Academic journal article European Journal of Social & Behavioural Sciences, The

Componential Differences and Varying Developmental Patterns Exhibited in Immersion Programmes

Academic journal article European Journal of Social & Behavioural Sciences, The

Componential Differences and Varying Developmental Patterns Exhibited in Immersion Programmes

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Although the effectiveness and significance of immersion programmes (IPs) have been well documented, some issues remain unresolved in the literature on bilingual education. One of them is the validity of the research paradigm on which most contemporary bilingual education programmes are based: the language-dominance framework primarily taken from the linguistic relativity hypothesis (LRH) (Cook, 2011). Bilingual educators in particular have customarily and traditionally focussed on linguistic properties while tacitly relying on the LRH and have accorded less attention to cognitive aspects in teaching settings. This widely accepted theme, however, is in distinct contrast to the anti-theme, which emphasises language-cognition links. Researchers who have focussed on these links have provided research evidence that questions the validity of the LRH paradigm and advances the anti-theme of an interaction of and interdependence between language and cognition (Evans, 2011; García & Nánez, 2011; Gathercole, 2011; Lucy, 2011). These findings have led them to recognise the significance of cognition in bilingual education (Cook, 2011).

In contrast to the LRH perspective, Vygotsky, as early as the 1930s, prioritised processes of concept formation (CF) as the core factor in language acquisition and explicated these processes in detail (Vygotsky, 1978, 1986, 1997). This theme is less discussed among Western applied linguists and bilingual education researchers. Directly related to CF processes, Vygotsky posited that 'words play a central role as the minimal units governing the relationship between language and thought' (1986). Contemporary bilingual education researchers also acknowledge the significance of CF as a determinant of second-language acquisition (Gathercole, 2011; Kroll & Sholl, 1992; Swoyer, 2011). However, only a few studies have referred to and explicated CF processes relative to bilingualism and bilingual education (Kroll & Sholl, 1992), and there are minimal reliable data on the developmental patterns manifested in IPs. The present study explores CF processes in IPs using a multi-year statistical analysis of total and partial immersion programmes (TIPs and PIPs) at the college level, with Vygotsky's (1986) understanding of CF and the relationship between CF and words as its theoretical framework.

2. Research questions

The following research questions are proposed to investigate and determine how adult secondlanguage learners differ from young second-language learners and what latent factors are present across different IPs by comparing TIPs and PIPs: (1) Are the statistics collected regarding TIPs in a previous study (Asano, 2014) parallel to outcomes in PIPs? (2) What factors of PIPs affect the academic performance of students attending these programmes?

2. 3. Purpose of the study

This study addresses two issues that bilingual education researchers and practitioners have seldom addressed. The first issue concerns the validity of the LRH premise that 'language precedes cognition', which has not been fully tested and verified (Swoyer, 2011). The LRH theme as the traditional basis for the teaching and learning of English as a foreign language contradicts bilingual education research findings involving cognition, social factors and students' personalities (Genesee, 1987). In particular, this theme by itself cannot fully account for the common characteristics underlying both first-language and second-language acquisition processes. To put it simply: if the native and target languages essentially differ from each other in their linguistic and cognitive aspects, does this mean that bilingual persons have two separate, parallel linguistic structures in their minds? As the antithesis to the legitimacy of language-dominant perspectives (Cook, 2011; García & Nánez, 2011), an interactive and interdependent relationship between language and cognition in bilingualism is proposed and investigated in this study. …

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