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Review of  Bilingualism


Reviewer: Alicia Pousada
Book Title: Bilingualism
Book Author: Ng Bee Chin Gillian Wigglesworth
Publisher: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Psycholinguistics
Sociolinguistics
Book Announcement: 19.1855

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Review:
AUTHORS: Chin, Ng Bee; Wigglesworth, Gillian.
TITLE: Bilingualism
SUBTITLE: An Advanced Resource Book.
SERIES: Routledge Applied Linguistics
PUBLISHER: Routledge (Taylor & Francis).
YEAR: 2007

Alicia Pousada, English Department, University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras

SUMMARY
This book is part of a series on Applied Linguistics which focuses on
theoretical discussions and practical applications of concepts learned. It is
organized into three interlocking sections. Section A (Introduction) presents
the terms and concepts necessary for the study of bilingualism and gives the
reader an overview of the essential issues grappled with in the field. Section B
(Extension) guides the reader through the analysis of key articles and
establishes their importance in the scholarly literature. Section C
(Exploration) engages readers in real world tasks designed to help understand
the material better and pursue their own lines of research.

In separate chapters within each of the three sections, the book explores the
following topics:

1. the description of bilingualism
2. the measurement of bilingualism
3. the acquisition of bilingual skills
4. the relationship between bilingualism and cognition
5. bilingual language attrition
6. bilingual education and literacy
7. attitudes and bilingualism

These topics are cycled through the three sections, leading the reader into
increasingly more profound comprehension of the workings of the many processes
and variables involved in individual and societal bilingualism.

The book is intended for upper level undergraduate students and graduate
students in foreign language, linguistics, and communication majors, as well as
ESL/EFL teachers seeking professional development. Its design also lends itself
well to distance education programs.

The books' authors are experts in the field of Applied Linguistics. Ng Bee Chin
is the Coordinator of the Linguistics Programme at Nanyang Technological
University in Singapore, and Gillian Wigglesworth is Associate Professor and
Head of the School of Languages and Linguistics at the University of Melbourne
in Australia. Their professional and research experiences in the Pacific are
used as illustrations throughout the book, in addition to case studies from many
other parts of the world.

EVALUATION
The volume's tripartite structure is at first a bit confusing, but as one
proceeds, its merits for teaching become apparent. The book can be read in two
ways: sequentially from beginning to end, in which case each of the seven topics
is treated three times (A1, A2..., B1, B2..., C1, C2, etc.), or thematically by
jumping through the book and tracking a given topic in each of the three
sections (A4, B4, and C4) before going on to another.

This flexibility could be very useful in planning courses of different lengths
for students with varying interests or backgrounds. For example, readers who
only have time for an overview of each of the above topics may find Section A
(the first third of the book) to be sufficient. More advanced students or
students in longer courses will be eager to examine Section B's extended and
annotated excerpts from seminal articles by leading authorities on bilingualism,
such as: William Mackey, Eleanor Bialystok, Fred Genesee, Richard Bourhis,
Elizabeth Peal, W. E. Lambert, Merrill Swain, and James Cummins, as well as
extremely interesting pieces by lesser known figures like Machiko Tomiyama and
Jean Mills. Emphasis is placed on methodology, theoretical framework, and
detailed findings of each study. Readers directly involved in research (for
example, graduate students preparing a thesis) will derive enormous benefit from
Section C which presents guidelines for collecting data and writing reports and
supplies creative and thought-provoking research tasks that can be utilized as
course assignments or even jumping off points for original research. Section C
also provides excellent resources for the preparation of questionnaires, Likert
scales, and interviews and gives ways to evaluate language tests and tips on
recording and transcribing language data.

All three sections are peppered with tasks, which include thought exercises,
self-evaluations, discussion stimulators, and mini-assignments which would work
marvelously as topics for essay questions on take-home exams or for reflective
journals. The student is constantly urged to think about what has been presented
and to apply the concepts to real life situations.

The textbook has been designed to be user-friendly. There is plenty of white
space, important points are bulleted, and section headings are clearly indicated
via bold capital letters. Tasks are designated with large stars. Each chapter
ends with a summary, and Sections B and C begin with brief recaps of the major
points presented in Section A in order to remind the student of what was
addressed earlier. Tables and figures are clear and well-labeled. Alternative
terminologies are presented and explained.

The book ends with a well-thought out list of recommended readings, organized
according to the seven topics addressed in the book. This is topped off by an
extensive bibliography and a handy author and subject index that puts everything
at the reader's fingertips.

I have already made clear what I consider to be the book's pedagogical merits.
To these I would like to add the authors' inclusion of useful websites for
downloading tests and documents like the Wug Test, the Council of Europe's
Language Passport, and Dialang, which tests proficiency in 14 languages.
Furthermore, I would single out their treatment of education and literacy in
bilingual settings (Topic A6) as truly exemplary and must reading for anyone
interested in the current state of bilingual education.

The book's only significant defects, in my opinion, are its lack of coverage of
the neurological aspects of bilingualism, something that always fascinates my
students, and its failure to deal with the deaf as bilinguals, a lacuna which
will be addressed in Grosjean's soon-to-be-released book. The authors request
suggestions from readers regarding topics or reports omitted from the book for
inclusion in a companion website. This is an admirable way in which to involve
the readers further and keep the book up-to-date.

My minor quibbles with the authors include their use of ''passive bilinguals''
instead of ''receptive bilinguals,'' their neglect of Tove Skutnabb Kangas' work
in the discussion of semilingualism, the absence of the terms ''elite'' and ''folk''
bilingualism in the section on elective vs. circumstantial bilingualism, the
statement on p. 33 that the domains of language use ''will not be linguistically
differentiated for the monolingual speaker,'' the focus on bilingual first
language acquisition rather than sequential acquisition (which is more common),
the omission of Krashen's hypotheses (often encountered by readers in education
classes), which should be mentioned even if only to reject them, and the
inclusion of monolingual education for minority language children under the
category of ''bilingual education'' (following Baker 2006). Nevertheless, these
minor details do not detract from the general excellence of the volume.

I should reiterate that, despite the subtitle (''Advanced resource book''), this
is an introductory book. Researchers from related disciplines like psychology,
sociology, education, and anthropology should find it to be an appealing entrée
into the study of bilingualism. However, those researchers desiring a more
in-depth and technical coverage of the topics (particularly from a social
psychological stance) might do better with Hamers & Blanc (2000).

Overall, in my opinion, this is the most accessible and useful introductory book
on bilingualism since François Grosjean's (1982) classic. It is sure to
stimulate the most apathetic undergraduate and fire up the imagination of the
most exhausted graduate student. I plan on using it myself the next time I offer
my Master's level course on Bilingualism, although I will probably supplement it
with articles from Li (2000).


REFERENCES
Baker, C. 2006. _Foundations of bilingual education and bilingualism_, 4th ed.
Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Grosjean, F. 1982. _Life with two languages: An introduction to bilingualism_.
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Grosjean, F. Forthcoming. _Studying bilinguals_. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hamers, J. F. and Blanc, M. H. A. 2000. _Bilinguality and bilingualism_, 2nd
edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Li, Wei. 2000. _The bilingualism reader_. London: Routledge.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Dr. Alicia Pousada (Ph.D., U. Penn) has been a linguistics professor in the
English Department of the College of Humanities of the University of Puerto Rico
in Rio Piedras since 1987. Her primary research and teaching interests are:
language policy and planning, bilingualism, language awareness, language
acquisition, language and gender, and teaching English as an auxiliary language
globally.
 

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