Language Status and Children’s Language Fluency

Language Status and Children’s Language Fluency

Relevant Background Literature

Children’s language fluency is influenced by their language status proving the advantages of learning additional languages in the formative years. The goal of the current literature is to evaluate recent studies conducted on topic and study the theoretical perspectives used to explain the impact of language status on language fluency in children. The studies used in the review are obtained from different linguistic backgrounds to prove the hypothesis that multilingual and bilingual children will perform better in writing and reading assessment while compared to monolinguals.

The first study conducted by Espinosa (2015) focuses on the US context by studying the difference between monolingual and dual lingual children. The research shows that the number of children that speak different languages has increased significantly. These children learn two or more languages concurrently. Historically, the academic achievement of multilingual children has been found to be lower than that of native English speakers. However, recent studies have shown that multilinguals are exposed to experiences that result in better performance in writing and reading assessments. The research states that different measures should be introduced to pave the way for young children to benefit from bilingualism. It can be noted that teachers in the US point out that focusing on different languages in the preschool years is a waste of time. The US should consider using family engagement approaches to promote children’s proficiency in different languages.

O’Brien conducted a literature review to determine the effect of learning a second language. The study is comprehensive as it delves into various areas of an individual’s life including intercultural understanding, economics, society, personal life, and academics. The study looks into the special abilities that students gain by learning an additional language. The findings of the study note that it takes time and effort to learn a second language and children can benefit from improved proficiency in reading and writing.

According to Bialystok, Peets, and Moreno (2014), meta-linguistic awareness calls for diverse cognitive abilities and studies conducted in the past have demonstrated that bilinguals possess this skill. The research focused on the development of multi-linguistic consciousness among bilinguals. The findings of the study were based on the children’s performance in a one hour test that was done in English evaluating their meta-linguistic knowledge. The trial assessed English speaking students that were proficient in French and those that had not learned French. The participants of the study were in Grade 2 and Grade 5. Students that were in the French immersion program had a better performance than those that had not learned French. The findings of the study lead to the conclusion that learning a second language facilitates their understanding of the first language. Additionally, enrolment in the French immersion course did not negatively impact their adeptness in the second language.

Hermanto, Moreno and E Bialystok (2012) agreed with the findings in the previous studies concerning the benefits of acquiring additional languages during the formative years. The study also focused on the application of a comprehensive French program that aimed at improving linguistic competence among English and French children in 5th grade and 2nd grade in the same school. Various measures were evaluated in the study including verbal fluency, sentence knowledge and vocabulary in French and English. As expected, the students in 5th grade performed better than those in 2nd grade on all measures. It was found that the additional three years that were dedicated to learning French did not contribute to changes in the proficiency between French and English. The cognitive skills of students in both categories were the same. The findings of the study lead to the conclusion that learning a second language at school is beneficial as it aids the development of new cognitive skills and helps the students retain proficiency in the first language.

Studies have shown that being bilingual is an added advantage that paves the way for one to learn new languages. These findings were supported in a study done by Ter Kuile et al. (2011). The subjects of the study were monolingual Dutch students and Dutch-speaking students that were being taught English as a second language. It can be noted that the participants of the study were aged between twelve and sixteen years. An Indonesian language test was given to the participants. The text had one hundred and eighty words, and the students were asked to answer fifteen questions regarding the text. The results demonstrated that Dutch-speaking students had performed better while compared to the Dutch monolinguals. The findings show that learning a second language equips individuals with the skills that are necessary to learn a new language owing to a better perception of how language works.

Research has shown that bilingualism helps individuals in language development throughout their lives. Soveri et al. (2011) did a study evaluating whether bilinguals have an added advantage in the regulation of irrelevant material over monolinguals when listening to sounds. It can be observed that the study focused on adults that were either French monolinguals or Finnish-Swedish bilinguals that were exposed to a different language at an early age. The participants were asked to listen to different sounds on their right and left ears based on instructions that were given using headphones. The findings demonstrated that bilinguals performed better while compared to monolinguals in regards to understanding sounds while controlling irrelevant information.

Different theories can be used to explain the impact of a child’s language stats on their fluency in writing and reading. One of the most influential theories in language development is the cognitive theory that was proposed by Jean Piaget. According to Anisfeld (2014), language is noted as being one of the cognitive activities. The theory asserts that development takes place in different stages and this shows that the introduction of a different language in the critical moments of development can improve proficiency in reading and writing. Piaget observed that the transitions in development take place at eighteen months, seven years and twelve or eleven years (Anisfeld, 2014).

Vélez-Agosto et al. (2017) study the benefits of a second language among children. The model is essential in the present study as it evaluates child development from the context of the relationship with the environment. It looks into the complex layers of the environment and states that each has a unique impact on child development. The model focuses on a child’s biology and the interaction between the societal landscape, the environment, and biology. Based on the model, a child’s language status improves their proficiency in reading and writing.

The Zone of Proximal Development that is abbreviated as ZPD has also been found to be an essential concept in child development as suggested by Thomas and McInnes (2018). The model introduces the role that is played by early education practitioners in the development of language. Instructors have the responsibility to determine the level of language attainment and come up with appropriate measures to help children develop proficiency in reading and writing. The concept is based on the assertion that early experiences are valuable as they impact on reading and writing achievement later in life.

Thomas and McInnes (2018) delved into the iceberg theory that was introduced by Cummins in 1981. The model uses an iceberg as a metaphor to explain basic interpersonal communicative skills (BICS) and language development. The principles of the model assert that children that are introduced to a second language following their first language are more likely to be proficient in the second language in reading and writing. Therefore, it is essential for the skills of the first language to be developed and maintained to attain bilingualism and promote the acquisition of the second language. The assertions presented by the critical theories in the topic can be confirmed by the findings brought forward by Conboy and Kuhl (2011) that prove that immense benefits are enjoyed in learning a second language that leads to improved fluency in reading and writing.

Current Study

The current study focuses on the benefits that are associated with bilingualism and multilingualism among children. It takes a contemporary view of the topic and goes against the historical findings that have pointed out that acquiring additional languages has a negative impact on fluency in writing and reading. The theories and studies evaluated in the research show the benefits that bilingual and multilingual children gain which has been found to have positive impacts on their learning. The study is relevant as linguistic diversity has increased over the years in schools prompting instructors to support students in reaping the benefits of being proficient in different languages. The findings of the study can be used to come up with approaches that can be used to introduce additional languages among children developing their fluency in reading and writing.

The study offers valuable lessons to stakeholders in early childhood studies by informing them on how learners can profit from bilingualism in the light of increased diversity in the population. The findings can also be used in the introduction and learning of additional languages and coming up with ways to retain proficiency in the first language. The study is designed to get actual data from the participants of the research and help to prove the hypothesis that bilingual students perform better than monolinguals in regards to the first and additional languages.