Bilingual Development and Literacy Learning-East Asian and International Perspectives

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Understanding how the Chinese writing system illustrates universal design features of writing and literacy learning, as well as how it differs from alphabetic literacy, has become one of the cutting edge areas of research in the cognitive sciences. A major part of this book is devoted to the presentation of a series of proposals for collaborative research with investigators working in East Asia on cross-writing system comparisons and bilingual literacy—Comparing alphabetic and morpho-syllabic literacy. The part that corresponds to "International perspectives" proposes new avenues in research on problems of bilingualism shared by speakers of all languages.

With a broad survey of research advances drawing from recent investigations, this book will provide non-specialist readers with examples of how the relevant concepts might be applied to practical problems-age of acquisition effects in first and second language development; analysis of language attrition and asymmetries of different kinds; issues of componentiality (or modularity); bilingual and second language literacy; and the discussion of an important debate in second language acquisition theory and practice.

Bilingual development and literacy learning is intended for practitioners in the field of second language education, administrators and policy makers, and pre-service teachers (upper division and graduate level). In addition, students and specialists in allied fields interested in the key theoretical concepts will find it useful, including in the cognitive sciences in general and sociolinguistics. A detailed glossary is included for readers new to the study of bilingualism and second language learning.

Pub. Date
Jul 1, 2012
274 pages
143 x 210 mm
In East Asia, as in all regions of the world, second language learning and bilingualism have always been important academic objectives, as far back in history as is possible to record events reliably. But only until more recently have these objectives, including first and second language literacy, been within reach of the broad majority of learners enrolled in school. In the not too distant past, the possibility of attaining bilingualism of this kind had been the privilege of a select few. We could say that today it is still restricted to a fortunate minority; but new conditions have laid the groundwork for changing this state of affairs. Globalization is one of the reasons. Digital technology is another.
Without a doubt, the growing attention to research about different kinds of bilingualism is related to the rapidly growing interest in learning English, evidenced in all but the most isolated societies. Of course, English has not always been in this position. Historically, other languages have served the function of lingua franca across borders and cultures: each in its time, Arabic and Latin in the lands of the Mediterranean and Europe, the languages of the great indigenous empires of the Americas, Chinese throughout East Asia, to mention only a few examples. Today, however, the potential and promise of intercultural communication is different: the “franca” aspect of the current international language of wider communication is global in the true sense, for the first time in history. At the same time, we should not forget that around the world a number of regional lingua francas are also expanding, all of this making the scientific study of bilingualism more important than ever before.
Increasingly, learners face complex and demanding language learning objectives; and choices about major commitments to language learning that are not always optional. This is because the relationships among the national, regional and international languages in each country, and in each community of speakers, are complex and demanding in the same proportion. Complicating matters of this developing bilingualism and multilingualism is the parallel pressure on many languages resulting in their displacement, by an expanding language, and even in their extinction. Often, learning a second language results in losing proficiency in one’s first language. Related to this phenomenon of “learning and forgetting,” is the common outcome of bilingualism in which there is an imbalance in proficiency between one language system and the other. This kind of unequal distribution of competence and ability, in fact, is the most common outcome of bilingual development and second language learning. Understanding these different kinds of language interaction is important for fields of study such as linguistics and psychology and for resolving a number of practical problems in education, to take one example.
One may ask: what is special about bilingualism and literacy in East Asia that it came to be included in the subtitle of this book? In regard to the interaction between two grammatical systems (reading and writing aside for now), and the way that young children acquire them to become bilingual, and the way that adults learn second languages, there is nothing peculiar in the languages of East Asia. There is probably nothing exceptional in this case, from a cognitive point of view, compared to bilingual development in any other part of the world. Rather, it is in the domain of literacy where cross-language/cross-writing system and bilingual/biliterate comparisons are truly interesting. Here it is fair to say that the contrasts among the writing systems in question are exceptional in some important ways. The morphosyllabic characters of Chinese writing, incorporated into and adapted by Japanese writing, have no parallel in any modern orthographic system. They may not have any other true historical parallel either (although this claim is likely to be controversial). Most interesting, however, is the suggestion by recent research that despite the differences in the design of writing systems, common processes of literacy learning and use are shared across all literate cultures.
  1. Introduction—Problems of bilingualism and second language literacy in today's globalized learning spaces
  2. Balanced and imbalanced bilingualism
  3. Bilingual development in exceptional circumstances
  4. Bilingual literacy and comparative research on writing systems
  5. Self-correction? Negative evidence in second language literacy learning
  6. Corrective feedback in language learning
  7. The foundation of immersion education-Integration of language and content
  8. Studies of bilingualism for further study
  9. Research problems that still have not been solved-response to The Taipei lectures
Professor of Bilingual and Multicultural Education, Northern Arizona University