Bilingualism/Multilingualism and Second-Language Acquisition



Rome in the first century AD had a form of bilingual education and there was a heated debate regarding which language, Greek or Latin, should be introduced first and how they should be introduced (Harris and Taylor 1997). A distinguished teacher of rhetoric at that time, Marcus Fabius Quintilianus, discussed how children should be educated bilingually as follows:

I prefer that a boy should begin with Greek, because Latin being in general use, will be picked up by him (perbibet) whether we will or not; while the fact that Latin learning is derived from Greek is a further reason for his being first instructed in the latter. I do not however desire that this principle should be so superstitiously observed that he should for long speak and learn only Greek, as is done in the majority of cases. Such a course gives rise to many faults of language and accent; the latter tends to acquire a foreign intonation, while the former through force of habit becomes impregnated with Greek idioms, which persist with extreme obstinacy even when we are speaking another tongue. The study of Latin ought therefore to follow at no great distance and in a short time proceed side by side with Greek. The result will be that, as soon as we begin to give equal attention to both languages, neither will prove a hindrance to the other

(Institutio Oratoria I, i, 12–14, cited in Harris and Taylor 1997: 63).

It is interesting ...

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