Dual language academic, is it good?


Yesterday, I attend a parent seminar about bilingual education, conducted by TB Simatupang Highscope School. The speaker is one lovely couple Mr & Mrs Freeman.

I was one hour late because I can’t find way to go there..It was my first time. The school is quite big and have lots of green spaces. Children from  1 1/2 years up to high school age were mingle there.. it’s like memorizing my school time long time ago..

The seminar itself talk about the benefit of teaching bilingual education to a child. They claimed that bilingual education has 6 benefits (although I just get the last four :)), including improve cognitive capability, more job opportunity, preserve culture, make the child more flexible in term of way of thinking.

The basic concept is that bilingual doesn’t means that the person will think in each language separately. There is only one basic concept inside the brain that relate the word “dog” with the an animal that has 4 legs, fur and able to bark, or how to calculate numbers. So if they learn other language, they don’t have to understand the difference of dog and cat, but they just have to know the vocabulary for word “dog”  and the vocabulary for each number in that language.

They have a very good analogy two ice berg that looks like separate in the surface, but its actually one below the sea. A person has an understanding of concept in their head, and language is only the channel to deliver it. Bilingual person has 2 channel to deliver their thought.

There is a research that said children that have bilingual capability, are better in solving puzzle. They get used to try alternate ways to solve a problem because their brain used to switch  in those two language.

However, there are several kind of bilingual, i.e. :

  1. Subtractive : When the person learn the second language, he lose the first language.  This what happen in school that teach in English only. This one is actually a negative one.
  2. Transition/bridge: usually happen in kindergarten that teach both english and Indonesian to make transition from Indonesian speaking to English speaking in the elementary school.
  3. Late exit: this when they postpone the transition at higher level (for example until 6th grade). This also not really good, because the first language only develop until 6th grade level.
  4. Addition :  this one maintain and develop both two language either speaking or reading/writing. They become bilingual and bi-literal This is the best one.

To understand the different of those 4 type, we should differentiate between social language and academic language:

  1. Social language : conversation language is more spoken like. people who master social language is able to talk with other people in this language. The vocabulary is simple, daily used and not structure. Usually it takes two year for a person to develop social language.
  2. Academic language : is used in academic institute and is more written like. the sentence has technical vocabulary, complex and has structure. Due to it’s complexity, it takes 4-7 years to develop academic language.

To make it clear the difference, they mention few examples in order from social language to academic language:

  1. Casual
  2. Text message
  3. Academic discussion
  4. Academic lecture
  5. News paper/ article
  6. Academic journal article

The goal of bilingual language is the fourth type where both language were developed up to academic language. The third and the second one only develop one language, while the other was stop in social language. While the first one is more extreme, the first language will be lost.

They also said that four type result will vary later than the third grade where they seem to be the same. on 9-11th grade children that teach with the first and second type will have worse result academically.

They also said that the stronger a child in the first language, the faster and better to learn the second language. This is why it’s important to master mother language. however, if you teach the second language simultaneously with mother language, it does not mean it will stop the development of the mother language itself. As long as you used the fourth method.

I guess that the basic concept that I get.. I also write down several questions answered in that event, i.e:

  • Is it ok if we use a method where one parent use one language, while the other use the other one? (mom speak Indonesian and dad speak English to their child) It is going to confuse the child, because my son has speak delay (2years 8 month and he does not say any one word)? the therapist said that we should only used one language to the child to avoid confusion. ANSWER: It is not right that a child will be confused if they stimulate with different language, the truth is probably they just need time and exercise. Several children just do not confident to speak if they did not completely master the language. So you should not too worry, your child is still a little, give him some time and continue to speak bilingual to him.
  • Whats the different between the first and the fourth method? ANSWER: The first one only teach the second language, while the first one is not continually developed. While the second one, develop both language at the same time so they can develop academic language in both language. The simple way is to read many books and talk in both language, make language fun for children, sing a song, etc.
  • At what age that I should teach the second language because at 2 years old, a child has not master his first language. ANSWER: starting second language will not hold the development the 1st one. So you can start at time you feel comfortable.
  • Should I teach language from grammar? ANSWER: teaching grammar is not improve reading nor listening. The concept is just read to the child, don’t force to teach grammar. But they start to ask how words are organized then we teach them grammar.
  • If I want to teach my 2 years-old son to read, which language should I start with? the mother language or second? and is it possible to teach a toddler to read? ANSWER: The younger the better. You should read to a child even before his birth. That will increase his interest in reading. don’t teach read letter by letter, but just read the word. Make reading become a time full of love, that make child comfortable. Then, you should start with the mother language.. because it’s usually more comfortable for the parent as well.

2 responses to “Dual language academic, is it good?

  1. I applaud you and the lovely couple on what was spoken about when it comes to introducing more than one language to young children!

    We use the addition method, always have and always will. It brings higher level of self confidence when the child hears her native language right alongside the new language.

    I am a firm believer that immersion is NOT the best method for young children still acquiring skills in their native language, and what you have shared with us surely supports that feeling.

    Bilingual – parallel – addition … however you call it … a little child must still have access to his native language while learning a new language.

    Gracias/Thank you for such a nice post!

    • @ Butler: Thanks for your comment. It’s really nice to know that there are other people in the world that support the same concept..

      For a first time mom, support is my number one need🙂

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