This study has presented the typical knowledge management dilemma – there is a considerable amount of information and research, both academic and practical but it is widely dispersed and personal experience is often not documented.
Most research into BML (bi- and multi-lingualism) concerns itself with assimilation of immigrants (Fillmore, 2000; Slavin, Madden, Calderon, Chamberlain, & Hennessy, 2011; Slavin et al., 2011; Winter, 1999); maintaining minority (or majority) languages in a dominant language environment (Ball, 2011; Dixon, Zhao, Quiroz, & Shin, 2012) or language immersion or bilingual programmes; (Caldas & Caron-Caldas, 2002; Carder, 2008; Cummins, 1998; Genesee, 2014; Hadi-Tabassum, 2004; Soderman, 2010) aspects of which may or may not be relevant to this study or its population.
Researchers distinguish between three types of bilingualism. Simultaneous bilingualism – exposure to two languages from birth; early successive bilingualism – ﬁrst exposure aged 1 – 3 years; and second language bilingualism – ﬁrst exposure aged 4 – 10 years. There is considerable debate as to what exactly the “critical” ages are for successful language learning. As Kirsten Winter pointed out “Language learning is a continuum and bilingualism is not a perfect status to be achieved.” (Winter, 1999, p. 88). Typical language learners cycle through alternating stages of passive (receptive) and productive (expressive) skills, usually in the order of listening, speaking, reading and then writing.
Factors Impacting Acquisition
Researchers agree on a number of factors which impact on the successful acquisition and retention of a second or subsequent language in the BML population. These relate to the student, family, school and the community or society.
A large vocabulary in any language contributes to overall “oral proficiency, word reading ability, reading comprehension, and school achievement”(Dixon, Zhao, Quiroz, et al., 2012, p. 542). Vocabulary is influenced by the parent’s level of education, access to and availability of resources, and the quality and quantity of parent-child interactions, including shared reading, frequency of story telling and conversations.
The International school context results in a number of issues that complicate MT provision, including the multicultural and multilingual nature of the student population, resulting in ‘fictive monolingualism’ and the transience of both the student and teacher population, with the resultant socio-psychological implications on learning (Caldas & Caron-Caldas, 2002; Hacohen, 2012; Hornberger, 2003). However, where the “cultural capital” of the school included valuing language diversity in its environment and teaching practise, students had an increased sense of belonging, higher levels of reading literacy and they scored significantly higher academically. Continued development of ability in two or more languages on a daily basis resulted in a deeper understanding of language across contexts. Best practice includes a well structured MT program with at least some inclusion in the school timetable and fee structure, inclusion of other subject matter in MT lessons, support for English acquisition through a daily ESL/EAL program, a socio-culturally supportive environment, better awareness and training for subject teachers, affirmation of students’ identity as bi- or multi-lingual and collaboration with parents, while block scheduling was not optimal for language learning (Carder, 2014; IBO, 2011; Tramonte & Willms, 2010; Vienna International School, 2006; Wallinger, 2000). Research in heritage language (HL) teaching and learning indicates that macro-approaches and other specific strategies that build on learners’ existing language skills could be leveraged to improve reading and writing abilities, increase motivation and participation and validate students’ identity although specific teacher training for HL is recommended (Lee-Smith, 2011; Wu & Chang, 2010).
Community and Society
The support of a locally based language community, including faith and cultural communities had a positive impact which could mitigate socio-economic status (SES) factors and enhance learning through beliefs and practises, classes and cultural and religious activities (Dixon, Zhao, Quiroz, et al., 2012). Finally the availability of and access to learning resources, complementary schooling, books and other materials impacted on acquiring and maintaining language(Scheele, Leseman, & Mayo, 2010)
Although the value of BML has become more widely accepted and most parents and educators appreciate and encourage the process, a number of concerns have rightly been voiced on the process and efficacy of reaching the goal of a BML child. In the first instance, the quality of the productive language – oral and or written skills – of one or all of the child’s languages may not develop to a sufficiently high level for academic or employment purposes (Cummins, 1998).
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