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

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

11
The Effects of Bilingual and Bicultural Experiences on Children's Attitudes and Social Perspectives

W. E. Lambert McGill University

Attitudes are related to second language learning and bilingualism in various ways. What little we know about this relationship thus far comes from both commonsense observations and behavioral research, and usually common sense and research are mutually supportive. For instance, it makes good sense to expect that a favorable attitude toward another ethnolinguistic group should affect positively one's acquisition of that group's language, and research findings generally support this expectation (see Clément, Gardner, & Smythe, 1977; Gardner, 1982; Gardner & Lambert, 1972; Gardner & Smythe, 1975). What goes beyond common sense are the details of how attitudes affect motivation-tolearn and how it in turn affects the language acquisition process. To understand these important complexities we have to rely on elaborate research, and thus research, more than common sense, produces instructive, often unexpected information. On the other hand, common sense, more than research, gives a direction and purpose to research. For instance, it reminds us that people sometimes master an "enemy's" language, an example where the attitudes involved are anything but friendly and open. Research has to explain the complexities of both extremes, that is, explain how attitudes and motivation-to-learn sometimes function quite independently of one another and other times quite interdependently (see Gardner, 1981; Gardner, Glicksman, & Smythe, 1978). It is also true that research can stimulate common sense. For instance, in reviewing various earlier research findings, Genesee, Rogers, and Holobow ( 1982) were led to a new set of questions about attitudes and language learning. They realized that a learner's motivation might be only one determiner of rate and level of achievement in learning a new language; the learner's expectations of receiving or not receiving motivational support from the other group could be a separate and

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