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Double Talk Exploring the Bilingual Myth February 2, 2008 Virginia M. Scott Copyright by Virginia M. Scott 2008 All Ri PowerPoint Presentation
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Double Talk Exploring the Bilingual Myth February 2, 2008 Virginia M. Scott Copyright by Virginia M. Scott 2008 All Rights Reserved. Overview. Defining bilingualism The language brain Double talk vs. Double-talk. Double-talk. Definitions from Webster’s:

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Double Talk

Exploring the Bilingual Myth

February 2, 2008

Virginia M. Scott

Copyright by Virginia M. Scott 2008

All Rights Reserved

  • Defining bilingualism
  • The language brain
  • Double talk vs. Double-talk

TFLTA February 2008

double talk

Definitions from Webster’s:

1) language that appears to be earnest and meaningful but in fact is a mixture of sense and nonsense;

2) inflated and often deliberately ambiguous language.


“I want my child (my student) to be bilingual.”

TFLTA February 2008


Defining bilingualism

TFLTA February 2008

what does bilingual mean
What does “bilingual” mean?

uno, dos, tres …

There are at least

37 definitions

of “bilingual.”

several definitions
Several definitions …
  • Balanced bilingual = mastery of two languages is roughly equivalent
  • Covert bilingual = someone who hides knowledge of another language because of an attitudinal disposition
  • Dominant bilingual = greater proficiency in one of the two languages
  • Early bilingual = someone who acquired both languages in childhood
  • Late bilingual = someone who became bilingual later than childhood
  • Receptive bilingual = someone who understands but does not read or write
  • Secondary bilingual = someone whose second language had been added to a first via instruction
  • Incipient bilingual = someone at the early stages of bilingualism

TFLTA February 2008

attitudes about bilingualism
Attitudes about bilingualism
  • In the 19th century people believed that being bilingual was detrimental to intellectual and spiritual growth.
  • In the early 20th century some studies indicated that bilingual children had lower IQs than monolingual children.
  • Today, some bilingual speakers may be encouraged to suppress their minority language in favor of the culturally dominant language.

TFLTA February 2008

demystifying bilingualism
Demystifying bilingualism

No one has the same level or the same type of proficiency in two

(or more) languages!

je parle

yo hablo

ich spreche

TFLTA February 2008

what do bilingual people do
What do bilingual people do?
  • … stand between two languages (L1 and L2), even when apparently only using one.
  • … have the resources of two languages (L1 and L2) readily available whenever needed.
  • … code-switch.

TFLTA February 2008

code switching is
Code-switching is …
  • … the alternating use of two or more languages in a single conversation event.
  • … a natural, observable occurrence among people of all ages who speak more than one language.
  • … one indicator of whether a person is bilingual.
  • … is the norm for many bilinguals.

Le prof, elle est really nice.

Yeah … So, do you want to go prendre un verre now?

TFLTA February 2008

cs indicates language skill
CS indicates language skill

“There is a widespread impression that bilingual speakers code-switch because they cannot express themselves adequately in one language. This may be true to some extent when a bilingual is momentarily lost for words in one of his or her languages. However, code-switching is an extremely common practice among bilinguals and takes many different forms…. It has been demonstrated that code-switching involves skilled manipulation of overlapping sections of two (or more) grammars, and that there is virtually no instance of ungrammatical combination of the two languages in code-switching, regardless of the bilingual ability of the speaker.” (Wei, 2000b, p. 16-17)

TFLTA February 2008

bilingual cs in children
Bilingual CS in children

“Child bilingual code-mixing, like adult code-switching, is not random but is systematic and constrained in accordance with the grammatical principles of the target languages. Thus, contrary to lay opinion, and even that of some scientists, the language that bilingual children acquire is not deviant. The linguistic competence that underlies their performance in both of their languages reveals the same underlying linguistic competence as that of monolinguals in most significant respects. Moreover, the systematic on-line coordination of two languages during code-mixing that most bilingual children engage in reveals a kind of linguistic competence that exceeds that which is demonstrated by monolinguals.”(Genesee, 2002, p. 192).

TFLTA February 2008

interesting facts about cs
Interesting facts about CS
  • One language in bilingual speech production is more dominant and activated than the other; the dominant one is called the matrix language and the secondary one is the embedded language.
  • The matrix language governs the morphology and syntax in CS.
  • CS occurs at various levels of speech (morphemes, words, clauses, sentences), however 80% of CS involves single words. (Genesee, 2001)
  • Studies show that words, such as nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, prepositions and discourse markers (such as “well, or “OK”) from the embedded language may appear in the matrix language.

a) She has beaucoup of friends.

(English = matrix; French = embedded)

b) J’aime ce film. I mean, il est triste mais funny aussi.

(French = matrix; English = embedded)

  • Studies show that that grammatical morphemes, such as “the,” “my,” “a,” from the matrix language may co-occur with lexical morphemes of either the matrix language or the embedded language whereas grammatical morphemes of the embedded language may co-occur only with words of the embedded language.

TFLTA February 2008

defining bilingualism
Defining bilingualism

1) Bilingualism is not a state, but a process; not a goal but a continuum.




2) Bilingualism involves the ability to use two languages.

TFLTA February 2008


The language brain

TFLTA February 2008

questions about the language brain
Questions about the language brain

1) Is there one part of the brain that is dedicated to language?

2) What is the connection between memory and language?

3) Is there a difference between the monolingual and the bilingual brain?

TFLTA February 2008

q1 is there one part of the brain that is dedicated to language
Q1: Is there one part of the brain that is dedicated to language?

1) Language can be described as having levels, each one with its own neurological systems:

    • Speech perception:
      • Hearing and understanding sounds (phonology), words (morphology), sentences (syntax).
    • Speech production:
      • Tongue, lips, vocal chords.
  • Speech perception and production occurs through the cooperation of many separate neurofunctional systems (Fabbro, 1999)
  • This vastly complex set of systems all operate simultaneously during speech perception and production. (Beatty, 2001)

 NO!No single part of the brain is involved in language processing or production.

q2 what is the connection between memory and language
Q2: What is the connection between memory and language?
  • Short-term memory: (working memory) processes and stores limited amount of information for a few seconds.
  • Long-term memory:
    • Procedural: knowledge that cannot be retrieved consciously – knowing how.
    • Declarative: knowledge that can be consciously retrieved – knowing what.
  • Procedural memory
    • “stores” knowledge that can be used without conscious reflection, such as the rules of one’s native language, or the spontaneous ability to ride a bicycle.
  • Declarative memory
    • “stores” facts and experiences that can be consciously recalled, such as words associated with the category ‘fruit,’ or the names of countries in Europe.

TFLTA February 2008

words and grammar in memory
Words and grammar in memory

Evidence suggests that for native language (L1) processing …

  • words may be stored and processed in declarative memory.
  • grammar may be stored and processed in procedural memory.

Evidence suggests that for adult* second language (L2) processing …

  • words and grammar may be stored and processed in declarative memory.
note what does adult mean
Note: What does “adult” mean?
  • There is general agreement that humans have a critical period / sensitive period for language learning. (Lenneberg’s CPH, 1967)
  • Although there is no agreement about how long this sensitive period lasts, most research suggests that it lasts from birth through puberty.
  • The term “adult” in SLA refers to a learner who is past the sensitive period for language learning.

TFLTA February 2008

child sla
Child SLA

In child second language acquisition grammar is supported by procedural memory and words are supported by declarative memory.

TFLTA February 2008

adult sla
Adult SLA

In adult second language acquisition both words and grammar may be supported by declarative memory systems. (Ullman’s, 2005 DP model of SLA)

TFLTA February 2008

q3 is there a difference between the monolingual and the bilingual brain
Q3: Is there a difference between the monolingual and the bilingual brain?
  • There is a significant adaptation in the corpus callosum to accommodate multiple language capacity in bilingual people compared to monolingual people (Coggins, Kennedy, & Armstrong, 2004).
  • In addition, there is evidence that early learning of one as opposed to two languages predicts divergent patterns of cerebral language lateralisation in adulthood (Hull & Vaid, 2006).
  • Bilingual people are able to switch back and forth between their two languages with ease. This language switching involves increased executive functioning, and it appears that the left caudate plays a universal role in monitoring and controlling the language in use (Crinion et al., 2006; Marian, Spivey, & Hirsch, 2003; Hernandez et al., 2001; Hernandez, Li, & MacWhinney, 2005).
more evidence
More evidence …
  • “There is no evidence that the languages of bilinguals are each represented in a different locus in the brain. Both language systems seem to be represented as distinct microanatomical subsystems located in the same gross anatomical areas.” (Paradis, 2004, p. 116)
  • In people who have acquired a L2 after the sensitive period for language acquisition, it appears that the two languages access a common semantic system. (Dehaene et al., 1997; Illes et al., 1999; Klein et al., 1995; Marian, 2003; Marian, Spivey, & Hirsch, 2003; Xue et al., 2004)
  • “The frontal lobe structures organize the syntactic components of a language only if it is learnt before the critical age. Afterwards, other brain structures account for the organization of the grammatical aspects of the second language, probably through explicit learning.” (Fabbro, 1999, p. 101)

TFLTA February 2008

  • The monolingual and the bilingual brain are physiologically different.
  • A bilingual person processes language differently than a monolingual person.
    • Brain imaging technologies suggest that when L2 is acquired during the sensitive period, L1 and L2 tend to be represented in the same areas.
  • Increasing L2 proficiency changes brain organization.

TFLTA February 2008

regardless of age of acquisition
Regardless of age of acquisition …

current research on cognition reveals the advantages of knowing two languages:

  • Creative thinking
  • Flexible thinking
  • Faster learning
  • Larger vocabulary
  • Greater sensitivity in communication

TFLTA February 2008


Double talk

TFLTA February 2008

theories inform fl teaching
Theories inform FL teaching

Target language input and interaction are essential for SLA.

Target language ONLY in the classroom


The ideal FL classroom is monolingual?

TFLTA February 2008

rethinking the monolingual approach
Rethinking the monolingual approach

Good teachers always use the L2 in the classroom.


  • Real students and real teachers use the L1 in the classroom.
  • Admitting that the L1 is present in the FL classroom is tantamount to admitting failure.
  • Suggesting that the L1 might have a role in the FL classroom is nearly heretical!

TFLTA February 2008

a double talk approach
A Double Talk approach
  • … promotes bilingual functioning.
  • … creates L2 users who
    • use a language other than L1 at any level for any purpose.
    • exploit whatever linguistic resources they have for real-life purposes, such as reporting symptoms to a doctor, negotiating a contract, or reading a poem.
  • … empowers students to view themselves as proficient L2 users rather than deficient native speakers. [Cook, V. 2002. Portraits of the L2 User. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.]

TFLTA February 2008

what can a l2 user do
What can a L2 user do?

A L2 user …

  • uses his/her understanding of L1 and L2 in settings where the language and culture are unfamiliar.
  • is sensitive to cultural similarities and differences.
  • has a tolerance for ambiguity.
  • is a member of the global community.

TFLTA February 2008

double talk goal
Double talk goal

“I want my child (student) to be a L2 user.”

TFLTA February 2008