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What does it mean to be bilingual in a monolingual society?

Final Essay

Bilingualism Teacher: Xochilt Soriano Edna Lourdes Vega Torres Cdigo: 396561814

Guadalajara, Jalisco a 21 de Mayo del 2012.

What does it mean to be bilingual in a monolingual society? Essay For various reasons people around the world decide to speak one or more languages, simply because languages are spoken in their environments or just for adding a plus in their profiles. Many writers on bilingualism and multilingualism make the point that there are estimated to be far more bilingual and multilingual speakers in the world than there are monolinguals (Baker & Prys-Jones, 1998; Hamers & Blanc, 2000; Crystal, 1987; Dewaele, 2003). In a special situation here in Mexico, we find more bilinguals than monolinguals speakers. Mexico is a country with one of the highest degrees of linguistic diversity in the world, and the government has raised the opportunity to become bilinguals because our society has made choices based on an implicit cost-benefit analysis. The benefits of being bilingual are many, even in a country where a second language is not spoken officially (in this case we refer English as L2) we can realize about them but just simply looking inside each persons cognitive development. Being bilingual in a monolingual society does not mean being rejected or discouraged by the society. Moreover means a status or a high position into every environment in our society. To show the advantages over monolingual speakers in our country I will mention them: a) Cognitive learning:

Cognitive flexibility: Bilingual people are more creative and flexible in their thinking. Metalinguistic awareness: Bilingual people demonstrate greater awareness of language and how it works.

Communicative sensitivity: Bilingual people are more sensitive to nuances in communication.

Field independence: Bilingual people are often able to orient themselves and detect hidden patterns and figures more easily.

b) Knowledge of a second language also seems to coincide with high academic

achievement. In addition to developing a lifelong ability to communicate with people from other countries and backgrounds, other benefits include improved overall school performance and superior problem-solving skills.
c) Students of foreign languages may have better career opportunities In a survey of 581

alumni of The National University Autonomous of Mexico (UNAM) most respondents said they had gained a competitive advantage from their knowledge of foreign languages and other cultures. They said that not only was language study often a critical factor in hiring decisions and in enhancing their career paths, it also provided personal fulfillment, mental discipline, and cultural enlightenment (UABC, press).
d) Other advantage is communication: The Mexican bilinguals enjoy reading and writing

in different languages. They can understand and appreciate literatures in various languages. It gives a deeper knowledge of different ideas and traditions. It helps improve the ways of thinking and behaving. They don't face difficulties in communication while in a foreign country.
e) It is important to note, however, that in addition to its purely communicative value,

bilingualism has social, psychological, and cognitive benefits. In terms of their social

communicative competence, bilinguals are able to maintain family communication and interaction across generations; psychologically, the identity of belonging to a particular language and culture group can increase bilinguals self-esteem as well as the cohesion of their families.
f) Positive perceptions towards English (L2) generally refer to international business

possibilities, use of a lingua franca, technological development, communication, bilingual education and therefore study abroad possibilities, international job offers, better incomes, more power and respect. Speaking English opens the door for admission into the dominant culture.

Even thought we cant see and perceive the real language outside in the streets (English) we assume its importance because the reality we live nowadays. English has become the world wide language known. The geographical situation, the political, cultural and economic relationship between Mexico and United States has spread that the necessity of English in our everyday lives. As Sharifian (2009:1) puts it, for better or worse, by choice or force, English has traveled to many parts of the world and has been used to serve various purposes. Thinking on the disadvantages of being bilingual in a monolingual society in my personal opinion I cant think of ANY. But we need to take into consideration the

perceptions and believes that Mexicans have towards English. According to Kachru (1986) and McArtur (1998) English ignites image of invasion and imperialism. But most of the perceptions and believes are quite divided some people think that English is synonym of hope and a better way of life (Despagne, 2010:12). It seems to be half and half opinion according

to social level incomes or ideological references (how you were educated in your younger ages). Also some negative perceptions towards English among Mexicans usually refer to US imperialism (political, cultural and economical) as referred to in Chasan and Ryans study (1995:4) immigration and border problems, racism and discrimination, images of Self and Other, dominant and dominated, invasion of North American products and businesses, market dumping policies, and too often use English words in Spanish. Having a broad point of view, one of the possibilities is that the bilingual person may not totally be inspired by the English culture, because they do not live among people speaking that language. So maybe they do not quite identify with the culture, compared to how they identify with the culture where they are currently living. Analyzing this point we assumed that bilingual people is in contact with the language through the media (Tv, magazine, music, internet, etc) and maintains the language alive because is the only way to be in touch. Bilinguals in Mexico could feel disappointed because there is not enough practice of the speaking skill. There exist private schools were you can practice but is that a real world practice? And you have to pay for that service because there is not enough schools that can accommodate English as a require instruction for the outside world. Students are expected to practice and full fill by themselves their special needs of English. Desired or not, officially English is taught as a foreign language in Mexico which means that it has no special standing but is simply just another language. But we have to take into consideration that English has a real standing, and a way to become maybe a second

language as the role that plays in our education, entertainment, t.v., labour market and tourism. Kirkpatrick (2000) maintains that those who speak only one language are disadvantaged in the global job market and in business, as do Mughan (1999), Peel(2001) and Djit (1994). Crozet, Liddicoat and Lo Bianco (1999) doubt the ability of monolingual speakers to become truly intercultural competent, since they lack access to other cultures norms and world view as represented through language. Peel (2001: 14) laments the restrictions of perspective of monolingual Spanishspeakers in an increasingly multilingual world, arguing that if they do not understand how languages work and how they differ, they will never understand other peoples beyond a superficial level. I argue that monolinguals live in a world of blandness because they cant perceive the world as a worldwide society. Spanish is a useful part of a persons catalog, but Spanish alone is not enough. The tendency of becoming bilinguals is a rule, as also equal to a norm that has both individual and social cost. We have no choice, being bilinguals in Mexico is a broad opportunity to grow: personally and socially speaking. Due to globalization, education, tourists, to media and entertainment the target language is spreading rapidly as a tool for better opportunities. Therefore, the relevance of learning the target language is quite high. The necessity comes from the desire and eventually the desire becomes a necessity. Monolinguals speakers are staying behind and are losing the opportunities that globalization brings in to our beautiful Mexico. Through the study of bilingualism I can conclude that is a needed evil. As English rapidly develops more complex relationships within and between communities of speakers around the world, the dialogue addressing its

role as a global language needs to continue to expand. English establishes arguments and positions regarding politics, policies, pedagogies, and as an international language (for me mandatory). References: Basurtos Santos, Nora M. (2010) Transition of Education from Secondary to High School. SEP. Mexico-Veracruz. Baker, Colin & Prys Jones Sylvia (1998). Encyclopedia of Bilingualism and Bilingual Education. Multilingual Matters LTD. Crystal, David (1987). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Dewaele, Jean-Marc, Housen, Alex & Wei Li (2003). Bilingualism: Beyond Basic Principle. Multilingual Matters LTD. Despagne, Colette (2010). The difficulties of learning English: Perceptions and Attitudes in Mexico. Canadian and International Education / Education canadienne et internationale: Vol. 39: Iss. 2, Article 5. Diebold, A. Richard Jr. (1961). Incipient Bilingualism. Linguistic Society of America, pp. 97-112. Hammer and Blanc (2000). Bilinguality and Bilingualism (Second Edition). Trumpington Street, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Holland, R. (2002) Globospeak? Questioning text on the role of English as a global language. Language and Intercultural Communication. Kachru, Y. (1995) World Englishes and linguistic research. Journal of Pragmatics 24, 305308. Sharifian, Farzad (2009). English as an International Language: Perspectives and Pedagogical Issues. Great Britain, MPG Books LTD.