Bilingualism - EDU00002M

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  • Department: Education
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Norbert Vanek
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2019-20

Module summary

This module is for students who would like to explore how languages interact with thought in the bilingual mind. It is a rich 9-week journey through traditional as well as cutting-edge approaches to the currently most resonant issues in bilingualism research.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2019-20

Module aims

  • To provide an introduction to bilingualism from linguistic, psychological and sociolinguistic perspectives.

  • To allow students to develop an awareness of the most influential theories, methods and findings of bilingualism research.

  • To relate theories, methods and findings to understand the needs and potential of children and adults who are or are becoming bilingual.

Module learning outcomes

Subject content

  • describe and evaluate research methods used in bilingualism research, and discuss how these differ from methods used with monolinguals;

  • describe and discuss bilinguals’ language development, language use, knowledge about language and attitudes towards bilingualism;

  • describe and discuss the consequences of knowing more than one language on interaction, cognition and emotion;

  • describe and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of learning and knowing more than one language.


Academic and graduate skills

  • critically read and evaluate primary sources.

  • give solo or group presentations and evaluate peers’ presentations.

  • participate in group work and tutorials, listen and take notes.

  • use e-mail, the Virtual Learning Environment, a word processing programme, a presentation programme and the Web.

Module content

Module Structure (week by week):

WEEK 2: DEFINITION

This session will start by discussing the meaning of bilingualism. We will look at different definitions that have been proposed over the years and discuss their appropriateness. We will then explore ways of measuring and assessing bilingualism.

WEEK 3: RESEARCH METHODS IN BILINGUALISM

This session will introduce students to the main methods used to research various aspects of bilingualism. We will see how data is collected and analysed, and discuss how research on bilinguals differs from research on monolinguals.

WEEK 4: BILINGUAL FIRST LANGUAGE ACQUISITION

In this session we will discuss how children learn two languages simultaneously. We will tackle topical issues such as: does learning two languages from birth slow down linguistic development? Does it accelerate metalinguistic awareness? We will explore linguistic development throughout childhood, starting from the ability of newborn babies to recognise languages they heard before birth, and concluding with the effects of bilingualism on school-aged children learning to read.

WEEK 5: THE BILINGUAL MIND

This session will consider how knowledge of more than one language can impact various aspects of cognition, affecting for instance performance on IQ and creativity tests. After rejecting past views of bilinguals as being intellectually deficient, we will discuss recent research that shows positive cognitive effects of bilingualism, for instance on the development of theory of mind in children, and on attention and control in both children and adults. We will also look at the bilingual brain, discussing recent findings that bilingualism can affect the actual structure of the brain, and exploring how language pathologies affect bilinguals.

WEEK 6: BILINGUALISM AND THOUGHT

In this session we will look at a very recent development in bilingualism research, which links linguistic relativity and bilingualism in order to test the possibility that knowing more than one language results in bilinguals thinking differently from monolinguals.

WEEK 7: BILINGUAL EDUCATION

This session will present and discuss different forms of bilingual education, whereby students are educated in more than one language, for instance in immersion programmes. We will also discuss the teaching of literacy to bilingual children. For instance, should children whose first language is not English learn to read in English straight away, or should they learn to read in their mother tongue first?

WEEK 8: BILINGUAL INTERACTION

In this session we will discuss some uses of language that are peculiar to bilinguals, in the sense that monolinguals cannot use languages this way: code-switching, translation and interpreting. We will also see how two or more languages are represented and processed in one mind, concentrating on the organisation of the bilingual mental lexicon and on speech perception and production.

WEEK 9: ATTITUDES, IDENTITIES AND EMOTIONS

With this session we will move to a sociocultural approach to bilingualism. We will discuss bilinguals’ and monolinguals’ attitudes towards languages and towards bilingualism, and explore issues of bilingual identity. We will also look at recent findings showing that bilinguals describe (and possibly feel) emotions differently from monolinguals.

WEEK 10: BILINGUALISM ACROSS LIFESPAN

In this session we will see how languages are learnt (and forgotten) over the life of a bilingual. We will look at the post-childhood acquisition of an additional language and how this differs from first language acquisition, and at how bilingualism can facilitate the acquisition of an additional language. We will look at language attrition, and see how not only a second language but also a first language can be partially or completely lost over time. We will conclude by discussing recent research suggesting that bilingualism might slow down some aspects of mental ageing.

Assessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
4000-5000 Word Essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules

None

Reassessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
4000-5000 Word Essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

You will receive feedback in a range of ways throughout this module. This will include oral feedback in class, responses to posts on the VLE discussion board and written comments on work. You will have the chance to obtain feedback on your writing during the module, and you will have a short one-to-one meeting with a module tutor to discuss assessments.

You will be provided physical written feedback on assignment report sheets as well as them being readily available on the VLE. Feedback in the department will take 4 to 6 weeks.

Indicative reading

Altarriba, J., & Heredia, R. R. (Eds.). (2008). An introduction to bilingualism: Principles and processes. London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Chin, N. B., & Wigglesworth, G. (2007) Bilingualism: An advanced resource book. New York: Routledge.

Grosjean, F., & Li, P. (2012). The psycholinguistics of bilingualism. John Wiley & Sons.

Li, W., & Moyer, M. G. (Eds.). (2008). The Blackwell guide to research methods in bilingualism and multilingualism. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Schwieter, J. W. (Ed.). (2015). The Cambridge handbook of bilingual processing. Cambridge University Press.



The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.