Bilingual Competence and Bilingual Proficiency in Child Development


When two or more languages are part of a child's world, we are presented with a rich opportunity to learn something about language in general and about how the mind works. In this book, Norbert Francis examines the development of bilingual proficiency and the different kinds of competence that come together in making up its component parts. In particular, he explores problems of language ability when children use two languages for tasks related to schooling, especially in learning how to read and write. He considers both broader research issues and findings from an ongoing investigation of child bilingualism in an indigenous language–speaking community in Mexico. This special sociolinguistic context allows for a unique perspective on some of the central themes of bilingualism research today, including the distinction between competence and proficiency, modularity, and the Poverty of Stimulus problem.

Francis proposes that competence (knowledge) should be considered as an integral component of proficiency (ability) rather than something separate and apart, arguing that this approach allows for a more inclusive assessment of research findings from diverse fields of study. The bilingual indigenous language project illustrates how the concepts of modularity and the competence-proficiency distinction in particular might be applied to problems of language learning and literacy.

Few investigations of indigenous language and culture approach bilingual research problems from a cognitive science perspective. By suggesting connections to broader cognitive and linguistic issues, Francis points the way to further research along these lines.

Table of Contents

  1. Preface
  2. Acknowledgments
  3. Abbreviations
  4. 1. Introduction: The Problem of Language Acquisition When There Are Two
  5. 2. Bilingualism in School
  6. 3. The Debate on the Nature of Bilingual Proficiency
  7. 4. Componential Approaches to the Study of Language Proficiency
  8. 5. Research on the Components of Bilingual Proficiency
  9. 6. The Critical Period, Access to Universal Grammar in First and Second Language, and Language Attrition
  10. 7. An Analysis of Academic Language Proficiency
  11. 8. Metalinguistic Awareness, Bilingualism, and Writing
  12. 9. Metalinguistic Awareness, Bilingualism, and Reading
  13. 10. Conclusion
  14. Appendix 1: Assessment of Metalinguistic Awareness Related to Bilingualism
  15. Appendix 2: Indices of Additive Bilingualism
  16. Appendix 3: Early Childhood Borrowing and Codeswitching
  17. Appendix 4: Writing Samples, including the Assessment of Revision/Correction
  18. Glossary
  19. Notes
  20. References
  21. Index