Language and literacy acquisition – conclusion

The acquisition of language and its development is affected by the linguistic interactions in the environment and their quality. Bilingualism and second language acquisition may thus be perceived to obscure the quality of the interactions thus affect the language development. Similarly the advancement that certain aspects of language are better learned at critical developmental periods, may mean that encountering a second language after these periods could curtail development of proficiency. This paper was thus aimed to evaluate how bilingualism and second language acquisition impacts on language development. Two areas of such effects were discussed in the paper; the impact on childhood literacy and whether critical periods hypothesis (CHP) holds.

Bilingualism has been shown to affect a number of language development aspects. Most of these being in respect to vocabulary. By affecting such aspects, bilingualism curtails proficiency in the second language (most often the language of instruction) thus may adversely affect a child’s learning outcomes. Since children must be adequately skilled in the language of instruction to better their learning outcomes, schools should provide a means through which bilingual children can build their proficiency in the instructional language to participate fully in the class thus reap maximal benefits from the classroom experience.

With regard to the CHP hypothesis, adult native proficiency in a second language may not be entirely limited to encounter with the language at defined critical periods. Other variables such as the desire to be perceived as natives and opportunities accorded to such adults may influence progression towards native proficiency in a language. The similarity and differences in the two languages and the frequency of using the second language may be more significant of native proficiency attainment than age per se.

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