Language is an engine of communication that aids in human interaction. Human relationship would be hampered without language (Christopher, 1999). There are three basic functions of language. First, language assists in passing of information that either denies or affirms different propositions (Bardwell, 1988). In other words, language describes the actual state of affairs in the world. Secondly, language enables a speaker or a writer to expressing his or her feelings and attitudes. This function is particularly applicable in poetry as well as ordinary conversation. Lastly, a language possesses a directive function either in request or command (Bardwell, 1988).
Even though most people speak one language, there are others who are capable of speaking more than one language. Such people are referred to as bilingual. Often, the bilingual individuals are proficient in the two languages and can comprehend, read, and write them. Bilingual education refers to the practice of educating and teaching people using two languages. The topic of bilingualism is very striking since it confers an advantage to the person possessing the ability to use the two languages.
A bilingual individual has cognitive advantage and performs at higher mental level than the person who uses a single language. A bilingual brain develops densely and this gives it advantage. Furthermore, bilingual people have better communication skills and are capable of sustaining interaction with others more easily than people who are not bilingual (Christopher, 1999). Unlike children who can easily master a second language, adults find acquiring a second language to be a very daunting task. This is mainly because the brain of children is often of underdeveloped. Many parents and guardians across the globe would love to have their children learn a second language. However, only a few of them take the initiative to assist their children in learning a second language.
In the United States of America, only nine percent of the adults are bilingual while in Europe, over half of the adults are bilingual (Christopher, 1999). US record a small number of bilingual persons mainly because the learning of a second language begins at the high school level. Learning foreign languages is not compulsory and hence only a few students opt to pursue them. As a matter of fact, people rarely use the second language after acquisition. Therefore, they do not reap the benefits of bilingualism (Christopher, 1999).
According the data collected in US, most children have the capacity to learn acquire a second language. Children often enjoy the advantages of bilingualism more than adults. This is because they are capable of using new words easily. They are also capable of identifying and rhyming words more than adults. Bilingual children are also able to break down words, categorize words as well as use information in new ways. Bilingual children have better problem solving skills. They also have excellent listening skills and therefore can establish strong relations with others.
Children growing in this era are exposed to more than one language hence they easily become bilingual. It is estimated that one in every ten children in US can speak another language other than English. Given the significant impacts of globalization, the number of bilingual persons is likely to increase. . Children often follow patterns in learning. Sounds that are used in first language can affect the learning and use of a second language. It is easy for children to learn two languages that closely resemble in terms pronunciation (Savignon, 1983). Bilingualism is also essential in case a child has speech developmental problems. Such problems will surface in all languages. This does not mean that learning a second language is often the cause of speech developmental problems.
I consider that learning more than one language is immensely valuable as the world shifts to globalization. For instance, my native language is Arabic. Nevertheless, I have learnt English which I use more often in my studies. Learning English was very challenging to me since its grammar is quite different with that of Arabic language. I had problems in mastering English and as a result I made many mistakes in writing as well as speech. The use of consonants and vowels in Arabic and English languages differs greatly. The patterns used in Arabic are absent in English. Therefore, one may find it difficult to differentiate adjectives and verbs. Arabic text is read from right to left and uses cursors in script. I also learnt that punctuation is very vital in English. When punctuation marks are used improperly, the meaning of a sentence or word may be totally distorted. Vowel sounds in English causes a bid problem for Arabic speakers. For instance, ‘ship’ and ‘sheep’ may be very difficult for Arabic speakers to pronounce.
Bilingual people who have acquired a second language from a natural environment can make very good teachers (Savignon, 1983). This is because teaching grammar is not enough to enable students use the second language effectively. It is important that student comprehend the functions of language as highlighted in the beginning of this paper. There is no standard way of teaching language. Instead, language should be taught in the context of the student (Savignon, 1983). For instance, one should know that the difficulties experienced by French speakers are different from those experienced by Arabic speakers.
If a student can comprehend the phonology, grammar, and alphabet of the first language, it becomes very easy to understand the structure of a second language. This is mainly because the person can easily detect the difference in structure between the two languages.