Dimensions of Bilingualism
3. Balance of two languages
5. Contexts where each language 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 not exist 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 exact meanings 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 of language 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 the minimal 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.Who is or is not categorized as a bilingual categorized as a bilingual will depend on the purpose of the categorization. At different times, governments, for example, may wish to include or exclude language minorities. One alternative is to move away from the multi-colored canvas of proficiency levels to a portrait of the everyday use of the two languages by individuals.
Balanced BilingualsThe literature on bilingualism frequently spotlights one particular group of bilinguals whose competences in both languages are well developed. Someone who is approximately equally fluent in two languages across varies contexts may be termed an equilingual or ambilingual or, more commonly, a balanced bilingual.
Balanced bilingualism is also a problematic concept for the other reasons. Thebalanced may exist at a low of competence in the two languages. The implicit idea of balanced bilingualism has often been of reasonable or appropriate competence in the both language. A child who can understand the delivery of the curriculum in school in either language, and operate in classroom activity in either language would be an example of a balanced bilingual.
Two Views of Bilingual
Anargument advanced by Francois Grosjean is that there are two contrasting views of individual bilingualism. First, there is a fractional view of bilinguals, which evaluates the bilingual as two monolinguals in one person. There is a second, holistic view which argues that the bilingual is not the sum of two complete or incomplete monolinguals, but that he or she has a unique linguistic profile.
Thebilingual is a complete linguistic entity, an integrated whole. Bilinguals use their two languages with different people, in different contexts and for different purposes. Levels of proficiency in a language may depend on which contexts and how often that language is used. Communicative competence in one of a bilingual‘s two language may be stronger in some domains than in others, this is...