LINGUIST List 7.291

Sun Feb 25 1996

Disc: Lg Acquisition, Re: vol-7-279

Editor for this issue: T. Daniel Seely <>


  1. Anthea Fraser Gupta, Re: vol-7-279, First or Second Language Acquisition

Message 1: Re: vol-7-279, First or Second Language Acquisition

Date: Sat, 24 Feb 1996 10:57:55 +0800
From: Anthea Fraser Gupta <>
Subject: Re: vol-7-279, First or Second Language Acquisition

In vol-7-279
>Brian McMahon summarised the responses to his questions about children
growing up speaking English and Spanish in Argentina. I'd like to raise two
points from his summary.

He said "The one language/one parent rule was endorsed by everyone with one
exception who said that both parents should speak English at home since the kid
would pick up the local language anyway."

The person who suggested this may have been me (I wrote, "Could his mother
use some English with him too?" -- not implying a complete switch to English
but some use of English alongside Spanish).

"One parent/one language" has become dogma in some bilingual circles. I see
no reason for this. In parts of the world where there is widespread
community bilingualism it is USUAL for people to grow up with two or three
languages, and to experience the same people speaking more than one language
and mixing them. These children learn to separate the languages and learn
when to use which, and when it is OK to mix, without any effort. Where one
language is the community language and another is an outside language, the
outside language is going to need more support, and parents should think
about optimising the child's exposure to it.

Don't take "One parent one language" as an absolute guide.... Think about it.

"One (academic) reply said that the question of native proficiency is not
important. I would reply that it is very important in a world of
standardized tests that can dramatically affect a person's future choices."

This was me too. I'd like to repeat what I wrote, for further discussion:

"native proficiency.
 This is not a yes-no thing. A native language is a language that
someone has learnt before learning any other language (it can be
simultaneous with other native lanuages). It is not really linked to any
particular kind of proficiency, as there are many highly proficient
non-native speakers of English. People probably associate "native
proficiency" with having an accent that is associated with a particular
place like the US or the UK. Children growing up in Argentina are not going
to be a part of an English-speaking community that will allow them to sound
as though they come from Baltimore or Denver. I think the target of the
parents should be that the children should acquire "good proficiency" in
English and Spanish."

Pronunciation does not matter matter that much? What matters is SPEAKING
the language. Worrying about SATS scores is ooking too far ahead. The
child is not even in education yet! Surely the first language is Spanish,
anyway???? But if he keeps up his English he should have good Spanish and
good English. {Plenty of children from India, Singapore etc etc do very
well in SATS.

* Anthea Fraser GUPTA(
* English Language & Literature * *
* National University of Singapore * Tel: 7723 933 *
* Singapore 119260 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Fax: 776 3638 *
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