Bilingual Competence and Bilingual Proficiency in Child Development
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Bilingual Competence and Bilingual Proficiency in Child Development

By Norbert Francis

A study of first and second language development in an indigenous community with implications for broader linguistic and cognitive issues.

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Summary

A study of first and second language development in an indigenous community with implications for broader linguistic and cognitive issues.

When two or more languages are part of a child's world, we are presented with a rich opportunity to learn something about language in general and about how the mind works. In this book, Norbert Francis examines the development of bilingual proficiency and the different kinds of competence that come together in making up its component parts. In particular, he explores problems of language ability when children use two languages for tasks related to schooling, especially in learning how to read and write. He considers both broader research issues and findings from an ongoing investigation of child bilingualism in an indigenous language–speaking community in Mexico. This special sociolinguistic context allows for a unique perspective on some of the central themes of bilingualism research today, including the distinction between competence and proficiency, modularity, and the Poverty of Stimulus problem.

Francis proposes that competence (knowledge) should be considered as an integral component of proficiency (ability) rather than something separate and apart, arguing that this approach allows for a more inclusive assessment of research findings from diverse fields of study. The bilingual indigenous language project illustrates how the concepts of modularity and the competence-proficiency distinction in particular might be applied to problems of language learning and literacy.

Few investigations of indigenous language and culture approach bilingual research problems from a cognitive science perspective. By suggesting connections to broader cognitive and linguistic issues, Francis points the way to further research along these lines.

Hardcover

$58.00 S ISBN: 9780262016391 416 pp. | 9 in x 7 in 18 b&w illus., 3 tables

Endorsements

  • This exceptional book offers a wealth of information on crucial aspects of bilingualism. It combines a very careful examination of theoretical notions such as bilingual competence, bilingual proficiency, literacy and metalinguistic awareness with in-depth analyses of empirical data. It is an invaluable read for researchers in the fields of language acquisition, bilingual development, and language education as well as for language planners and educational authorities in areas that serve minority bilingual populations.

    Liliana Sánchez

    Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese, Rutgers University

  • Based on years of research on bilingual children in the Mexican countryside, Norbert Francis draws a much larger picture in this comprehensive overview. He successfully bridges the gap between the growing theoretical literature on bilingual child development and the concerns of educators and policy makers.

    Pieter Muysken

    Professor, Radboud University Nijmegen