Individual Bilingualism Essay Example

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6MY BILINGUAL SELF

Part B: Definitional Essay of Your Bilingual Self

My Bilingual Self

I can describe bilingualism simply as the capability of an individual to use two different languages. However, different people have different ways of defining and describing their bilingual self. Such situations bring the problem when one generalizes the meaning of bilingualism. People have different bilingual characteristics. Therefore, every individual will have their way of describing their bilingualism context. When we talk of bilingualism, it may range from knowing two languages, having an advanced proficiency in a second language where one can speak the second language as a native speaker. Other than these, there are many ways in which a person can describe his or her bilingual self when considering the individual’s experience of bilingualism. That is why being bilingual will mean different things to distinct persons. In this essay, I will describe and discuss my bilingual context, and how it has shaped my personal views of a bilingual self.

I describe my bilingual context as sequential bilingualism. The reason is that I have been able to learn different languages, irrespective of my first language which is English. I am a Gujarati by birth; however, English was the first language that my parents taught me as I grew up. I read, speak, think and write in English. I grew up in different countries and immigrated to others at various times of my life. I was born in India, taking early years learning in the US, and worked in countries like Arabia, and Germany. Lawton, Gasquoine & Weimer (2015) describes an immigrant as a bilingual since such a person learns the language and lifestyle of a different country. Freedman, Alladi, Chertkow, Bialystok, Craik, Phillips et al., (2014) revealed similar findings by describing that immigrants are highly bilingual since they create new social networks from a wider community context. Developing such behaviors makes an individual a bilingual.

I have interacted with people from many countries all over the world. With all these experience, I have been able to learn different second languages apart from English. I can speak Gujarati because that is the first language of my parents. They talk to me in Gujarati many of the times when I am at home. I respond back in English which is common to me even though I know how to speak in Gujarati. By learning other languages, I can now speak fluent Urdu, German, Punjabi, and Arabic. I understand these words very well, write and can talk perfectly. Some of these languages I have learned in school while others I have learned by interacting with other people from different communities all over the world. I agree with Zahodne, Schofield, Farrell, Stern & Manly (2014) who said that a bilingual person is defined by their country of origin, having episodic memory, and high education achievement. Such people are highly exposed and fit most in many groups.

My bilingual self enables me to understand what it all means when one says he or she is a bilingual. Through my experience, a bilingual refers to any person who can speak more than one language and fit in different cultures. My bilingual self is similar to how Ossher, Bialystok, Craik, Murphy & Troyer (2013) described bilingualism in their study. They denoted that bilingualism occurs when a person can use more than one language. Those who can speak more than one language are bilinguals while those who speak one language are monolinguals. A person who suits in a different cultural background is a bilingual. Therefore, in my context, I am a bilingual.

I also view a bilingual self as the ability to learn and live different languages and lifestyles. The reason is that I came from India, lived in Germany, the US, and traveled and interacted with various people. Alladi, Bak, Duggirala, Surampudi, Shailaja, Shukla, et al., (2013) denotes that when a person’s use of language changes of improves due to the influence of interacting factors such as the language spoken, education as well as occupation, such a person is bilingual. The same applies to my experience that I have been able to learn and speak different languages. I agree with the authors findings because my context of bilingualism develops from the interactions that I have had with many different people from the various countries I have visited all over the world.

I also understand bilingualism as being able to live different styles. Here, a person fits in particular groups of socialization. As I grew up, I have learned to live with different people from various cultural backgrounds and many of the times embrace their lifestyles when I am with them. Such situations occurred when I was in high school and college. I associate my experience with the findings of Bialystok, Craik, Binns, Ossher & Freedman (2014) who revealed that persons with the capacity to live changeable lifestyle habits and engage in different social interactions are bilingual. The reason is that they have adopted bilingual behaviors that define their bilingualism.

I gained proficiency in speaking, writing and using them perfectly. I can define bilingualism as a person who has attained proficiency is a second language and can use it as the mother tongue. The study carried out by Perani & Abutalebi (2015) says that having second language proficiency is associated with people who are bilingual. The reason is that such people have exposure and brain systems that can handle more than one language. I have gained proficiency and can speak fluently in six different languages. Therefore, I am a bilingual. I also view bilingual self as defined by a person who is able to work in a group with people who come from diverse backgrounds. Bialystok, Craik, & Luk (2012) describes that bilingual persons can associate with different populations. The differences in the populations shape their bilingual self.

In conclusion, I can say that my bilingual self, defines me in different ways. I find myself speaking more than one language, able to learn and fit in various cultures, experiment with different languages and lifestyles. I can say that I have acquired my bilingualism from a complex matrix including social interactions, relationships with diverse cultures and internal inner self-development through language learning. That is why I am a sequential bilingualism.

References

Alladi, S., Bak, T. H., Duggirala, V., Surampudi, B., Shailaja, M., Shukla, A. K., … & Kaul, S. (2013). Bilingualism delays the age at onset of dementia, independent of education and immigration status. Neurology81(22), 1938-1944.

Bialystok, E., Craik, F. I., & Luk, G. (2012). Bilingualism: consequences for mind and brain. Trends in cognitive sciences16(4), 240-250.

Bialystok, E., Craik, F. I., Binns, M. A., Ossher, L., & Freedman, M. (2014). Effects of bilingualism on the age of onset and progression of MCI and AD: Evidence from executive function tests. Neuropsychology28(2), 290.

Freedman, M., Alladi, S., Chertkow, H., Bialystok, E., Craik, F. I., Phillips, N. A., … & Bak, T. H. (2014). Delaying onset of dementia: are two languages enough?. Behavioral Neurology, 2014.

Lawton, D. M., Gasquoine, P. G., & Weimer, A. A. (2015). Age of dementia diagnosis in community-dwelling bilingual and monolingual Hispanic Americans. Cortex66, 141-145.

Ossher, L., Bialystok, E., Craik, F. I., Murphy, K. J., & Troyer, A. K. (2013). The effect of bilingualism on amnestic mild cognitive impairment. The Journal of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences68(1), 8-12.

Perani, D., & Abutalebi, J. (2015). Bilingualism, dementia, cognitive and neural reserve. Current opinion in neurology28(6), 618-625.

Zahodne, L. B., Schofield, P. W., Farrell, M. T., Stern, Y., & Manly, J. J. (2014). Bilingualism does not alter cognitive decline or dementia risk among Spanish-speaking immigrants. Neuropsychology28(2), 238.