Childhood Bilingualism: Aspects of Linguistic, Cognitive, and Social Development

By Peter Homel; Michael Palij et al. | Go to book overview

10
Social Psychological Barriers to Effective Childhood Bilingualism

Donald M. Taylor McGill University

The study of bilingualism, or more generally second language learning, has come a long way. That a number of serious controversies over the implications of bilingualism dominate the literature does not belie this assertion, for much pioneering groundwork is needed before different points of view surface and crystalize into important, recognizable issues. My own concern is with what I believe to be an understudied aspect of second language learning and effective bilingualism, that of social variables in general, and the intergroup context within which language learning takes place in particular.

This focus of concern is viewed as a natural outgrowth of the progression in the understanding of second language processes. The initial interest was on abilities and aptitudes ( Carroll, 1958, 1974; Carroll & Sapon, 1959) involving such variables as phonetic coding, grammatical sensitivity, memory, inductive learning, and, of course, the role of first language proficiency in second language learning.

Attention then shifted to attitudinal/motivational variables prompted by the initial and continuing work of Lambert, Gardner, and their associates ( Gardner, 1981; Gardner & Lambert, 1972). Included in this constellation of variables are attitudes toward the group speaking the second language, toward the language itself, and toward the instructional process. The motivational component includes the implications of instrumental, as opposed to integrative, reasons for learning a second language. Concomitant with the development of interest in these variables came questions about the cognitive and personality implications of bilingualism.

It would seem a natural extention to focus attention on the larger social context of intergroup relations and appreciate the role it may play for children

-183-

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