Jackie spent a day visiting the bilingual classes at both St. Martin and Haut
Sartoux. Classroom observations revealed that the use of the above teaching
strategies is high in both schools.

Teaching English as a Second or Other Language:

NALDIC, National Association of Language Development in the Curriculum
                 A poem: from Search for my tongue by Sujata Bhatt

“You ask me what I mean

by saying I have lost my tongue,

I ask you, what would you do

If you had two tongues in your mouth,

And lost the first one, the mother tongue,

And could not really know the other,

the foreign tongue.

You could not see them together,

Even if you thought that way.

And if you lived in a place you had to

Speak a foreign tongue,

Your mother tongues would rot in your mouth

Until you had to spit it out

But overnight while I dream,

It grows back, a stump of a shoot

Grows longer, grows moist, grows strong veins,

It ties the other tongue in knots,

The bud opens, the bud opens in my mouth,

It pushes the other tongues aside.

Every time I think I‟ve forgotten,

I think I‟ve lost the mother tongue,

It blossoms out of my mouth.”
Questions asked by parents attending the presentation in Sophia Antipolis:

Two main themes emerged from the questions parents wanted to ask.
I have answered them only in brief here. However, I hope that the answers, together with
the notes which follow and an opportunity to access New Zealand Ministry of Education
website ( ) I mentioned in my talk will shed some further
insights on the issues raised.

1) Bilingualism and Bilingual education:

     What is unique to bilingual education?
The opportunity not just to learn one’s mother tongue and another language, but to learn
a subject or subjects through two languages, so that one is EDUCATED to think, read
and write across the curriculum, in both tongues.
In many schools, a few subjects are taught through a second language but a truly 50:50
bilingual programme is somewhat rarer.

    How can students in bilingual education be best taught?
The best bilingual teachers will work together, respect each other’s approaches and
appreciate that they have a duty to nurture both cultures and languages of the school,
while also, in some cases, supporting a child’s development in their mother tongue,
which may not be one of languages taught in school.

A 50:50 dual language model of bilingual education, such as has evolved at this school,
ensures that the children grow up to be “balanced bilinguals” with both languages
enjoying an equal status in their lives.

What is essential is that the stakeholders in the process, the children, parents and staff
appreciate that it is more than simply LEARNING AND LIVING IN TWO LANGUAGES
best bilingual education prepares children to access two cultures as well as two higher
education possibilities.

       Is there a recommended approach to learning to read? Is one language first
        better than two languages in parallel?
Later bilinguals who come to reading in their second language after they have mastered
reading in L1 can apply their knowledge of reading and transfer their skills. However,
Jim Cummins, who has studied bilingual education for many years, has said that he
thinks the order of acquisition of reading skills may be less significant than the quality of
the teaching and the overall learning experience.
Where the writing systems are similar, as with French and English, most children will
find that reading skills in one language reinforce those learned in the other language.
Where directionality and alphabet are different, as with Chinese and English, there will
be fewer similarities but children still manage to operate both written systems and
become literate in both.

      Is it true that “at 11 years old bilingual kids have a lower level of in French
       and Maths” than non-bilingual children?
If a child has learned in two languages from school entry age, they should have had 5 or
6 years of dual ,language education by the time they are 11. This should mean that they
have developed what Cummins calls CALP (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency)
so they should be at similar stages of development and cognitive potential in both
languages. CALP can take from 5-7 years to develop, whereas BICS (Basic
Interpersonal Communicative Skills) may take less than 2 years.

However, the quoted observation embedded in the question, may be true if one is
measuring the child by French-designed and French–medium tests which may contain
specific and unfamiliar items of vocabulary or which may require particular methods of

Because the child has been spending 50% of their time learning about English
vocabulary and learning 50% of their curriculum knowledge through English, the 11
year-old bilingual child may not yet have as wide a vocabulary range in French.
However, the child has a great many transferable skills and is likely to out-perform the
monolingual French child on linguistic agility tasks. It must also be remembered that the
child probably has a wider cultural base and can already operate successfully in more
than one language, across the curriculum.

In Maths, where 50% of the Maths curriculum is learned through English, the bilingual
child may not write out a calculation in a certain way or manage verbal mathematical
problems as easily as a 100% Francophone student. However, they are likely to out-
perform the monolingual child on cognitively challenging non-verbal reasoning tasks and
in tasks which require convergent or divergent thinking. By the age of 18, most studies
would suggest that students who are bilingual reflect higher standards of academic
achievement than monolinguals.

     Is there an influence on general academic performance in bilingual children?
As the above answer indicates, research evidence has consistently shown that most
bilingual children have better communicative sensitivity, phonological and syntactic
awareness and regularly out-perform monolinguals in standardised tests (Riccardielli
(1992) reviewed bilingual research and found this to be true for 20 out of the 24 studies.

     What about bilingualism and dyslexia?
Some schools decide to “protect” children with specific learning difficulties, such as
Dyslexia, and encourage them to follow a monolingual education. Whilst this seems to
make logical sense, if a dyslexic child comes form a bicultural and biliterate family,
should we really limit them to just one of their parents’ cultures? Yes, the dyslexic child
will find it hard to process written language but how are we to know which language and
culture will offer the child the better future? Instead, parents and teachers need to look
for ways to help the child develop reading strategies which will benefit them in both
languages. Instead of limiting the child’s options, we need to ensure there is adequate
special needs support, suitable resources and appropriate guidance for parents, in both
languages and from both teachers.

2) Trilingualism:
    What is the difference between bilingualism and trilingualism?
Vygotsky, the Russian psychologist, proposed that learning that one’s Mother Tongue
was only one arbitrary system out of several gave bilingual children a unique linguistic
awareness. This then would make learning subsequent language learning easier.

       How fast would you introduce a third language to bilingual kids at home?
        And how?
Children soon come to understand that different people speak different languages to
different people and even in particular places. They learn to code switch accordingly.
For example, the Russian grandmother speaks Russian but no English. The father speaks
English but no Russian, so the family mostly uses French at home, because the family is
living in France. When Russian, English or French is used it is for a real reason.
If, however, the third language is being introduced for its own sake, without any natural
context, it may be sensible to wait until the child has mastered literacy in the first two
languages and has clearly understood them as systems. A third system can then be added,
using the child’s already well-developed meta-linguistic awareness.
The most enjoyable and meaningful way to introduce language to children is to use the
same approaches as are used by mothers when they teach their mother tongue. For
example, children learn vocabulary and syntax most effectively through picture books,
stories, rhymes, guessing games, nonsense and word play and role play.
Stephen Krashen suggested that the most useful resource for parents to use with
bilingual children was books; books in the two (or more) languages the children are
learning to speak; books which the parents can share with their children.

       Should a mother speak her mother tongue and another language to her
By using her Mother Tongue, a mother passes on more than just a language. There will
always be a naturalness and intimacy connected with this Mother Tongue. Arnberg
recommends that a bilingual couple speak to the children , where possible, in their own
language. This will hopefully lead to the child benefiting from early and balanced
In the early years, the child would probably prefer the mother to speak only one language
to the child itself. David Crystal points out how annoyed children can become when a
parent speaks to the child in a different language from the usual ones used in exchanges.

        How can we re-introduce a third language (my husband’s mother tongue)
         which my husband stopped speaking at home some years ago, in order to
         reinforce the children’s French vocabulary?
Languages can be picked up again wherever there is a purpose and a need to
communicate. The father could suggest that he will use his Mother Tongue on certain
days of the week and he will try to teach the family a few phrases and words. On those
nights, pictures books will be read (and simultaneously translated by the father, if
necessary!) in his language. Gradually, the children will become sensitised to the sounds
of his language and begin to learn how to say a few expressions. This can all be built up
by visiting relatives in his country of origin and by introducing the written language once
the child is a confident reader and writer in the other two languages.
BOOKLIST:        (We hope to make these books available in the school library soon).

   Arnberg L (1987) Raising Children Bilingually. Multilingual Matters.

   Baker C (1995) A Parent’s and teacher’s guide to Bilingualism. Multilingual Matters

   Baker C and Prys Jones S (1998) An Encyclopaedia of Bilingual Education and

    Bilingualism . Multilingual Matters

   Crystal, D. (1997, second ed) The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language. CUP

   Cummins J (1984) Bilingualism and Special Education : Issues in Assessment and

    Pedagogy. Multilingual Matters

   Cummins J and Swain M (1986) Bilingualism in Education. New York, London

   Cummins J (1996) Negotiating Identities: Education for empowerment in a diverse

    society. Ontario, California Association for Bilingual Education.

   Cummins.J. (2000) Language Power and Pedagogy: Bilingual Children in the
    Crossfire . Multilingual Matters
   De Meija A.M. (2002) Power, Prestige and Bilingualism. Clevedon, Multilingual


   Genesee F (Ed) (1994) Educating second language Children : the whole child, the

    whole curriculum, the whole community. CUP

   Gregory E. (1996) Making sense of a new world: Learning to read in two languages.
    Paul Chapman Publishing

   Lightbown P and Spada N (1993) How Languages are learned. OUP

   Macaro E (2001) Learning strategies in foreign and second language classrooms.


   Macaro E (2003) Teaching and Learning a second language.: A guide to recent

    research and its applications. Continuum

   Pinker, S (1994) The Language Instinct. New York, Harper Collins

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