Sunday, 12 December 2010

Early Bilingualism

In response to the needs of developing human resources, the teaching of English as a foreign language has been extended to reach the elementary school level, kindergarten level, and even nursery school. This means that students learn English much earlier as they are young learners. Nowadays, in our country there are many International schools which use English in their education process. For example, Wonder Bridge Kindergarten School Malang uses bilingual education (Indonesian and English) in its education process. The hope is that students will get more exposure to English. Some research show that learning two languages simultaneously has a negative impact on children's development and may even cause delays or other developmental problems. There are several problems that will be faced by children who get early bilingualism, three of which are limited vocabulary, imitating error, and mixing languages.
Limited vocabulary is the first problem that will be faced by children who are learning two languages simultaneously. When learning two languages simultaneously, young children will typically have smaller vocabularies in each language compared with children who are learning only one language (http://www.earlyinterventionsupport.com/).Students at kindergarten level are still in the process of learning their native language (Indonesian), so when they are taught the second language at the same time, of course they will be confused by different vocabularies from the two languages. They need more time to comprehend the vocabularies, so they can only catch a small number of vocabularies in each language. For instance, Erli, a student of international Islamic elementary school in Mojokerto, often keeps silent when gathering with other children who are not bilingualism school students. She lack of Indonesian vocabularies and need more time to understand what her friend says.
Not only limited vocabularies, imitating errors is also the problem that will be faced by the students. Children brains are like a sponge, it absorbs what they see and hear. This is doubtlessly true that very young children pick the foreign language rather than learn it (http://www.britishcouncil.org/parents-talk.htm). If the person that they imitate has a faultless foreign language, prize to them. But if it is not, their students are very likely to pick their faults and errors as they go along. For example, Reza, a student of a bilingual kindergarten school in Mojokerto likes to practice her English with her sister who is not too good in English. She simply imitates the faults and uses them in her daily conversation.
The third problem that will be faced by the students is mixing language. What I mean by mixing languages is combining two or more words from different languages. Students do sometimes "mix" languages, for example saying an Indonesian word for rice and an English word for plate. It may mean that the students are confused (http://www.earlyinterventionsupport.com/). They speak a little English with their teacher and friends at school and speak Indonesian with their family at home. Sometimes many families combine languages in their daily interactions at home, throwing an English word into a sentence in Indonesian. They are confused whether to use English or Indonesian to communicate with others.
Learning English for developing human resources is absolutely needed, but we cannot force our children to learn English when they are still learning their native language. From the three explanations above, we can conclude that on starting to learn a foreign language earlier kids stand a chance to ruin their development. There are several problems that will be faced by children who get early bilingualism, the most common ones are limited vocabularies, imitating errors, and mixing languages. Limited vocabularies means that the students will typically have smaller vocabularies in each language. Children typically pick English than learn it, so there will be a chance to imitate errors from other people. Learning two languages at a same time may make the students getting confused, so they sometimes do “mix” languages between Indonesian and English. At the end of this essay, I would like to advice let them learn their native first and wait until they are ready to learn the second language. If you just want to introduce it, do not teach them as extra. 

Sources: 
http://www.englishclub.com/
Written by
Trisna Aprilia
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