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Encyclopedia of Psychology Alan E. Kazdin, PhD, Editor-in-Chief

BILINGUALISM.

According to the I990 U.S. census, an estimated 32 million people live in households where a language other than English is spoken.

By contrast, folk bilinguals develop second-language capacity under circumstances that are not often of their own choosing, and in conditions where society does not value their native language.

Bilingualism in elite groups is celebrated by society, whereas bilingualism of the folk variety is kept private. Elite bilingualism is accompanied by literacy in both languages, whereas in folk bilingualism, literacy in the native language is haphazard. Society holds different expectations for the educational attainment of elite and folk bilinguals.

Second-language learners are also capable of mastering highly complex and abstract rule systems described by generative linguists, which are considered unlearnable from experience (White, 1989).

Foreign language programs in the United States present an opportunity for the development of bilingualism as well, but for the English-speaking population. Foreign language immersion programs for English-speaking students have been motivated by the poor success of traditional foreign language education programs in attaining anything close to bilingual proficiency among American students.

Tags: encyclopedia of psychology
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