Case Study on Bilingual Person
The aim of this case study is to show the historical, societal and social-political context of bilingualism. Victor’s case is used to explore these aims. Victor, a Czech, had moved to England due to safety issues. At the time, there were civil wars in Czech and high crime that resulted in the open boundaries it has with its neighbors. Czech was a hide out for terrorists who came from its neighboring countries therefore making it even more insecure. Afraid for their lives victor’s family had moved to England. Victor had gone through Czech elementary education for some time and gotten used to it. When his family went to England to seek refuge he attended the English schools and encountered difficulties due to the change in education system and the use of English in school. In Czech, victor used Czech not only at home but also in school since that is the national language. In England, everyone uses English both at school and at home and this made it difficult for Victor to learn at the same pace with the native students. Though he was trying to learn English, he lacked support from teachers, who thought he was a slow learner, and his family, who spoke Czech. In England, Czech was viewed as a minority language therefore increasing chances of racist attacks towards Victor by other pupils. Other factors that contributed to Victor’s low performance are first, there was no continuity in his education since he had changed schools severally and had many EAL teachers. More than one Educational Psychologist had assessed him. These changes greatly affected his concentration and gave him an uncertainty that disrupted his education (Baker, 2006). To improve Victor’s grade, he continued receiving LSA support, High Frequency and Key Word card support and continues receiving EAL support. He has a new Australian SEN teacher who initiates consistent differentiated support. The SEN teacher knows Victor’s strengths and weakness because she spends time with him. She knows that he can empathize, that he understands his teachers and his peers that he needs encouragement prior to attempting an activity, and that he needs guidance by an adult in his learning. With this knowledge, the teacher has continued to encourage him and to focus on his strengths to improve not only his class work but also his personality. It is therefore very essential for schools to be careful in assessing their students for otherwise they can create new problems. For example, it is not right to assume that a pupil performing below average has SEN only, since he or she could have additional difficulties (Pavlenko, 2006). Victor could record personal experiences such as visiting a Nature Study Centre or the local river with scaffolding support but was not able to perceive and interpret graphic symbols. It is therefore important for teachers to encourage pupils to talk so as develop this skill. An EAL teacher should take time to know what a student needs before he can come up with a strategy to help. In Victor’s case if the first EAL teacher had taken time to know Victor’s needs, he would have spared him the heartaches that ensued (Hargreaves, 1998). Collins Baker, in his book “Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism” (2006), stressed on the theories of BICS and CALP. BICS stands for Basic Interpersonal Communicative Skills and CALP stands for Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency. BICS theory intends to create an awareness of the time that an immigrant child takes to learn a second language and be able to express himself using that language while CALP focuses on the time taken for the same child to be able to use the language to answer questions asked in class or on paper. A pupil can communicate in a language after two years but will take approximately five years to be at the same level with the native speakers in using the second language in academics. The failure by many schools to take into account the BICS/CALP theory, which can also be referred to as conversational/academic, has led to many bilingual students especially in the US to be put in the wrong classes as is seen the case of Victor. If the teachers had put into account the facts of this theory, they would have given Victor more time to learn English rather than having him in an SEN class (Pavlenko, 2006). There is a misleading nature of BICS, which lead to teachers overestimating children’s skills. This is because it gives an estimation of five years and it is tempting to withdraw support after that long. This would definitely mean the child’s literacy level would deteriorate. In Victor’s case, it is good to keep up the support even after five years. The issues of Bilingualism can be viewed in the social-political context. Some countries have statues denying its people to use certain languages. This could be spurred by the labeling the society has on speakers of that language. This could adversely affect people especially those with refugee status and there first language is prohibited in the country they have sought refuge. Some issues could be only societal. For example, in North Korea, people are encouraged to speak English in class but not outside the class since those who speak English outside the classroom are seen to be proud. In a country where collectivism is valued, it is seen improper for people to elevate themselves. This has a negative effect on those studying English as their second language. Over the years, it has become easier to study a second language due to improvement in technology. People can study on line and use sophisticated materials to improve on pronunciation and other aspects of language. The world is also becoming a global image everyday; hence, one can interact with the natives more in business and social places therefore making learning fast. Many students have exited language support programs because they feel that they are below average. This could be because of the teachers’ remarks or a student’s own assessment of failure, which leads to frustration hence withdrawal. It is therefore vital for the teachers to know the theory in order to encourage students to learn their second language at an appropriate pace. Finnish immigrant children who lived in Sweden were fluent in both Finnish and Swedish but the verbal academic performance was below age expectation in both languages (Cummins & Davison, 2007). In another circumstance, a psychological test showed that both teachers and psychologists assumed that a child who could communicate well in English had already overcome all the challenges in English. Contrary to this belief, most of the students who talked proficiently in English did not perform well in class (Cummins & Davison, 2007). These findings support the BICS/CALP theory. The reason behind these performances is that though it could take a person two years to communicate in a second language, it could take him five to seven years to perform at the same level with the natives in that language (Menken, 2008). In his BICS/CALP theory, Cummins differed with John Oller who emphasized the individual’s differences in language proficiency was due to “global language proficiency.” Oller showed strong correlations between performances on standardized reading tests, Cloze tests of reading and measures of oral verbal ability but Cummins differed with him stating the fact that the various aspects of language could not be summed up into “global language proficiency” citing an example of a twelve-year-old and a six-year-old English speakers. He explained that though the six year old could not tackle the same academic paper as the twelve year old due to the vocabulary used, the six year could understood everything the twelve year old said because he used the language in social contexts. This applies to second language speakers who first get the language spoken in the social contexts before that in the books. This case is not any different from that of Victor who at least could express himself in English but had difficulties understanding the questions asked in papers, which resulted to his poor marks (Pavlenko, 2006). Some people have believed that learning more than one language can overload the brain. Yet others believe that it is easier to learn some languages than others are; bilingualism can cause stuttering and dyslexia; a child learns a second language faster than an adult does; the quality of the first language determines the quality of the next language to be learnt. All these are myths but the following factors affect learning of a second language: aptitude, motivation, consistency, opportunity and support whether at home or school, timing, strategy, siblings, gender, use of hands as it reflects cerebral dominance and the linguistic and historical relationship between the languages (Pavlenko, 2006). When looking at the windows of opportunity or the timing, it is best to teach a child when he is between zero to nine months. Though the child cannot speak at this time, they recognize the language and familiarize with it in their mind. When teaching a language it is also good to use gestures, intonation and facial expression, and for academic purposes, de-contextualized language should be used. If in Victor’s case gestures were used, he would have learnt to speak English faster and if he were given specialized attention and a de-contextualized language used he would have learnt faster (Cummins et al., 2001). In the case of aptitude, it is good to note not everyone is the same. For example, Victor had special abilities like empathizing but was not fast enough in learning English. The teachers should be keen to give students external, positive motivation. Some students like Victor who had lost hope of learning and therefore skipped lessons are supposed to be motivated by teachers and parents since they lack intrinsic motivation. The strategy chosen by the teachers should not only be appropriate for the pupil concerned, it should also be consistent (Hargreaves, 1998). This can be seen in the case of Victor who had several EAL teachers and Learning Mentors. He was not improving and expressed psychological trauma. Social networks can affect learning. This was illuminated by Milroy in his social networks theory where nodes represent individual actors and the ties the relationships (Garcia & Baker, 2006). Victor’s social network is shown below The society has many actors for example the family, other pupils, friends and neighbors. Teachers are in the school administration and so are the psychologists. It is also important for the parents and teachers to give the child an opportunity to use the new language. Victor’s mother was not speaking English and the same was true for the other siblings. The teachers did not give Victor a chance to ask or answer a question in class. These two circumstances did not promote the learning of English (Baker & Jones, 1998). It is good for the teachers to do more of listening than talking in a classroom so that students can learn more. They should also make classes student-centered, which will ensure all students participate and use the language more. The teacher can put students into small groups so that to encourage them to speak out especially those who are shy in a crowd. All EAL teachers should be highly qualified so that they can have a good impact on the students (Clarke et al., 2010). Victor a refugee in England underwent several difficulties to learn English, which affected his performance in class. He also missed school a lot. He had changed schools many times and EAL’s. To improve his grades, a new teacher and a new Literacy Mentor who spent more time with him were employed. These steps helped him to improve. This case has brought out the facts stated in BICS/CALP theory by Cummins and the effects the social and political factors have on bilingualism. The various variable affecting leaning have also been looked at one of them being the historical connection between two languages. If the two languages are not connected, it takes more time to learn the second language. Finally, to encourage second language learning, the teachers should do several thing including being consistent in applying the most appropriate method for example student-centered learning. Civil wars and the general security issues forced Victor and his family to move from Czech to England where Victor encountered many challenges mostly in his education. He was not conversant with English, which was used in schools, and he faced racial discrimination. At first, the teachers had put him together with other students with special needs and since he was quiet and well behaved, little attention was given to him and he continued deteriorating in class. When his problem was analyzed and given new EAL’s he improved. Social situations affect language acquisition like if speakers of a certain language are seen to be proud like it happens to English speakers in North Korea. Political factors like statues not allowing use of certain languages affect acquisition of the prohibited language. The BISC/CALP theory explains that people take longer to achieve the same performance levels with the natives in academics than they do in communicating. Though it explains this support should be given for longer periods. Milroy’s social network theory explains the relationships between individuals as is shown in Victor’s case. References Baker, C., & Jones, S. P. (1998). Encyclopedia of bilingualism and bilingual education. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. Baker, C. (2006). Foundations of bilingual education and bilingualism. Clevedon: [u.a.], Multilingual Matters. http://www.loc.gov/catdir/toc/ecip0517/2005021289.html. Clarke, S., Westbrook, J., & Dickinson, P. (2010). The complete guide to becoming an English teacher. London: SAGE. Cummins, J., & Davison, C. (2007). International handbook of English language teaching. Springer international handbooks of education, v. 15. New York: Springer. Cummins, J., Baker, C., & Hornberger, N. H. (2001). An introductory reader to the writings of Jim Cummins. Bilingual education and bilingualism, 29. Clevedon: [u.a.], Multilingual Matters. Garcia, O., & Baker, C. (2006). Bilingual education: an introductory reader. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. Hargreaves, A. (2005). Extending educational change. International handbook of educational change, 1. Dordrecht: [u.a.], Springer. Hargreaves, A. (1998). International handbook of educational change. Kluwer international handbooks of education, 5. Dordrecht, Pays-Bas, Kluwer Academic. Menken, K. (2008). English learners left behind: standardized testing as language policy. Bilingual education and bilingualism, 65. Clevedon; Buffalo: Multilingual Matters Ltd. Pavlenko, A. (2006). Bilingual minds Emotional experience, expression, and representation. Bilingual education and bilingualism, 56. Clevedon [England], Multilingual Matters.
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