CAN NATURAL BILINGUALISM BE HARMFUL?

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Abstract


Based on literature analysis and own numerous (over 200) observations of the development of the natural Russian-German bilingualism, the following situations of risk in which bilingualism can become a factor inhibiting the linguistic and the general intellectual development of children are described: 1) Bilingual upbringing of 12-36 months old children with the division of languages by place of usage and roughly equal time of introduction of each language (e.g. a child from a Russian-speaking family at the age of 12 months starts to attend a full-day German kindergarten). With such arrangement of education neither of the languages can advance, development of phrasal speech is significantly delayed. Possible are such unhealthy reactions as temporary speech failure. Another variation of bilingual development, when one language dominates and the other remains weak for a long time, is typical for children from Russian-speaking families attending bilingual German-Russian kindergartens and it is also found in children from mixed families. In general, this variation is more favorable. 2) Change of language of instruction at school age. Receiving knowledge in the unknown language is impossible, therefore there can be negative influence of this situation on learning capacity, and psychological discomfort is also possible (to the point of suicidal attempts).Risk populations in bilingual education are 1. Children with normal intellect but with weak cognitive abilities (memory, attention etc.) requiring a milder learning mode. 2. Children with retarded or disturbed language development.It is necessary to add that the described negative manifestations are not inevitable or compulsory but simply possible. The predestination of the bilingual development depends on a multiplicity of factors and is practically unpredictable.


About the authors

Nina Sh Alexandrova

Sprachbrücke E.V., Berlin

Author for correspondence.
Email: nina.alexandrova@gmx.net
Pettenkofer str., 16-18, 10247, Berlin, Germany

speech therapist, Sprachbrücke, Berlin

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