Seen simply, bilingualism is the ability to
perform in two languages.
As seen in the Introduction to MBE the issue is more complex than it appears.
Skutnabb-Kangas (1998) (please refer to Bibliography)
points out the complexity of this notion by listing and exemplifying the following
- origin: referring to the language(s) one
- competence: referring to the language(s) one
- function: referring to the language(s) one
- identification - internal: referring to the
language(s) one identifies most with
- identification - external: referring to the
language(s) one is identified with by others
development in bilingual individuals: two major theories
This theory was developed by Jim
Cummins, in the early 1980s. It stated that the two languages used by an individual,
though on the surface apparently separate, function through the same central cognitive
"When a person owns two or
more languages, there is one integrated source of thought." (Baker, 1996, p.147 )
The Threshold Theory
This was first put forward by
Toukomaa and Skutnabb-Kangas in 1977. It suggested that the development of two or more
languages in a balanced bilingual person moves upward through three identifiable levels,
crossing two distinct thresholds in between levels. According to this theory, positive
cognitive advantages are only to be achieved when the first and second thresholds have
here for information on an in-depth study of these theories in Chapter Nine, Baker (1996).
development of childrens bilingual capabilities
more about the development of childrens bilingual capabilities, please refer to the
(1988) has researched how best to bring up children in a bilingual setting.
describes the different contexts in which children can be brought up to be bilingual and
compares the benefits and drawbacks of the different ways children acquire two languages.
BILINGUALISM: plurilingualism and diglossia in different
for more information on the nature of bilingualism in different societies and countries.
The common denominator of all
schools which profess to have a Bilingual Education programme is simply that some
or all of the content based subjects are delivered through the medium of a second
language, which is not the mother tongue of the majority of the pupils.
Some programmes will aim at
producing pupils who are bilingual at the end of their schooling. Others will aim
at easing the transition from a minority language to a majority language, which
might involve losing one language and acquiring another.
Yet others will aim at
increasing the pupils competence in a foreign language so that, at the end of
their schooling, pupils have a working knowledge of that language.
A variety of models exist around the world and
differ in terms of
- their goals,
- the characteristics (linguistic and otherwise) of
the participating students,
- the sequencing and amount of instruction in the
- their pedagogical approaches,
- the amount of support from the policy makers and the
here for more information about specific models in different countries.