The Kalu Yala Blog

Sequential vs. Simultaneous Bilingualism

March 18, 2011

by Emily Barry
Posted In: Our Global Community, The Creation of a Culture, Voices of Kalu Yala, Wandering Thoughts

As I proceed planning and organizing curriculum for the young children in San Miguel, I am continuously reading and analyzing research that will help us build the best program. Mimi and I are working together to create lessons that will be informative and effective in the mere two hours a week we have with our students. This brings to mind the question of how applicable our sessions really are in the lives of San Miguelians. There is very little opportunity or incentive for them to practice English in their everyday lives, generating the question: how can we become more effective? It is now important to realize that this is just the beginning of a long journey of learning and progress for us and the community.

During my studies as a student of child development I choose a focus in bilingualism in young children, primarily in infancy. In the past couple decades science and technological advances have shown us new and exciting research about children and their development. Research in the areas of cognitive, social and emotional development have given us evidence of the beneficial effects of learning two or more languages as a child. Although this research is in its early stages, it is making some valuable discoveries that are calling for changes in practice in education and family settings. There is agreement in research that for infants who are exposed to more than one language, two separate linguistic systems form that are connected and developed during the first year of life. These infants have a natural capability to learn languages and the number of languages in not a factor in a delay of any language (Genesee, Paradis & Crago, 2004). There is also new evidence that shows that an infant brain has the ability to differentiate between each language and interpret cues based on context in order to understand which language is appropriate in different situations (Kuhl, 2004). This is considered to be simultaneous bilingualism and is a lofty target to shoot for in a community such as San Miguel. Preparing the adults and soon-to-be parents with ability to speak to their children in both English and Spanish could considerably enhance the quality of education provided to the children.

Currently are working to improve sequential bilingualism defined as when the first language is previously established and the second language is introduced. After the age of three, children are generally considered sequential bilinguals (Castilla, Restrepo & Perez-Leroux, 2009). This calls for an in depth look at how children during each stage of development learn and process a second language. The research that I will continue to work on will venture to create a methodology for teaching English to different age groups of children, accommodating for the developmental stage in learning and acquisition.

Students working hard

Students working hard

Teaching 1st and 2nd Grade

Teaching 1st and 2nd Grade

Castilla, A., Restrepo, M., & Perez-Leroux, A. (2009). Individual Differences and Language Interdependence: A Study of Sequential Bilingual Development in Spanish-English Preschool Children. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 12(5), 565-580. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Genesee, F., Paradis, J., & Crago M. B. (2004). Dual language development and disorders: A handbook on bilingualism and second language learning. Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing.

Kuhl, P. K. (2004). Early language acquisition: cracking the speech code. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 5, 11, 831-843.

3 Responses to “Sequential vs. Simultaneous Bilingualism”

  1. Sebastian Arias says:

    Congratulation for your work and research in Simultaneous Bilingualism!! This is definitely something that will improve the quality of life of San Miguelians! Language is a great way to start making San Miguel part of Kalu Yala!

  2. Mimi says:

    Such interesting research! Keep it coming, mama.

  3. Jan Hughes says:

    Emily, we are all so proud of you for making your mark and a difference in this world. Keep up the good work!