This paper explores challenges facing bilingual children. The work also discusses the utility of various theories of bilingualism in relation to its cognitive benefits and challenges. In the last section, there are recommendations how to address challenges of bilingualism. The latter is a concept, which is used to refer to the person’s ability to speak or use two different languages. Ancient studies on bilingualism revealed this concept as a hindrance to the children’s learning process. It was based on the argument that it could, at times, expose their minds to excessive mental pressure distorting and confusing linguistic developments. However, more recent researches reveal that bilingualism has more advantages than disadvantages. It opens the children’s mind to diverse reasoning, enhances mental health and initiates the ability to access diverse knowledge in other languages.
According to Teipelke (2009), â€œbilingualism can either be on the individual or societal basisâ€ (p. 154). Individual bilingualism refers to cases, where it is only an individual, who portrays this trait, while societal one is used when the entire society or a section of the one portrays it. However, a case, when a person has the ability to use more than two languages, is defined as multilingualism (Teipelke, 2009).
To some linguistic scholars, the simple ability to speak in two languages is not enough evidence to show that one is bilingual. Before a person is categorized as bilingual, he or she has to demonstrate some native traits of the two languages. In other cases, he or she must be able to speak both languages equally well. It is a fact that is hard to achieve, since there is a likelihood that one language dominates the other (Teipelke, 2009).
Bilingualism can also be instrumental or integrative. The former is a case, when an individual learns a second language for such utility as studies, while the latter is a case, when an individual integrates himself or herself voluntarily into a society by studying their language (Chin & Wigglesworth, 2007). Such abilities are associated with one’s success to learn new cultures and become a participant listener, speaker and member of an alien society and culture.
Cognitive Challenges for Bilingual Children.Â As Chin and Wigglesworth (2007) report, the first researchers, theorists and scholars of bilingualism argue to a great extent that the concept is likely to negatively affect the cognitive ability of school-going children. It is based on the reasoning that bilingualism is likely to result into delayed language development, which may end up in delaying the learning process of children. It is connected with the fact that children are likely to learn a single language faster than two or more. According to Chin and Wigglesworth (2007), â€œbilingual children may generate a slower learning ability throughout their lives as compared to monolingual childrenâ€ (p. 98).
In addition to this, bilingual children may experience incomplete or impaired language development. Chin and Wigglesworth (2007) observe that â€œthis happens when the pressure to learn the two languages at an early age exceeds the brain capacity of the childâ€ (78). It can further lead to confusion of languages, as children are likely to mix up the application of the ones (Chin and Wigglesworth, 2007).
Teipelke (2009) also states that perfect bilingualism should be based on the assumption that a person has the ability to equally use and apply two languages. This fact is hard to achieve, since there is a tendency of one language overshadowing the other. In cases, when the sidelined language is the native one, a person is likely to lose certain aspects of culture. Bilingualism can therefore lead to linguistic and cultural erosion (Teipelke, 2009).
Cognitive Benefits of Bilingualism.Â If bilingualism is properly utilized, it is reported to create certain educational, social and economic benefits, especially in the current global world. According to Khan (2011), bilingual children have greater cognitive advantages based on the fact that they have the capacity to demonstrate diverse approaches to life issues, as well as the reasoning ability. Language, being a very significant aspect of social life, always determines the openness of the person’s mind to various approaches to knowledge. Therefore, monolingual children are disadvantaged, since their approach to knowledge is likely to be limited to one cultural point of reasoning, while bilingual ones have the ability to multitask (Khan, 2011).
In addition to this, the bilingual brain is likely to exercise a wide range of cognitive muscles in solving problems. While monolingual children have to puzzle along with closer words, bilingual ones can simply apply another language. The bilingual mind can also utilize two languages to improve and expand creativity as compared to monolingual children, whose creative thinking is limited to one language (Khan, 2011). Broad thinking that bilingual children enjoy over monolingual ones enables them to succeed in leadership positions. Studies indicate that leaders with good oratory command, especially flexible multilingualism, are often successful. It is partly because of the ability to mobilize and sustain the attention of people for a relatively longer period. It is a challenge for monolingual children, who lack charm and charismatic oratory abilities to influence listeners or employees in the context of a working environment.
Flexibility in reasoning is also likely to be higher in bilingual children. In the process of reasoning on facts of knowledge, they can easily engage in both divergent and convergent thinking, leading to more comprehensive conclusions that are attributed to different languages involved in mental data processing (Chin & Wigglesworth, 2007).
Bilingual speakers are also likely to be more mentally and socially developed than monolingual children and have higher IQ. Furthermore, they are likely to perform better in oratory, as they can be keen to understand the language of their listeners better than monolingual children. Bilingual persons have the ability to work outside the scope of their native language and have wider access to the job market.
Teipelke (2009) also argues that communication is one of the strongest indicators of intelligence. Therefore, bilingual children have the ability to access a variety of knowledge in other languages through poetry, novels and other literature genres. Â According to Teipelke (2009), â€œas a result of this, their attentiveness, listening talents and interactive ability is made better through usage of other tonguesâ€ (p. 131).
Chin and Wigglesworth (2007) also reveal that bilingualism is of great advantage even to the learning process of young children. For instance, bilingual children have a higher aptitude for new words, sounds and shapes as compared to monolingual ones. In their linguistic and cognitive development, children can break down words into component sounds, and easily categorize them into respective parts of speech. It is also evident in their ability to pronounce technical words and even accurately distinguish tongue twisters in a language.
Finally, bilingual children are likely to enjoy the benefits of mental health. Learning new languages helps children to break social and emotional barriers and misconceptions that are related to negative ethnicity. Bilingualism can be therapeutically healthy, since learners can resort to a second language in order to break monotony and boredom associated with one language (Chin & Wigglesworth, 2007).