Friday, February 9, 2007

Comparing Bilingual with 2nd Language

In this vlog, Jay Krieger attempts to describe what he thinks is the difference between being bilingual and having a second language.


sda said...

good effort in trying to understand the differences between bilingualism and second language (acquisition)...
i've some info./ explanations that would most likely answer your questions...
ummm, i probably should begin my own vlogs! find it easier to explain in asl...but for now, let's go with vp, then! ;-)

Penny said...

Hi Jay-

I am no linguistic either however bilingual to me means a person is fluent in two languages. Second language to me means a person is not fluent with language that he/she uses. I am fluent in ASL but my english is not perfect therefore I consider english as my second language. That is my interpretation. You brought up a good question. :-)

Jay said...

SDA - If you are able to tell us the difference in a sentence or two, feel free to post here for everyones' benefit. Thankee.

Penny - Fluency may be relative. Some may think they are fluent yet others may disagree.

Jon said...

Aye Aye...

check out this one: The Eyeth Story By Keith Gamache, Jr.


JON said...

Correct URL:

Anonymous said...

Good ASL, but poor English, so bi-lingual with what exactly ? I wouldn't be able to follow it UNLESS I knew ASL, so ??????????? was there a point here ? ASL users (Or BSL ones), AREN'T bilingual, unless the write as well.... I Understand English and it's mouth patterns fairly well, I did NOT follow this at all... bilingualism in mono ? ! ! ! ! Unless there was an active DISPLAY of bilingualism there is no contest is there ?

Delanne said...

Interesting!! It is very complicated...WOW!!

SDA said...


Okee - here I am, for the benefit of others but not in a sentence or two - rather impossible! :-)

However, the whole thing is not that complicated. I'll simplify the idea here.

When you talked about bilingualism and second language, actually they're pretty much the same thing.

What you really want to differentiate is the concept behind second language/ bilingualism and the concept behind foreign language.

When a child learns a language, it is considered first language, in other words, native language.

When the child learns a second language during its prime language learning years (maybe betweeen the ages of 2 to 12??) and uses it almost daily, exhibiting fluency in the 2nd language - we are talking about bilingualism here.

When an adult learns a second language, most likely for foregin language requirement, satisfying high school or college general education requirements, it is still considered 'second language', providing that the adult has not learned any other languages beyond its first language.

Now - if the adult learns the 2nd language and does not use it on a daily or regular basis, it would be considered as 'foreign language' because the adult's life and surroundings do not appear to require him/her to communicate in the 2nd language for 'daily survival needs'.

However, it may become a bilingual thing if the adult studies abroad and uses the 'foreign language' as its 2nd language, as a mean for daily survival - for maybe at least 6 months, 1 year or so. S/he picks up the language and is able to converse in it comfortably, with fluency and be understood by other native speakers. The adult may be considered bilingual then.

Let's use me as an example here - my native language (first) language is ASL. I learned to read and write English during my language formative years - at the age of 3 or 4. I develop fluency of the second language, making me blingual. I took Spanish during HS/ college years as an adult, for foreign langugage requirement at Gallaudet. I struggled a bit with the language. My life, work, and environment in Washington, DC did not require me to communicate in Spanish on a frequent or daily basis. Therefore, it was a 'foregin language' thing for me. I have forgotten how to read and write in Spanish. That has been unfortunate because I've lived in the Southwestern part of USA since 1981, I am surrounded by Spanish language nearly everywhere. If I had kept up with my Spanish, I would have been able to use it on a daily basis with Spanish speaking people I come across frequently in my environment. My loss!

Let's go to another example - I know of a hearing mother whose son is Deaf and a student at my daughter's school. That hearing mother took ASL at college, before she had her Deaf son. After completing the ASL courses, she didn't use ASL much, making it more of a foreign language for her. Then some years after, she gave birth to her son and found he was Deaf. She was being thrusted upon the Deaf world and had no other choice but to use ASL on a daily basis. ASL is no longer a foreign language for her. ASL has become her second language, making her a bilingual now.

I know my entry here is quite lengthy but I hope the information has been helpful. :-)

Penny said...

Bilingual in Webster dictionary explained that a person use two languages with equal fluency i.e. bilingual in English and Japanese. I also browsed through website about second language. You are correct, Jay that second language can also mean that person be fluent in second language. Thanks for giving me homework assignment. :-) Hope blogs and vlogs will encourage teachers of Deaf children to use ASL for teaching, discussion, and communication in classrooms and use english for textbooks and other materials like Carl had discussed recently.

gally grad said...

you mentioned a hypothetical deaf planet, where the normal situation is to be a monolingual ASL user. then you said, if hearing people popped up in that population, they would have English as their first language and would have to become bilingual in ASL and English to participate in that world.

i want to point one thing out. all people who can see (or can feel their hands for tactile sign reception) can learn ASL as a first or second language. they all have access to it.

by contrast, when the majority population uses a spoken language, deaf people do not automatically have full access to it. this is what really gets to me. in a deaf-centered place like gallaudet (or other deaf-centered campus or organization, or family with deaf people in it), EVERYONE has full access to ASL, but not everyone chooses to become fluent or even use it on campus. the potential is there, but the power differential between English/hearing culture and ASL/Deaf culture wins out -- whether (mostly hearing) people realize that's what's happening or not. that's what unearned privilege is - benefiting from society-wide oppression, perhaps without even knowing it.

anyway, the ASL-planet example is not exactly equivalent, although i understand your point: ASL and English are equally valid human languages. in our world, English happens to be the language with more power. in a universe of infinite possibilities, any language could be the one (or several!) used most commonly, or by those with the most power.


Oscar the Observer said...

Interesting post. However, consider this, suppose there was no hearing people. Suppose we are all born deaf, how can there be "A"SL, "B"SL, etc etcetc depending on the country you are referring to, there would be just be a sign language that are very possibly restricted to vision experiences that only express other 3 senses because there would be no concept of oral language. Then how would our culture had evolved the necessary recording skills (writing, reading, keeping information in storage, etc?) because the foundation of writing of this world was from oral language that was changed into symbols on "paper" (obviously it was not paper yet when it first started but you get my idea).
But I basically agree with SDA's explanation but be aware that we can not be fluent in ASL without having some hearing world language, namely English.

Wildstarryskies said...

"oral" language is a misnomer. When they speak of oral literacy, they are referring to the skills of storytelling, sharing information through a non-written method.

there is NO reason that there cannot be written form of ASl, only that we have not had the opportunity to develop on yet.

With that in mind, I believe it would've not made any difference if this was an hearing planet or a deaf planet. written forms would develop for either language, as it has benefits that are beyond the temporary nature of "oral" language.

I just wanted to point this out. Just because hearing people talk, doesn't mean that their language is superior to being converted into a written form.

Granted, it is more difficult to convert ASL into a written form, but is that because we have traditionally tried to convert it to a written form meant to emaulate a spoken language? If we thought out of the box and decided to go in a completely new direction for a written form, we might have more luck.