Growing Up With Two Languages

A Case Study

Bachelor Thesis, 2012

63 Pages, Grade: 2,3


Table of Contents

1. Introduction
1.1 The Meaning of Bilingualism in the 21st Century
1.2 What Is Exactly Meant by “Bilingualism”?
1.3 Reasons for Choosing Bilingualism as the Topic of my Thesis
1.4 Outline of the Paper

2. Theoretical Background of Bilingualism
2.1 Current Status of Research
2.2 Categorization of Bilinguals
2.2.1 Categorization According to the Age of the Speaker
2.2.2 Categorization According to Skills
2.2.3 Other Possibilities of Categorization
2.3 One Person – One Language
2.4 Interference and Code-mixing/-switching in Bilingual Acquisition
2.4.1 Different Types of Interferences
2.4.2 Code-Mixing and -Switching

3. The Case Study
3.1 Introduction of the Family and Their Special Situation
3.2 Design of the Case Study
3.2.1 Aim
3.2.2 Methodology and Material
3.3 Results of the Case Study Related to Linguistic Theory
3.3.1 Categorization of the Children
3.3.2 Abilities in the Four Basic Language Skills
3.3.3 Interferences and Code-Mixing

4. Findings with Respect to the Four Questions and Further Thoughts

5. List of Works Cited
5.1 Hard Copies
5.2 Internet Sources

6. Appendix
6.1 Audio Recordings
6.2 Audio Recordings Sorted by Children and Categories
6.3 The Children’s Reading Texts
6.4 Son1’s English Test

1. Introduction

1.1 The Meaning of Bilingualism in the 21st Century

Due to the fact that more and more people migrate or have partners of other languages these days, many children are brought up with two or even more languages. This phenomenon is also known as bilingualism (or multilingualism). For a very long time, people believed that this phenomenon would have a negative and decelerating effect on the child’s first language acquisition and overall development (Genesee, 2008: p.65/Grosjean, 2010: p.179). Bilingualism was long thought to be an “oddity or abnormality” (Meisel, 2001: p.12). But as research has shown in the last decades, bilingualism is anything but negative (Cummins, 1976: p.2). Particularly in the field of neurolinguistics, many positive effects of bilingualism have already been shown, for example in fields like problem solving or attention tasks (Grosjean, 2010: pp. 223-224/Karbalaei,2010: p.275). Not only has it been shown that bilingually raised children really develop their language abilities in an almost analogous way like their monolingual peers (Genesee, 2008: p.73), it is also obvious that children growing up with two or more languages have special opportunities in their future. Since foreign languages are not only needed in school nowadays, but also play a very important role in the field of employment – e.g. in tourism, business or marketing – being raised bilingually seems to be advantageous by all means. What is more, children are frequently confronted with foreign languages in the new media nowadays. The internet provides the opportunity to surf on web pages from all over the world. So, the more languages you are able to master, the more possibilities you have to get hold of information. Here it plays a prominent role, however, whether bilinguals can only understand their second or third language or if they are also able to communicate with it, to wit speaking or even writing or reading in the second or third language. But before we come back to this crucial feature of bilingualism in chapter 2 (Theoretical Background of Bilingualism), the term bilingualism itself will be defined and explained initially, followed by a short statement about the choice of bilingualism as the topic of this paper and a short outline.

1.2 What Is Exactly Meant by “Bilingualism”?

The term ‘bilingualism’ has several definitions and levels of meaning. On the one hand, it occurs in the context of impersonal coherencies such as bilingual schools, bilingual toys or bilingual dictionaries. On the other hand, bilingualism is to be found in relation to humans. It can either be found in the context of a whole community using two or more languages or it denotes a single human’s ability “to use two or more languages […] in their everyday lives” (Grosjean, 2010: p.4/Baker, 1996: p.5). Of course, one could argue whether the term bilingualism doesn’t only refer to people who are able to use ‘just’ two languages - referring back to the Latin origin of the word, consisting of ‘bis’, meaning twice and ‘lingua’, meaning tongue,language. People who are able to use more than two languages, should hence be called ‘multilinguals’. But as the term bilingualism is used more often and even in linguistic research denotes people using two or more languages (Grosjean, 2010: p.4), it will be used in this paper for both “real” bilinguals and multilinguals at the same time.

1.3 Reasons for Choosing Bilingualism as the Topic of my Thesis

As a matter of fact, I have been interested in this topic for quite a while already. Even if I personally do not have any experiences with bilingualism – except for the fact that I’m studying English Education and have spent half a year in the U.S. in a semester abroad program[1] – there is bilingualism in my environment. A couple I am closely acquainted with raises their children bilingually, English and German, even though neither of the parents is an English mother-tongue. The mother has already spent quite a few years in English speaking countries and is therefore a very proficient speaker of the English language. She is the one talking in English, while the children’s father is talking in German to their children. It has always fascinated me that the children seemed to have been able to understand the two languages from the very beginning on, when they were still not even able to “produce” language by themselves. Moreover, the fact that the children spoke English and German when they spent a year in the U.S., but now they do not speak any English anymore – they subconsciously even refuse to speak English – was even more interesting. I read upon bilingualism, got more and more excited about it and finally gave a talk in an advanced linguistics seminar. That’s when and why I decided to write my state exam thesis about this topic and with this family.

1.4 Outline of the Paper

First of all, there will be given a general overview about the theoretical backgrounds of bilingualism. Important sub items of this chapter will be the current status of research, the ways in which bilinguals can be categorized, the ‘one person – one language principle’ and interferences and code-mixing as important components of bilingualism. In the next chapter, the case study will be presented. After introducing the family and their special situation in relation to bilingualism, the aims, methodology and materials of the study will be described. Subsequently, the results of the case study will be brought into relation with the underlying linguistic theory. At the end of the paper, the results of the case study will be summarized once again and further implications of bilingual language acquisition will be made.

2. Theoretical Background of Bilingualism

2.1 Current Status of Research

As already mentioned in the introductory part, bilingualism has been quite an active research area in the last decades (Meisel, 2001: p.11). Started off by Ronjat in 1913 (Meisel, 2001: p.11) and the landmark study of the American linguist Werner Leopold about his two daughters[2], (Pressley/McCormick, 2007: pp.207-208), no other ground-breaking results have been detected – only works being very general – until the late 1980’s (Cenoz/Genesee, 2001: p.1). Only then, more and more researchers became interested in bilingual language acquisition again due to the fact that also more and more children and adults were becoming bilingual for reasons already mentioned in the introduction: migration, international partnerships etc. Bilingualism had arrived on the screen again and still today, many linguists devote themselves to the study of bilingualism in most diverse subcategories.

Children growing up bilingually have often been compared to their monolingual peers concerning differences in their language acquisition processes. In so doing, it turned out that “when looking beyond specific instances […] and focusing on the major developmental stages, there are no significant differences between monolingual and bilingual children” (Genesee, 2008: p.73).[3] Other linguistic studies put their focus on the development of morphology, syntax and phonology within bilingual children or on the way parents interact with their children. Moreover, the effects of and reasons for language mixing or the question whether bilingual children work with one language system or two systems – independent of each other – from the very beginning on were examined. Referring to the latter, current research still cannot prove that the “Unitary Language System Hypothesis”[4], given by Volterra and Taeschner in 1978, is wrong. But there are strong tendencies towards the “Dual Language System Hypothesis”[5] of Genesee (1989). Present studies already go beyond this kind of differentiation when scrutinizing bilingual children (Cenoz/Genesee, 2001: p.3).

In addition to the already mentioned linguists Volterra and Taeschner, Fred Genesee and Jürgen M. Meisel, Francois Grosjean, Colin Baker, and Ellen Bialystok should be mentioned here as well. Those linguists are some of the world’s leading researchers in the field of bilingualism nowadays and that’s why they are worth mentioning in person.[6]

2.2 Categorization of Bilinguals

For many people, bilinguals are all people who are able to speak two or more languages native-like, but bilingualism doesn’t only denote people who are perfect speakers of two (or more) languages. There are most diverse gradations of bilingualism, but there is no real consensus in research on how various situations of acquiring two or more languages at the same time can be categorized. Bilingual language acquisition processes can either be categorized by the age of the speaker, by his/her skills or in various other ways which will be explained in the following.

2.2.1 Categorization According to the Age of the Speaker

Talking about the categorization of bilinguals according to the age of the speaker, bilinguals can be differentiated into early and late bilinguals. While the latter are persons who acquire their second language in adolescence or adulthood, early bilinguals are children who acquire their two (or more) languages either simultaneously or successively (Grosjean, 2010: p.178). Simultaneous bilingualism denotes the acquisition of two (or more) languages from the day of birth on, while successive bilingualism is the acquisition of two (or more) languages consecutively as it is the case when children learn a new foreign language at school, for example (Grosjean, 2010: p.178ff.). This denomination is normally used for children who acquire their second language from the age of 4 or 5 on until the age of 10 or 11 (Hammer, 1999: p.17). De Houwer (1995: p.223), however, narrows down the categorization of simultaneous bilinguals even further. She states that only the language acquisition process of children, who are confronted with two (or more) languages immediately after birth, should be called Bilingual First Language Acquisition, BFLA, after Meisel (1989) whereas the language acquisition process of children who are confronted with the second language from their first month until their second year of age should already be referred to as Bilingual Second Language Acquisition, BSLA. But as there is no clear evidence yet which exact age plays which role with children growing up with two or more languages, the term Bilingual Acquisition (BA) will be used in this paper to refer to bilingual first language acquisition in general. It should, however, be kept in mind that exactly these varying experiences and points in time with different dominances of one language, could be possible reasons for upcoming diversities in the language development processes of various children. Thus, it might not be particularly important how one calls the different ways of becoming bilingual, but that one differentiates at all the manners in which BA is happening and takes into account the distinct premises of different children. (Deuchar/Quay: pp.1-2)

2.2.2 Categorization According to Skills

In addition to categorizing bilinguals according to their age, one can also categorize them referring to their skills. Language skills are normally subcategorized into the four fields reading, writing, understanding and speaking, and thus, also the proficiency of a bilingual can be evaluated according to these four basic language skills. Since the fewest bilinguals learn to write and read in their second language as well[7], reading and writing can only partially be taken into account at the point of categorizing bilinguals. Thus, depending on how proficient bilinguals are in the two categories, speaking and understanding, bilingual children can be categorized in the following way (Baker, 1996/Grosjean, 2010/Hammer, 1999):

- passive bilinguals
- dominant bilinguals
- balanced bilinguals/equilinguals, and
- semilinguals.

Passive bilinguals are (almost) native speakers in one language, while they are only capable to understand their second language. Virtually, this is the minimal requirement for bilingualism.

Dominant bilinguals are more proficient in one of their two languages (Baker: p.8). This is the case with most bilinguals (Hammer,1999: p.19). Usually, bilingual children have one ‘weak’ and one ‘strong’ language. In their ‘weak’ language, they normally have some troubles finding the right words and use code-mixing or code-switching[8] more often than in their ‘strong’ language. The ‘strong’ language is the dominant language (Genesee, 2008: 80), but depending on the situation a child lives in, this dominance can also shift. Especially when the environment of a child is heavily dominant in one language and the second language is not supported well enough or not really needed anymore, children are even prone to no longer use one of the two languages (Grosjean, 2010: p.172). The following figure taken from Grosjean’s book Bilingual: Life and Reality (2010, p.172) is very helpful to understand the coherences of special factors in the acquisition or maintenance process of languages within a bilingual child:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Here, the common prejudices that bilingual children do not learn their two languages properly and that they are stutterers (Kielhöfer/Jonekeit, 2002: p.10), come into play. Due to the fact that bilinguals most of the time do have a ‘weak’ and a ‘strong’ language, they certainly show some deficiencies in their nondominant language But usually, as soon as they are exposed to their ‘weak’ language, e.g. when they are on vacation in a country where this language is spoken exclusively, they will certainly master their nondominant language well enough to use it as a means of communication If this exposure endures for a longer time, even the ‘weak’ language can eventually become stronger. Of course, there are children who follow the prejudices of stuttering and not being able to use their ‘weak’ language properly. But with these children, there has to be either a break within the principles of bilingual parenting or they suffer from speech impediments anyway. (Kielhöfer/Jonekeit, 2002: pp. 90-91).

Balanced bilinguals have equally proficient abilities in both languages, but but will not necessarily pass for a native speaker in both languages (Karbalaei: p.279). Should this be the case, nevertheless, this type of bilingualism can also be called equilingualism and is the most perfect form of balanced bilingualism. But since the concept of balanced bilingualism is rather idealized and actually only exists very rarely in practice, this term should not be overestimated and one should rather see it as an extreme position in opposite to the other extreme – dominant bilingualism – with many levels in between (Hammer, 1999: p.19).

Semilingualism is the more negative way of balanced bilingualism. It denotes the state of a bilingual who has deficiencies in both of his languages, whose languages didn’t even reach a proficient level (Genesee, 2008: p.225). Fortunately, this type of bilingualism is practically nonexistent. Only children who suffer from language disorders anyway, are normally affected by this type of categorization. The reasons for the emergence of semilingualism are diverse. Social, psychological, and biological factors have to be taken into account here. But it has been shown that certainly not the fact of growing up with two or more languages is responsible for any kind of difficulty with language acquisition (Grosjean, 2010: p.227). Hence, this predominant prejudice should really be reconsidered, since “bilingualism does not cause any type of language disorder […]” (Döpke: p.5).

2.2.3 Other Possibilities of Categorization

One can categorize bilinguals not only according to their proficiency or their age, but also by considering the way in which both languages are represented in a bilingual’s mind, for example. In this connection, one comes across the following terms: compound and coordinate bilingualism. According to Bechert (1991: p.54), compound bilinguals learn their languages in the same contexts and therefore learning and usage overlap. These bilinguals have the same concepts for words in both languages, e.g. a German-English bilingual child has the same association for the two words “Familie” and “family”. In contrast, a coordinate bilingual child would have two different types of mental representation for “Familie” and “family”. In such a case, the two words also have two different meanings for the child, which can be traced back to the fact that the child learned the two words in different environments and/or contexts (Hammer, 1999: p.20). In addition to these two concepts of compound and coordinate bilingualism, another model which unifies both concepts – the “Bilingual Dual Coding Model” of Baker and Prys – came up in 1998.[9]

Another way to categorize bilinguals is to judge them according to the degree to which they are also bicultural or not. If you for example take a look at a bilingual migrant child living in Germany, you can assume that this child will not only acquire the language from his/her migrant parents or grandparents, he/she will most probably also learn a lot about this particular culture. At the same time, he/she will also learn a lot about German culture in German kindergarten or in school. This child would then be called a bicultural bilingual. According to Grosjean (2010: p.109), bicultural people have the following characteristics: “first, they take part, in varying degrees, in the life of two or more cultures. […] Second, they adapt, at least in part, their attitudes, behavior, values and languages to their cultures.” Hence, biculturals will always adapt their behavior depending on the situation they are in. In other words, to take the migrant child as an example again, when it is talking to her mother, it will probably behave and react differently from a situation where it interacts with her German friends and their parents.

One could of course add multiple other ways of categorizing bilinguals like, for example, the amount of persons who are talking the one language or the other language with the child or how good a bilingual child performs in standard language tests etc. But the most important thing is, as already mentioned in the introductory part, not to categorize bilinguals perfectly. One should rather take into account all the circumstances and premises of every individual bilingual, because bilingualism takes place in so many different places and manners that it is hard to generalize.

2.3 One Person – One Language

One important aspect of bilingualism, however, should not be left out, namely the ‘one person – one language principle’. This principle, in its original language called une personne – une langue, plays an important role in the language acquisition process of a child. Brought into prominence, but not invented by Ronjat, this theory implies that children who are brought up bilingually should be confronted with one language exclusively by the mother and with the other language only by the father (Grosjean, 2010: p.206). Even though this strategy of bilingual child rearing is the most famous and still most common strategy, it is not really the best solution. As Grosjean (2010: p.208) puts it in his most recent book, it can even be problematic:

“The problem, though, is that one language will eventually have less and less input unless the parents take very clear action. As soon as the children go out into the outside world (unless they live in a minority community with the minority language), the will hear and use the other, majority language much more. In addition to the problem of decreased input in the minority language, children will want to be like other children and not be singled out. So, little by little, the majority language will start taking over, much to the distress of the parent who uses the minority language.”

Thus, the ‘one person – one language approach’ is a good possibility to use within the first months of language development, but bilingual parents should also consider other strategies. Another possibility would be the ‘home – outside the home strategy’, where both parents speak the minority language at home. Even though both parents are forced to speak the minority language in doing so, this approach offers the children the opportunity to get more minority language input. Additionally, this method is even more successful than the one person – one language principle of Ronjat, as demonstrated by Annick De Houwer in a survey (Grosjean, 2010: p.209).

Furthermore, the ‘one-language-first’ strategy speaking for itself or the ‘language-time’ approach, where languages are spoken at specific times can be used to establish bilingualism. Alternatively, there is the ‘free-alternation’ strategy, where two (or more) languages are used interchangeably, “letting such factors as topic […] dictate the language to be used” (Grosjean, 2010: p.207). However, if a certain system of bilingual parenting has already been established within one family and bilingualism already takes its effects, the parents should stick to this strategy in order to not confuse the bilingual language development of a child.

2.4 Interference and Code-mixing/-switching in Bilingual Acquisition

As well as the strategies a family uses to raise their children bilingually, interferences and code-mixing/-switching play a very prominent role in BA, especially in the bilingual’s ‘weak’ language. They are important parts of the early language development and should even later not be judged too negatively either by parents or teachers. These ‘problems’ should rather be accepted to a certain degree, since there is the danger of mental overload in a bilingual child, if the claims for correctness in the ‘weak’ language are too high (Kielhöfer/Jonekit, 2002: p.90). Hereafter, different types of interferences and definitions of code-mixing and -switching will be given.

2.4.1 Different Types of Interferences

According to Grosjean (2010: p.68), interferences are “deviations from the language being spoken (or written) stemming from the influence of the deactivated languages” and they belong to bilinguals “however hard they try to avoid them”.

There are two types of interferences: static and dynamic interferences. Static interferences are persistent marks of one language in the other language such as an accent or the broadening of a word’s meaning, while dynamic interferences depict temporary ‘mistakes’ in the other language like, for example, the momentary usage of a certain grammatical structure or a wrong stress pattern. According to Grosjean (2010: p.69), these two kinds of interferences are usually hard to be kept apart from each other and therefore there will not be a distinction between them in this paper as well – except for an accent, which is always a static interference. The more important thing is that interferences are delimited from other types of language mistakes, which can be traced back to the level of proficiency in one language. (Grosjean, 2010: pp. 68-69)

Interferences can take place in all levels of a language, to wit in phonology, at the lexical level and in syntax. Interferences in the pronunciation can be just temporal or else persistent, just as interferences on other levels of language. Examples for interferences at the level of phonology are having an accent or just temporarily pronouncing words in the wrong way with consonants or vowels from the respective other language. At the word level, one can instance lexical borrowings, loanshifts or “false friends” or the wrong usage of proverbs and idioms. Moreover, using the wrong prepositions and word order structures belongs to the interferences at the syntax level. I will go into more detail concerning these types of interferences when describing the actual case study in chapter 3. (Grosjean, 2010: pp.70-72)

In this context, it remains to be said that there is also a difference between three major types of interferences in the sense of their degree in which they have an impact on communication. According to Weinreich (1953), interferences can 1) have no negative effects on communication, 2) have a slight impact on communication, in the sense that communication/comprehension is still possible, but the utterance is not made according to the rules of the actually used language, and 3) make communication impossible, when the expression used by the bilingual causes confusion in his/her monolingual interlocutor. (Grosjean, 2010: p.73)

Concluding this section about interferences, it is important to add that even adult bilinguals still make interference mistakes and most of the time they do it unconsciously. Therefore, bilingual children should all the more be allowed to make interference mistakes. If not corrected too much or too enthusiastically, they will then even learn from these ‘mistakes’ by themselves, since situations, where interferences interrupt or hinder communication normally linger in the memory.

2.4.2 Code-Mixing and -Switching

Apart from interferences, code-mixing and code-switching are two phenomena one encounters very often when reading about bilingualism. Before actually talking about these two very similar concepts of language mixing, in other words utterances or conversations “containing features of both languages” (Köppe/Meisel, 1995 : p.277), I will give short definitions of the two terms in order to distinguish them from each other. While code-switching is the bilingual speaker’s ability “to select the language according to external factors like the particular interlocutor, the situational context, the topic of conversation etc.” according to Köppe and Meisel (1995: p.277), code-mixing means that a bilingual speaker violates the rules of one of his/her language when he/she makes mixed utterances. Other authors like Grosjean or Genesee, however, use the two terms interchangeable, as the following definition from Genesee’s book Dual Language Development and Disorders (2008) shows: According to the author, code-mixing “is also sometimes referred to as code-switching.” (Genesee, 2008: p.216). Therefore, in this paper the term code-mixing will be used to refer to both, code-mixing and code-switching. I will not distinguish between code-mixing containing errors in the actually spoken language while code-switching doesn’t, I will only refer to the term code-mixing as “the use of elements from two languages in the same utterance or […] stretch of conversation” (Genesee, 2008: p.91).

Often referred to as intersentential and intrasentential, two different kinds of code-mixing can be described. Genesee (2008: p.91) uses slightly different terms for these two phenomena and as I already referred to him earlier, I will stick to his definitions once again. Therefore, this paper will use the two terms intrautterance and interutterance code-mixing, since people rarely talk in whole sentences (Genesee, 2008: p.91). Intrautterance code-mixing is used “when elements occur in the same utterance”, whereas interutterance code-mixing denotes code-mixing occurring “in two different utterances in the same conversation. Code-mixing in general doesn’t only refer to using single words in certain utterances, but also whole phrases, clauses and yet pragmatic patterns, can be code-mixed (Genesee, 2008: p.92). There are, of course, the most divergent types of intrautterance and interutterance code-mixings, but I will go more into detail in the next chapter, when describing the results of the case study. However, the myth mentioned by Grosjean (2010: p.52) that bilinguals code-mix out of pure laziness has to be contradicted very clearly. Even if sometimes code-mixing occurs more often when a bilingual is tired, angry or in another emotional extreme, there are many good reasons for using code-mixing in ‘normal’ situations. Sometimes, it is just easier to say a word or a phrase in the respective other language and if the interlocutor knows both languages well, there is no problem (Grosjean, 2010: pp. 53-54).

What remains to say is that code-mixing is a very natural incident for bilinguals. They sometimes do not even notice that they have switched between their languages, only when their attention is drawn to it by monolingual friends or family members, as it is with interferences. But before coming back to the different characteristics of bilinguals, the case study will be described.

3. The Case Study

3.1 Introduction of the Family and Their Special Situation

After the theoretical background of bilingualism, which shall serve as the basis for the now following case study, the family used for my study shall now be introduced. It consists of the two parents, married and living together – which is not implicit nowadays – and their three children. The mother of the family is 44 and her husband is 40. Both of them are native Germans, but the mother only speaks English with the children, while the father speaks German, respectively German with a Bavarian, Upper Palatinate accent. When the couple is talking to each other, they are both speaking German with a Bavarian accent and to relatives, as to relatives and acquaintances. The reason why the mother is talking English to the children is the following: The couple has lived in London for one year, seven weeks after the eldest son (12;6[10] and called Son1 in the following), was born and that’s when the mother first started to speak English with her firstborn. She continued to do so when they returned back to Germany. Thus, she produced ‘unnatural bilingualism’ – speaking English without being a native speaker. Nevertheless, some of Son 1’s first words were then even English, e.g. he always wanted to have his mother’s ‘keys’. With five years of age, Son1 spent a year in another English speaking country as well, namely the U.S, where he attended elementary school. One has to add here that the mother had already spent two years in the U.S. beforehand, one time six months as an au pair girl after school in Atlanta, Georgia and the other time together with the father in Austin, Texas for one year. So she’s actually a German mother-tongue, but she’s also a very proficient speaker of the English language. She only reads English books and if there’s the possibility, she also watches movies in the original version and tries to keep up to date with the language as well as possible.

The other two children, a daughter (10;3) and another son (8;1 and referred to as Son2) have also already spent a year in an English speaking country, namely the U.S., when they were 3 and 1 year old, respectively. The father worked at Stanford University for one year and that’s why the whole family was living there. There, Son2was still too young to speak, but in contrast, the daughter started to speak English very soon and didn’t even speak much German anymore. Not even when she talked to her German grandparents on Skype© did she speak German, even though the father never stopped speaking German to his children. As the daughter visited pre-school three times a week, her environment was predominantly English and she adjusted to it. But according to Grosjean, it is quite typical that children adjust themselves to their environment and the necessity of language (see figure on p.5).

Since the family has come back from the U.S., they have moved three times within Germany so far. First, they were living in a town next to Bonn, when they came back from the States, where they had already lived before they left Germany. After three years they moved to a town next to Heidelberg in Baden-Wuerttemberg and stayed there for three and a half years. Last year, the father got a new job in Bavaria and that’s why the family moved again, this time to a town in this federal state. So, the three children were not only confronted with the two different languages English and German, but also exposed to different dialects of German, namely High German mixed with Cologne, Baden and Bavarian. According to Grosjean’s definition of bilingualism (2010: p.4), these three children are hence definitely bilingual, no matter which abilities they have in English and German.

The language experiences and acquisition processes of all three children are hence quite different. Son1 has already spent two years in an English speaking country, but was only confronted with the English language from his seventh week on, while his siblings were confronted with English and German from their very day of birth on, but have only spent one year in an English speaking country. Furthermore, the exposure to the English speaking environment took place at various stages of brain and language development. Since Son1 wasn’t exposed to the English language before he was seven weeks old, his language acquisition process of English could, according to DeHouwer (1995: p.223), therefore also already be called “Bilingual Second Language Acquisition” (BSLA). In contrast, the two other children were exposed to English and German from their very first day on. So their language acquisition process could be called “Bilingual First Language Acquisition” (BFLA) after DeHouwer (Deuchar/Quay, 2000: pp.1-2). To get a better overview of the language development history of the three children, here is a chart including the children’s exposure to the different languages and corresponding ages:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten


[1] Grosjean would also call this a special form of bilingualism (Grosjean, 2010: 146ff.), based on his definition of bilingualism on page 4, which does not necessarily imply that only children can be bilinguals.

[2] (especially the study of his older daughter Hildegard, which was published in 1949 in four books)

[3] “One should keep in mind that bilingual children, because they have to deal with two or more languages, are different in some ways from monololingual children, but definitely not on rate on language acquisitision.” (Grosjean, 2000)

[4] According to this hypothesis, bilinguals develop their languages simultaneously in one single system and only later start to distinguish the different languages from each other.

[5] This hypothesis assumes that bilingual children separate their languages from the very beginning on.

[6] There is, of course, a huge amount of further researchers in the field of bilingualism, but as it would go beyond the scope of this paper mentioning them all, name by name, I have included some of them in the rest of the paper, but certainly not all. For a survey see “The Handbook of Bilingualism”.

[7] except when they learn this language in school or their parents take care of this factor

[8] both of these terms will be explained in chapter 2.4

[9] This model takes into account both the idea of uniformity of concepts and at the same time separation. Since further explanations would go beyond the scope, they can be looked up in Baker’s “Encyclopedia of Bilingualism and Bilingual Education” or Hammer’s diploma thesis (1999).

[10] 12;6 means that he was 12 years and 6 months at the time I surveyed the family. The same applies to the other two children. 10;3 means 10 years and 3 months, 8;1 means 8 years and 1 month.

Excerpt out of 63 pages


Growing Up With Two Languages
A Case Study
University of Regensburg  (Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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13150 KB
Bilingualism, Zweisprachigkeit, Case Study, Fallstudie, American English, Linguistics, Bachelorarbeit
Quote paper
Bakkalaureus (B.A.) Katharina Hirmer (Author), 2012, Growing Up With Two Languages, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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