1. BILINGUALISM: DEFINITIONS AND DISTINCTIONS

BILINGUAL ABILITY

Dimensions of Bilingualism

1. Age

2. Ability

3. Balance of two languages

4. Development

5. Contexts where eachlanguage is acquired and used

The four Language Abilities

If we confine the question ‘are you bilingual? To ability in two languages, the issue becomes ‘what ability? There are four basiclanguage abilities: listening, speaking, reading and writing. These four abilities fit into two dimensions: receptive and productive skills; oracy and literacy.

The four basic language abilities do notexist in black and white terms. Between black and white are not only many shades of gray; there also exist a wide variety of colors. The multi-colored landscape of bilingual abilities suggests thateach language ability can be more or less developed. There are skills within skills, traditionally listed as: pronunciation, extent of vocabulary, correctness of grammar, the ability to convey exactmeanings in different situations and variations in style.

A fifth Language competence?

The four basic language abilities are commonly regarded as speaking, listening, reading and writing. However,there are times when a person is not speaking, listening, reading or writing but is still using language. As Skutnabb-Kangas proposed, the language used for inner thinking may be a fifth area oflanguage competence. This may be simply termed inner speech and placed under the umbrella title of speaking. It may alternatively be worth differentiating from actual speaking as it raises the dimension ofthe extent of the ability of bilinguals to use both languages as thinking tools.

Minimal and maximal bilingualism

Simple categorization is arbitrary and requires a value judgment about theminimal competence needed to achieve a label of bilingual. Therefore, a classic definition of bilingualism such as the native-like control of two or more languages appears too extreme and maximalist.... [continua]

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