IntroductionLanguage acquisition is an essential component for communication between entities with minimal chances of passing or receiving the wrong message. Over the years, the linguistic development has evolved from the time when people were monolingual to being bilingual, due to global changes in the way societies are organized and perform interactions. More of the world population is increasingly becoming bilingual as it facilitates cross-cultural communication. In addition, it has been known to have notable cognitive benefits across the age spectrum, hence the need to examine the issue of bilingualism versus monolinguals among preschoolers. This is because they are always learning new ways to express themselves while surrounded by multifaceted linguistic environments.
Comprehending and producing words is critical for language development among young children and easier when subjected to monolingual environments. However, subjection to bilingual environments is marred with complexities in language acquisition due to variability in social understanding, dialectical differences, and learning rates. Regardless, there are several factors that have made bilingualism a preference for argument in this paper. Being monolingual is increasingly introducing communication and interaction difficulties, particularly among preschoolers who are constantly surrounded by diverse linguistic settings. Therefore, it is essential to examine the concept of bilingualism and monolingualism and define the best semantic approach in the modern society.
Exploration of Bilingualism
Bilingualism is the concept where individuals speak two languages. One of the languages is their native dialect, and the other one is acquired through instruction or other processes that lead to its mastery. Currently, it has been noted that people speaking more than one language have outnumbered monolingual speakers in the world population. This is because being bilingual has become a social phenomenon that is driven partly by the needs of cultural openness and globalization. Due to access to resources like the internet and libraries, Besters-Dilger (2014) states that more people are being exposed to multiple languages thus increasing their quest to acquire an additional language of interest.
Inasmuch as learning multiple languages is necessary, individuals who speak various languages have maintained and acquired at least one language from childhood. This is their mother tongue or first language, and it is acquired without formalized education process. It results from interactions, listening, and practicing in social contexts as it is applied during interactions. Other times, children may acquire two languages simultaneously as they learn their first dialect, making them simultaneous bilinguals, which occurs in case the parents do not speak the same language. This has been a source of interest among educators since social factors have allowed people with different cultural backgrounds to intermarry forcing their children to master dual languages for effective communication within and outside the family.
Sometimes, the existence of many languages in family settings does not translate to having a common communication mechanism and it makes the process of learning difficult for children. Preschoolers may have learnt part of the different languages, and they frequently mix phrases since they cannot control their application. For instance, a child who has grown with parents who speak French and English may combine aspects of both languages during interactions thus slowing their linguistic learning process. As such, it is the reason for encouraging preschoolers to learn one dominant language and then seek a second one depending on their interests, social settings, and other preferential considerations. This approach increases the rate of learning while eliminating barriers prevalent to bilinguals.
In addition to acquiring second languages through formal education, there are some individuals who are receptive bilinguals. These are people who have the ability to understand a second language but cannot speak it, owing to the existence of psychological barriers. Receptive bilingualism is normally encountered among preschoolers who are exposed to multilingual environments, and they begin comprehending what is being spoken without responding using the same dialect. On the other hand, preschoolers with foreign parents can have a similar learning outcome where they are taught in a different language from their native tongue.
Although having bilingual children is a common phenomenon in the modern society, they face the challenge of code switching. According to Saint-Georges (2009), code-switching is characterized by instances where an individual switches languages in the course of one communication thus interfering with oral fluency. It can be solved through practice and effective choice of communication mechanism depending on contextual factors. Adopting such strategies is the only effective solution because bilingualism is an inevitable occurrence in the current world as societies and cultures are merging to accomplish their interests with utmost efficiency. In fact Strand (2006) notes that:
“In sum, bilingualism isn’t a danger either to the English language or to the bilingual speakers themselves. On the contrary, there are many advantages to bilingualism, both for the individual and for the society as a whole from linguistic, interactive, and academic performance perspective”
The aforementioned perception is supported by the fact that there are more second language speakers of English than natives, and there are more bilingual children than monolinguals. In America for instance, approximately 25% of children aged between five and seventeen years speak another language apart from English, with projections of increasing within the decade. Other regions like Canada have also indicated similar trends where 11% of the population speaks more than one language. As explained by Demie & Strand (2006), these trends show that many children are being raised as bilinguals by their parents, especially if they are not fluent in the dominant spoken language.
Exploration of Monolinguals
As opposed to bilinguals, monolinguals are people who speak one dominant language despite contextual factors that demand switching to an alternative dialect. Comparisons of monolinguals and bilinguals have been made with differing conclusions about which is better. However, there are perceptions that being monolingual is important for children at the preschool level since it allows linguistic progression with minimal confusion and inabilities to differentiate elements of different languages. Authors like Weideman (2014) have argued that people have misplaced perceptions that monolinguals are better since bilingual children are not confused as earlier perceived. Irrespective of these dimensions of argument, monolingual children have certain linguistic acquisition traits which are not available to bilinguals.
To begin with, preschoolers who are monolinguals have a wider vocabulary in their target language. They have spent most of their time in an environment where dominant phonological elements are applied increasing their word base, as well as mastery of complex constructs used to form oral fluency. In other words, monolinguals have higher efficiency in word retrieval which is a rare effect among people of multiple languages. In fact, Demie & Strand (2006) have addressed the issue of phonetics and phonology developments by concluding that language extends to other factors like sociolinguistics, comparative linguistics, and a variety of other fields that influence semantics, hence the need to have large vocabulary sizes for better response, fluency, and choice of words.
Contrasting information is also in existence in relation to memory performance, accuracy, and response rates when monolinguals and bilinguals were subjected to lexical decision tasks. The truth is that monolinguals have unique processing capabilities and attention control due to their high levels of linguistic mastery. Cognition, verbal development, and memory processing are among individual aspects that are refined by being a monolingual preschooler. Therefore, preschoolers from different cultures, backgrounds and sociolinguistic environments have indicated the essence of being monolingual even if current globalization and social trends are dictating otherwise.
Global dynamics have shaped linguistic evolution in such a way that the rationale for the persistence of singular languages among populations is economic. Part of the reasons why monolinguals are persistent is due to the convergence principle whereby people opt to use a standard communication language to avoid misunderstandings, conflicts and accommodate individual differences. Conversely, Kwong (2012) and Merino (2016) attribute the predominance of English language in many sectors as the cause of societies being monolingual. More people are learning globally recognized languages and encouraging their children to use them predominantly, leading to the existence of persistent monolinguals.
Discussion and Synthesis
In the book by Saint-Georges (2009), the changing conditions and priorities have created a new social order that is characterized by increased social visibility, cultural, and linguistic diversity arising from unprecedented mobility patterns. In addition, the invention of communication and information technologies has transformed the interaction patterns with interesting challenges to institutions in terms of mechanisms to deal with current diversities. The predominance of bilingual preschoolers is among the challenges forcing schools to use multimodal approaches to new learning processes and linguistic mastery among students in spite of their fundamental phonological differences.
Bilingual is an inevitable concept in modern social settings hence its nature of prevalence in the global populations. Today, one in every five individuals below the age of ten years speaks a second language indicating how the current society is embracing bilingualism. Children in preschool have the facility and capacity to learn multiple languages because of their ability to connect different flow patterns. Additional mastery leads to better listening skills, interaction skills, and word learning capabilities, justifying the rationale for supporting the phenomena of bilingualism and its subsequent dominance in the increasingly converging social order.
The ease with which children can acquire more than one language is another cause for preferring bilingualism in addition to alignment with global and social trends. Kandhadai, Hall, & Werker (2016) discusses that bilingual acquisition takes place through simultaneous and sequential processes with similar outcomes in terms of fluency, word choice, and vocabulary access. Simultaneous acquisition occurs when a second language is introduced before the age of three and the process is carried on to their preschools. The benefit of this acquisition mode is that children go through the same developmental stages as their monolingual counterparts hence their ability to have similar learning capabilities in classrooms.
In fact, bilinguals tend to differentiate their languages early and learn how to switch accordingly depending on their conversation or partner. However, when the second language is introduced after the age of three, children begin experiencing sequential acquisition so that they can catch up with their new linguistic environments. Most of the time, this form of learning occurs when children speak one language at home and are required to acquire another in school. Although children undergoing sequential learning may communicate in their native languages briefly, use imitative phrases, and experience nonverbal periods, they eventually begin composing their sentences with minimal errors and fluency difficulties.
Comparison of monolinguals and bilinguals in terms of mental performance has indicated contrasting recommendations about reaction times linked to working memory tasks. Based on information from Caldas (2006, p.26), it is evident that bilingual children outperform multilingual counterparts in terms of attention control, cognition, and verbal abilities. Early learners have indicated their ability to balance two languages and choose the appropriate one necessary for specific objectives. By maintaining constant awareness about the right language to use and successfully switch seamlessly is what justifies that bilingual children are better at controlling, directing, and focusing their attention.
Children at the preschool level who speak more than one language have also been reported to be adept at linguistic learning. Proficient bilinguals have enhanced executive functions and selection abilities depending on situational requirements increasing their overall performance and linguistic mastery. From the idea of linguistic relativity, children who speak multiple languages have a broader view of their world since they are required to create multiple personalities and personal traits like social initiative, cultural empathy, and open-mindedness. Rajasekar (2008) support the above argument by stating:
“People who know more than one language have been reported to be more adept at language learning compared to monolinguals. Bilinguals who are highly proficient in two or more languages have been reported to have enhanced executive function, memory performance, and higher linguistic capabilities; thus, its inevitability in modern social settings”
These elements are making bilingualism an important social, cultural, and academic factor in the development process of children as they become ready for institutional progression.
Decades of behavioral and psycholinguistic research has further advanced current comprehension about how bilinguals process lexicons. According to Kissling (2013), evidence indicates that bilinguals have fundamental differences when it comes to pronunciations, phonology, lexicons, and their representation in practical conversations. They have also shown their ability to semantically prime individual languages, combine words, and form lexica-semantic representations across disparate language elements.
This is the reason why most developmental psycholinguistic provisions are focusing on young children at the age of preschool increase their cross-linguistic influence. Notably, language processing is heavily influenced by syntactic frameworks that result in sentence processing, enhanced comprehension, and amalgamation of fundamental linguistic components to develop complex grammatical aspects applicable in varied communication settings. Despite the contrary perceptions, children who are bilinguals have better linguistic performance in comparison to monolinguals, hence the nature of the discussion regarding the topic of acquiring another language in addition to native dialect.
The discussion about bilinguals and monolinguals has been used to indicate their nature of existence, influence on language, and extent of prevalence within current social settings. The occurrence of bilingualism has expanded significantly due to globalization and socio-cultural changes where populations are being required to merge and communicate using common platforms. The extent of bilingualism is being reflected by the number of children in preschool, especially in America and other regions where global activities and movements take place exclusively. While comparing monolinguals and bilinguals, their dominance is defined by social dynamics, globalization activities, and other factors influencing the dominant linguistic environment.
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