Effects of the second language on the first : investigating the development of 'conceptual fluency' of bilinguals in a tertiary education context

Oostendorp, Marcelyn Camereldia Antonette (Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University, 2012-03)

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study investigates the effect of the increased use of a second language (L2) (English) as language of teaching and learning on the bilingual individual in a specific bilingual higher education context. The specific interest is in the development of conceptual fluency, and the role that bilingualism and the increased exposure to an L2 in a teaching and learning context plays in such development. In order to serve the interest of the study, the theoretical framework includes theories developed in language and cognition, bilingualism and cross-linguistic influence. The theoretical stance that is taken in this thesis is one that: recognises that bilingual individuals cannot be expected to exhibit the same kind of linguistic and conceptual knowledge as monolinguals, investigates the possibility that language can affect certain aspects of cognition, acknowledges that bilingual individuals themselves can contribute to the knowledge about the bilingual mind. The participants in the study are L1 speakers of Afrikaans who finished their secondary schooling in Afrikaans. At university they are increasingly exposed to more English as language of teaching and learning than in previous formal education. The effects of the increased use of English on conceptual fluency, academic achievement and self-perception of language proficiency were investigated. The study used university records, language tests and interviews to collect data. No concrete evidence could be found that English has a significantly positive or negative effect on 'conceptual fluency', academic achievement or self-perception of language proficiency. The study however provided valuable information about how bilinguals use the languages they have in their repertoires. The findings from the study suggest that increased exposure to an L2 leads to a unique form of language competence. This 'multi-competence' enables the participants in the study to use both languages in the understanding and learning of concepts in their respective fields of study. Thus this dissertation provides evidence that bilinguals can transfer knowledge and skills between the languages they know. Theories developed by Cook (1999, 2003) and Jarvis and Pavlenko (2008), that suggest transfer is bidirectional, is partly supported by the findings of the study. The study has various implications for the field of bilingualism in education. It illustrates how a multilingual context such as the one we have in South Africa complicates the use of certain methodologies and theoretical frameworks. This also means that models of bilingual education designed elsewhere cannot be implemented in the South African context without considered modification.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING : Hierdie studie het die effek van die toenemende gebruik van Engels (tweede taal) as medium van onderrig, op die tweetalige individu in 'n spesifieke tweetalige hoër onderwys konteks probeer peil. Die spesifieke belangstelling is in die ontwikkeling van konseptuele vlotheid en die rol wat tweetaligheid en die toenemende blootstelling aan 'n tweede taal (T2) in 'n onderrig en leer konteks speel in sodanige ontwikkeling. Om die belangstelling van die studie te dien, sluit die teoretiese raamwerk teorieë oor taal en kognitiewe vaardighede, tweetaligheid, en kruislinguistiese taal invloed in. Die teoretiese standpunt wat in die tesis geneem word, is een wat: erken dat tweetalige individue nie noodwendig dieselfde talige en konseptuele kennis as eentaliges vertoon nie, die moontlikheid ondersoek dat taal sekere aspekte van kognisie kan beïnvloed, en erken dat tweetalige individue kan bydra tot kennis oor die tweetalige denke. Die deelnemers aan die studie is eerstetaal sprekers van Afrikaans wat hulle sekondêre skoolloopbaan in Afrikaans voltooi het. In hulle universiteitsopleiding word hulle toenemend blootgestel aan meer Engels as taal van leer en onderrig as in hul vorige formele opleiding. Spesifiek is die effek van die gebruik van Engels op die Afrikaanse 'konsepsuele vlotheid', algehele akademiese prestasie en self-persepsie ondersoek. Die studie het universiteitsrekords, taaltoetse en onderhoude gebruik om data in te samel. Geen konkrete bewyse kon gevind word dat die gebruik van Engels, enige van die aspekte beduidend negatief of positief beïnvloed nie. Die studie het egter waardevolle inligting verskaf oor hoe tweetaliges die tale tot hul beskikking gebruik, en het ook bewyse gelewer dat toenemende blootstelling aan die tweede taal, 'n unieke vorm van taalvaardigheid tot gevolg het. Hierdie "multi-vaardigheid" het tot gevolg dat die deelnemers aan die studie toenemend beide tale gebruik in die leer en verstaan van konsepte in hul onderskeie studievelde. Die studie het ook ondersteuning gebied dat tweetaliges kennis en vaardighede kan oordra tussen die tale wat hulle ken. Teorieë wat deur Cook (1999, 2003) en Jarvis en Pavlenko (2008) ontwikkel is, wat voorstel dat oordrag bi-direksioneel is, word dus gedeeltelik ondersteun deur die studie. Die studie het verskeie implikasies vir die terrein van tweetaligheid in opvoedkunde. Dit illustreer hoe 'n veeltalige konteks soos ons dit in Suid-Afrika vind, die gebruik van sekere metodologieë en teoretiese raamwerke kompliseer. Dit beteken ook dat huidige modelle van tweetalige onderrig wat elders ontwikkel is nie sonder meer gebruik kan word in die Suid-Afrikaanse konteks sonder om dit aan te pas nie.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/20176
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