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Ethan

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Does the future of education lie in bilingualism? Is it even possible?

Hi everyone, I have been pondering for some time as to the role of language in cross-cultural interactions. As a bilingual, I have had the privilege of conversing across cultures to try and understand people from different perspectives. To me, language isn't just a medium of communication; it is a passport that grants people access to cultural knowledge.

I am also keenly aware, however, that imposing mandatory learning of a secondary language on the masses will provoke resistance and discomfort. More importantly, it seems to me that most people speak and think in a master language; that is, the language that they use in daily conversations, and the medium from which they interpret the sciences and the humanities. In that sense, few people can claim to be equally fluent in 2 or more languages.

So it is both uncomfortable and difficult to introduce bilingualism/multilingualism en masse, which leads me to some huge dilemmas:

Should we teach all children 2 languages?

Do you think it would eventually result in some form of cultural erosion as one's original master language is less spoken?

Would we end up in some sort of grey area whereby many children who cannot cope with bilingualism retains no master language at all?

And finally, would a bilingual world be a better place? (Forget world peace, what about cultural diversity??)

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  • Dec 7 2011: Psycholinguistics research have suggested that children who are bilingual develop at a faster pace than their monolingual counterparts. I believe in bilingualism, and lament the fact that except in particular parts of the anglo-american world, the rest of the world is almost always somewhat bilingual.

    From a linguistics/language acquisition perspective, it is rather preposterous to suggest that "many children who cannot cope with bilingualism retain no master language at all". I feel I have to call you out on this point-- to be able to acquire a language (whatever it may be, even if it is a colloquial or basilectal variety of a particular standard, say, Singlish in Singapore) is biologically ingrained in our humanity. Unless a human being develops a specific language impairment, or grows pass the critical age for language aquicitation (12-15 years old) without contact with other human beings/society (and hence language), everyone is capable of acquiring at least one spoken natural language. Children are shown to be remarkably able to discern different language codes, and growing up a simultaneous bilingual (as I have) would not pose a developmental problem to a normal child.

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