The Impact of Bilingualism on Language and Literacy Development
Considering the prevalence of bilingualism in the general population, the number of children who are raised with two languages, and the proportion of students who enter school without speaking the instructional language, the developmental consequences of this experience have been surprisingly ignored. Researchers in language acquisition, education, and cognitive development have essentially developed their models from the simplifying assumption that children have one mind, one conceptual system, and one language. The limitations of this assumption are quickly apparent when one considers the inevitable and prolific interactions between language and thought in virtually every cognitive endeavor, particularly during development. Children’s early concepts are learned through their verbal experiences, knowledge is codified in a linguistic form, and communication defines every aspect of development. It is inconceivable that conducting these interactions and learning about the world through two linguistic systems has no effect on the trajectory of development for bilingual children. This chapter explores one aspect of the potential developmental impact of that experience – the development of metalinguistic and literacy skills. An analysis of the way in which bilingualism impacts on nonverbal aspects of cognitive development is explored elsewhere (Bialystok 2001, 2005).
Although it may seem obvious now ...