Monday, December 7, 2009

Bilingualism and Identity

Myths about bilingualism and identity:

  • A child who learns two languages won't feel at home in either of them. S/he’ll always feel caught between two languages/cultures.
  • Bilingual education leads to identity loss.
  • Bilingual education causes confusion in language learners.
  • Bilingual individuals have two separate languages that don’t intertwine.

Truths about bilingualism and identity:

  • Research shows that identities are not necessarily stable; if children acquire two languages/cultures and feel accepted by both of them, they will identify with both.
  • Identity is not single or defined by only knowing one language; identity is plural. Positive language attitude can develop compatible (not oppositional) identities.
  • Language learners are able to understand the difference between languages from as early as 2 or 3 years old, and are in fact not confused about which language is which.
  • Rather than being “double-monolingual,” bilinguals have access to linguistic resources and are able to use these resources strategically and with sensitivity to situational and contextual factors.