Psychology / First &Amp; Second Language Acquisition Affects Language Preference In Bilinguals

First &Amp; Second Language Acquisition Affects Language Preference In Bilinguals

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Autor:  anton  13 November 2010
Tags:  Second,  Language,  Acquisition,  Affects
Words: 1134   |   Pages: 5
Views: 589


Bilingualism refers to the ability of an individual to communicate in two languages, with a reasonable amount of proficiency, with more than half the world’s population claiming it. The study conducted here explores the relationship between people’s knowledge of their first and second language and their preference for choosing either one to communicate with family members and to chat online. Data was collected from participants on their preference of either the first or the second language in different situations and was analyzed. The results show correlation between the control of first and second languages and what language people prefer to communicate with their friends online and to text message a friend.

First & Second Language Acquisition Affects Language Preference in Bilinguals

Multilingualism is a common concept nowadays, with most people speaking more than one language in every part of the world. More specifically, bilingualism is more widespread as half of the population of the world can claim to be bilingual. Most of the jobs today require a person who can communicate in more than one language, practically handicapping the monolinguals. The degree of control over multiple languages varies, allowing room for preference for one language over another under certain situations and circumstances. People may argue about how much control one needs to acquire to be considered proficient in a particular language, but the basic scale still measures the ability to read, write and speak a certain language with ease. Now the question arises, is there a relationship between bilingualism and a child’s cognitive, psychological and social development? (Hoffmann, 1998)

Bilingualism has been defined in many different contexts and perspectives. One of the shortest definitions has been defined by Uriel Weinreich (1968) in his book, “Languages in Contact”. According to Weinreich, bilingualism is just a practice of alternating between two languages, and the person who does this is bilingual. But this is a very simple way to describe it, rather than a comprehensive definition. Yet another definition comes from Leonard Bloomfield’s (1933) book, titled “Language”, where he describes it as the learning of the second language without the loss of the first language, with a “native-like control” over both of them. This is in fact a better description of the term ‘bilingualism’, but sparks controversies among many. Many psychologists may argue about the true meaning of the term “native-like control”, and still others may describe it differently. Native-like control may refer to a person’s ability to speak without an accent, and to comprehend words without effort. On the other hand, native-like control may be the basic knowledge of a language, without much focus given on the accent portrayed by the person.

Bilingualism impacts a person’s life in many forms, one of them being the societal bilingualism. It is affected by various factors, such as: -

1. Military conquests, occupation, secession and annexation

2. Political marriages and succession arrangements

3. Colonization

4. Migration and immigration

5. Federation

6. Neocolonialism

7. Present-day immigration and migration of labor

8. Language promotion

9. Internationalization

(Hoffmann, 1998, p. 158)

Bilingual people tend to exhibit a preference for one language over another when talking to their family members, or when chatting with their friends online. This preference can vary from culture to culture, and from person to person, depending on their control over the languages. Control of a certain language will probably prioritize its use, but it also depends on the person you are speaking to and your attitude towards them. Preference of a particular language can be due to media variance, role variance and situational variance (Fishman, 1965).

The present study was designed to investigate the preference of a particular language over another, and how people use different languages in different situations, and how they utilize their bilingualism in the various tasks they perform. Sociologists study bilingualism because of its great impact on language choices of individuals and its ability to change the social structure of a community (Wald, 1974).


This study involved executing four stages, which are described as follows: -


The participants to this study were typically students attending a common course in psychology, with no relevance given to race, ethnicity, gender and age. Altogether 76 participants took part in the research, nearly all demonstrating bilingual abilities. The rewards provided by the researcher were three bonus credits for the course they were attending.


The study involved the use of usual items, such as a pencil or a pen. Special forms were prepared, containing questions that were relevant in measuring the bilingual characteristics of the participants.

Design & Procedure

The study entailed two independent variables and two dependent variables. The independent variables being SSRL1, a variable describing the control of the participants on their first language L1, and SSRL2, a variable describing the control of the participants on their second language L2. The variables being analyzed for dependency on the independent variables were SP.Chat, a variable storing information about the language that the participants preferred to communicate by means of mobile phone text messaging and/or internet chat room, and SP.Family, a variable storing information about the language preferred by the participants to communicate with their bilingual family members. The participants were not assigned to any groups, assuring unbiased responses from them.

The study consisted of only one session, with the participants filling out the questionnaires that were presented to them. No special instructions were given, mainly due to the objective nature of the study. No time limit was set for completing the questionnaires, but they were expected to take around 15-20 minutes. Participants were assigned numbers to guarantee secrecy of the participant’s identity, so that the results are not affected by external factors, such as a participant’s anxiety about the attitude of the researcher towards the participant.


The main results were the outcome of testing the hypotheses that the control people have over their two languages does influence the language they prefer to communicate via mobile text messaging and/or internet chatting and also the language they prefer to converse with their family members. Many different methods were used to analyze the data obtained from the experiment, such as utilization of Excel’s common functions and analyzing the data using the statistical software ‘SPSS for Windows’.

Using Excel, the averages of the different independent and dependent variables were found, to give an idea of the general response of the participants. The average for SSRL1 was found to be around 12.1, whereas the average for SSRL2 was approximately 11.3. These results are very close to one another, showing that the participants are fairly bilingual. Moreover, the average for SP.Chat was 0.4, which is slightly skewed towards L2, while the mean of SP.Family was -1.2, which is skewed towards L1 to a much greater extent.

Next, SPSS was used to provide a statistical examination of the four variables (Table 1). Each independent variable was checked with both the dependent variables using a two-tailed correlation test. The results showed the significances of the relation between SSRL1 and SP.Family (r=0.838, p>0.05) and SSRL2 and SP.Family (r=0.423, p

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