You are on page 1of 5


Transilvania University of Braov

Faculty of Languages and Literatures
year; E.F.

Language and Society
Research Proposal:
Second language acquisition in an
infant born into a bilingual family

Student: Ioana-Cristina GUZU



We use language every day not just the simple utterance but also body language, written
language, the language of pictures, feelings and so on and so forth. We do not really
acknowledge the entire process and the meaning of it. We make small talk, we frown, we send a
text message, share a picture on social media but we do not see it as it is, language. From a
deeper point of view language is a way of communication that belongs only to the human race.
We often take this for granted, forgetting how hard it is in the first place to start speaking. A
toddler is learning to speak by the very ways of imitating. But this covers only half of the
process. The toddler is creating new rules (in a loose meaning of the word) and, as the time
goes by, he matures in the speech production. This transition is not a fast one, the child is
moving from simple to complex not at once, but in steps. The toddler is upgrading his rules of
producing speech to the rules of the adults around him, as soon as he begins to notice the
differences between the two sets of rules. The process of language acquisition is a time
consuming one for every child and it does not develop at once, it is hard and it takes a lot of
patience from the people around the child. If the process is so hard for a monolingual child,
researchers raise the issue whether or not a child with a bilingual family encounters difficulties in
his process of language acquisition.
The acquisition of a second language in bilingual families became a more important issue as the
immigration and emigration grew and that was well acknowledged in the 80.
Nowadays, thanks to the globalization, more and more bilingual families are born. We have seen
how a child learns to speak, but a how does a child manage to learn two languages? Does he
follows the same pattern or there is more hidden under the cover? What are the chances of the
first language (L1) to interfere with the second one (L2)?
Language is one of humanitys greatest achievements, and yet one which virtually all children
achieve remarkably quickly. How much more remarkable then when children learn to use not
one but two languages? (Lyon, 1996:1)
Annick de Hower was one of the pioneers in this research study. According to her :
simultaneous bilingualism takes place in children who are regularly addressed in two spoken

languages from before the age of two and who continue to be regularly addressed in those
languages up until the final stages of language development.(De Hower,1996:56)
2. Hypothesis
There are good chances for a child born into a bilingual family to learn both languages at the
same speed, without confusing him, and to cope very well with the use of the two languages
1. Are there any differences between a monolingual and bilingual childs process of developing
his language skills?
2. What is the appropriate age to introduce the L2 to the child?
Im expecting that the answers to this questions attempt to clarify whether or not is it in the
benefit of the child to learn two languages at a very young age and what is the age the child
should start to acknowledge the second language.
I came around this issue as my brother of Romanian origin married a Bulgarian woman (they
are currently living in London, England) and there was lots of talking regarding the struggle of
their child to learn more than one language at a young age. Theyve questioned themselves if its
better to speak just English around the child and some kind of volapk between them, but they
relinquished the idea as this could have made the children feel isolated from the rest of the
family. So theyve decided to use Romanian and English at home ( G.G. knows Romanian
language). A child born into a bilingual family has much more to cope (by comparison to one
born into a monolingual family) and this leads to a great number of questions from his parents
In this research I used , participant observation, available data and questionnaires.I lived with
them for about 3 months.
My subjects were my brothers family: G.A. 27 years old of Romanian origin, working as an
engineer, his wife G.G, 29 years old, of bulgarian origin, currently stay-at-home mom and their
son G.M 3 years old. They are currently living in London, UK.

I have found out that their child, G.M. is drawing data for both languages. When he was unable
to use a word in L2 , he would use the word in L1 and the other way around. He did this
consciously,not confusing the language but using fully the knowledge of the two languages.
The parents are speaking to their child in both languages, they utter the sentence in one language
and after that in the second one, the name one object in one language and after that in the second
one and they keep using this pattern of speaking in every moment that theyre spending with
their child.
As final conclusions drawn from this research proposal, parents should decide if their child
should be a simultaneous or sequential learner, because in the first context, the simultaneous
should be introduced to the two languages at once, and, in second context, at the age 2.5.
As a piece of advice for all the parents out there, if you want that your child to be proficient in
both language you should ensure equal exposure to the languages.
Ive found out that are not many differences between a monolingual and a bilingual childs
process of developing his language skills. It is, in fact, the same process, in benefit of the
bilingual one. The last one tends to develop language skills faster, he becomes his very own
auto-translator, he drawns information from both languages, and generally speaking its more
ready for what may have come in terms of learning. Bilingual children also build a whole
identity around the two languages as one bilingual children said: if someone told me to let go of
one of my language, I would feel as theyve ripped a part of my own identity.
1. LYON, JEAN, 1996 Becoming Bilingual: Language Acquisition in a Bilingual Community,
Cromwell Press
2. De Houwer, Annick, 1990 The Acquisition of Two Languages from Birth: A Case Study,
Cambridge University Press
3. Barron-Hauwaert, Suzanne, 2004 Language Strategies for Bilingual Families: The One-
parent-one-language Approach,
Cambridge University Press.