top of page

Bilingualism: How Do We Get There

Updated: Oct 12, 2021

The research that I will attempt to conduct will address several questions relating to the nature, difficulty, and strategy involved in the process of bilingualism. My first inquiry is to find out the effects of bilingualism on speech patterns and the proper development of an emergent bilingual. With this, I will search for the difficulties involved with these students, what age to begin training, and the proper support needed for students in this context. For personal interest, I will also try to find studies concerning the opportunities for monolingual families to encourage bilingualism with their kids. This would include a list of possible institutions, programs, and other resources available for this support. To further understand the process, I would like to search for clear goals and ages to expect of my future children who may pursue bilingualism, looking specifically at methods and techniques that are proven to be successful. I will conduct research concerning bilingualism as a holistic picture. The following research topics is listed down below in brief:

· The effects of bilingualism on speech patterns

· The proper way of helping a child become bilingual

· The most effective age to institute a second language

· Methods to promote bilingual proficiency in both languages

· How to raise a child to be bilingual if the parent is monolingual

· Supports needed for bilingual children

· Difficulties involved for emergent bilinguals

· Things to avoid when teaching a student to become a bilingual

· How language acquisition is affected when promoting bilingualism

· The process of learning and expected goals to set for children

The majority of my inquiries were found in the book Bilingualism: Life and Reality written by Francois Grosjean. This was a comprehensive book tackling the ideas, challenges, advantages, and methods for bilingualism. The first section I read introduced the broad category of acquiring two languages, distinguishing two groups: simultaneous and successive. The former describes children who learn two languages at the same time, which is often accomplished before the age of four. Successive learners are taught one language during the first stages of their life and acquire a second in later stages of development.

Simultaneous bilingual learners represent the minority, “less than 20 percent” (Grosjean, 2010, pg. 178). This is a method used with the one-person one-language approach, where each parent speaks their respective language. Additionally, this may be employed because another language represented early in a child’s life consistently speaking another language, such as the nanny. Certain myths dictate that this method of bilingualism delays the stages of language development in children. The research showed that children raised in a bilingual environment progress at the same rate, and the “milestones are reached at the same age” (Grosjean, et al., 2010, pg. 179). One case study of a girl learning German and English was reported to have mixed her languages together, her sound system into a “unified set” (Grosjean, et al., 2010, pg. 180). There remains a divergence on whether or not children have the ability to separate the two languages at an early age. Some may argue that children understand a differentiation in language and use it, likewise, depending on the context. This would involve code-switching according to the person and circumstances. Children build expectations from certain people to speak their respective language and this is what kids will rely on when interchanging and differentiating languages. If a parent wants to support their bilingual child the best, they must remain consistent in the language they use and not interchange words with other languages.

Successive language learners are in the majority and often utilizes the strategy one-language first strategy. The author described that this method is often done by immigrant families who have only their minority language to teach their children, and then the children learn the majority language from the outside culture. Also, dual-language programs institute this as well, introducing another language when a student goes to school. The common myth with these students is that the earlier you start learning another language, the better you will speak. This misconception assumes that the simultaneous method is inherently better, but that is not always the case. There are lots of studies that suggest that students with a larger background of their previous language have a greater chance of improving and growing in their language abilities. Additionally, older students would have more developed brains that allow for more complex thinking to aid the acquisition of another language. The author further adds that students who learn other languages successively do not “come to the task empty-handed” (Grosjean, et al., 2010, pg. 186), describing that older children have a basic knowledge of how the world works and social understanding. The research concludes to say that both methods are effective as long as there is a significant amount of practice and dependency involved, “in a natural environment” (Grosjean, et al., 2010, pg. 189). Grosjean finished, saying that academic language will often take years to achieve, and any bilingual will need to focus on this to become entirely fluent in both of their respective languages.

Further research from this book included the effects of bilingualism and dispels further myths concerning this subject. The author states that many “worry about the linguistic and cognitive development of their bilingual children” (Grosjean, et al., 2010, pg. 218) which is natural but assures the reader that bilinguals experience the same rate of development as other students. Additionally, Grosjean insists that there is no indication of a higher level of language disorders which people may associate with bilingualism. One study showed that “bilingual children are more advanced than monolingual children in developing inhibitory control” (Grosjean, et al., 2010, pg. 224) which reveals, actually, a benefit to becoming bilingual. Inhibitory control helps with selective attention when achieving a task. Furthermore, emergent bilinguals may test poorly on monolingual vocabulary tests, but they possess a wealth of vocabulary and are able to control this when the context and people change. The author explained that tests cannot adequately measure the true benefit that comes with bilingualism.

There are many countries around the world, as well, who are implementing bilingual education programs. Argentina is a country that has many English dual-language schools and global schools. Many of these originated as heritage schools, such as Italian Argentines who wanted their kids to maintain their Italian language and heritage. These evolved over time and now most heritage schools include English in their curriculum because of the need for English as a global language. These heritage schools have changed their focus on preparing students for a more globalized approach which “imprinted an international outlook on the educational offering of the schools” (de, Mejía, 2005, pg. 72). This method focuses on the importance of creating well-informed citizens of an interconnected world. There exist also Spanish immersion universities that accept all nationalities for a program to teach the language. These different methods were adapted and became popularized at the end of the twentieth century and were reinforced with new studies that stressed the importance of bilingualism.

The research has provided a deep and rich understanding of bilingualism. It covered topics from bilingual challenges to international bilingual education programs. Most, if not all, of my inquiries were addressed during the search and provided me with a better understanding of the topic. My initial interest was to acquire a better grasp on the protocol to raise a globally and linguistically capable child. The results repeatedly insisted on the importance of dependency on the language which directly relates to the development of a child’s second or third language. In order to promote this, I would have to keep a minority language community close to my children, either through travel or with local diverse groups of people. This search process has allowed me to go down many rabbit holes and gain insights from many topics, such as: neurological effects of bilingualism, social realities for bilinguals, and proper methods to enhance bilingual education and learning. Bilingualism has been shown to be an incredibly beneficial skill that must be incubated with the proper strategies and supports.


Author, Guest. “How Monolingual Parents Can Raise a Bilingual Child.” Fluent in 3 Months –

Language Hacking and Travel Tips, 17 July 2017,

de, Mejía, Dr. Anne-Marie. Bilingual Education in South America, Channel View Publications, 2005.

Grosjean, Francois, et al. Bilingual : Life and Reality, Harvard University Press, 2010. ProQuest

118 views2 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page