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Bilingualism and Second Language Acquisition (Level 5)


Module description

At the heart of this module is the observation that the starting second language learner is an emergent bilingual, and that bilinguals are in a constant state of change. Languages can be acquired and forgotten, both driven by - or driving - social, cultural, emotional and psychological issues. As such, second language acquisition (SLA) is not just a cognitive enterprise, it is a journey that involves the mind and heart of the bilingual.

In this module, we will consider a number of interesting methodological and theoretical debates and up-to-date research findings on the processes, developmental patterns and factors underlying bilingualism and SLA. The first part of this module will focus on bilingualism issues, namely the process of becoming bi- or multilingual, from birth or later in life. We will consider the cognitive and psychological consequences of bilingualism, as well as the sociopragmatic challenges in communicating emotions in a second language. The second part will focus on second and foreign language acquisition, namely the development of linguistic competence and the factors that contribute to success.

The assignment will be a self-reflection on your own experiences as a bi- or multilingual and your experiences as a foreign language learner. The ultimate goal of this module is to give you a broad understanding of research in the field.

Indicative module syllabus

  • From emergent bilingual to balanced bilingual
  • Trilingual first language acquisition: a case study
  • Bilingualism and emotions
  • Bilingualism: the cognitive consequences
  • Bilingualism: the psychological consequences
  • Introduction to second language acquisition (SLA)
  • The age effect in SLA
  • Individual differences in SLA
  • Motivation in SLA
  • Emotions in SLA

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • explain what is currently known about language acquisition from research, how we have come to know it, and what still needs to be investigated
  • accurately evaluate popular ideas about bilingualism and second language acquisition
  • develop informed expectations for language learning and training
  • answer your own questions about bilingualism and second language acquisition, frame new questions in the light of current research, and move toward research projects of your own
  • critically evaluate research on the topic and develop ideas for research projects.