Interview with a Bilingual

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This report presents an interview with a bilingual called H.D . H.D. is a daughter of a Turkish immigrant family who lived in Australia for 12 years .H.D. gives examples from her personal life about how she became bilingual background , the challenges of second language acquisition , benefits and the role of languages in her life. H.D was asked the following questions : (a) Could you please explain how you became bilingual? (b) Could you describe the bilingual environment you grew up in? (c) Which language do you feel more confident in speaking? And why? (d) How did you develop your reading and writing skills in both languages and what kind of challenges did you face during the learning process? (e) How did you feel as a bilingual child ? Did you ever feel special or have any negative feelings ? (f) Could you please compare your fluency and accuracy in both languages ? (g) In what ways do you think being raised bilingual has made you different from others who were raised monolingual? AN INTERVIEW WITH A SIMULTANEOUS BILINGUAL

Bilingualism may be defined as having some ability to use two or more languages. However, there are degrees of bilingualism and various ways to become bilingual. According to Halsband (2006), infants who are exposed to two languages from birth will become simultaneous bilinguals. In contrast, consecutive or successive bilingualism refers to the learning of one language after already knowing another. This is the situation for all those who become bilingual as adults, as well as for many who became bilingual earlier in life.

Crystal (1997) estimates that there are about 235 million bilingual people worldwide and that two thirds of the children in the world are raised in bilingual environments.

H.D is one of those who was born and grew up in a bilingual environment. As our interview commenced the first question was about H.D’s bilingual background focusing on what kind of bilingual environment she grew up in and how it was like at her home:

“My parents immigrated to Australia in 1979 and I was born in Melbourne in 1981. From an early age, my parents would always speak Turkish with me but I also had an Australian nanny who took care of me until I was 3 years old. I don’t remember which language I learned first but I think I just started speaking both of them naturally. There wasn’t any absolute rules at home. Although I always spoke in English with my parents , they were pretty consistent and always replied in Turkish.” Lyon (1996) highlights the differences in child bilinguals by the following examples. Children from cross-language marriages are likely to acquire language bilingually, the children of migrants are likely to pick up the dominant language through broadcast media and local children and the children of immigrants may face education in a foreign language they have never heard. When asked which language she felt more confident in speaking and its reason her reply was: “At the age of 3 I started kindergarten , and from that age ,English became more dominant and eventually became the main language I used when communicating with others. I also felt more confident and preferred speaking English rather than Turkish.” According to Lieven (2010) once children start to speak, the question of how to define a bilingual becomes even more complex. Many children brought up in a bilingual environment will actually be ‘dominant’ in one language or the other, sometimes variably at different stages of development, depending in part on the language environments in which they spend their time, but also on their own individual preferences. These children may have relatively full comprehension of both languages but be more variable in their production skills. Assessing the developmental continuities and discontinuities from the early stages of infant bilingualism to later comprehension and production becomes an extremely challenging task. Due to Lieven’s (2010) statement above ,...
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