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      Our native language resides at the tip of our tongue and the point of our ears. We can apply it with ease and flow without it necessarily being accurate. When we overhear someone saying we cannot turn our ears off. It is a tool to live our everyday lives. It is why we live in houses, not caves.

       Most monolingual speakers' conception of bilingualism is that bilinguals have equal fluency in each of their languages, but most do not. If every person becomes balanced bilingualism, they will have equal fluency in each of their languages in a country, then there will be no point in them being bilingual.

         If a Welsh speaker tried to speak Welsh in Russia, it would be a useless language. Ideally, they would need to find a common language that they can communicate through. English is becoming a language of communication throughout the world that Latin once was in Europe.

      There is a widespread misapprehension that new languages are easy to learn. This has arisen because commercial companies have been offering cheap website language learning websites that promise that languages can be successfully learned in months.

      When children acquire their native oral language from birth, they are biologically primed to develop it. This does not mean that they will acquire it subconsciously, but they will  acquire it naturally. They will develop basic oral language fluency around the age of five.

      Reading is a biologically secondary skill. We are not evolutionarily designed to learn it. Most people were illerterate historically. It needs a great deal of work and conscious effort for children to develop literacy. Children need to deconstruct their fluent oral language to develop their literacy skills.

      We all generally have a lack of appreciation of how complex and difficult new languages are to learn. This is because our episodic memory, our memory of events, was undeveloped when we acquired our early language learning.

         We can claim to wake up with our ‘oral native’ language. There are a whole range of irregularities in the English language, which are a nightmare to learn for English as a second language learner. Most native Emglish speakers will be unable to name them.

      The notion that if children attempt to learn two languages from birth, it will cause interference has no validity, but children who are brought up bilingually from birth cannot speak or encounter two languages at the same time. If majority languages like English in United Kingdom and French in France is considered, for instance, then monolingual speakers devote their whole lives to learning and encountering each respective language.

       We are now living in the 21st century where there is cognitive and neuro-science research that has confirmed what is always being known. The old adage “Unless you use something, you lose it” is valid. It does not apply to all learning, but it does apply to factual learning. The building blocks of languages are words, which are facts.

      Memories are committed when synapses, links between neurons, are grown in the brain. They can be viewed as being like blades of grass. There are trillions of these connections in the brain. Although words appear to be stored and recovered as a whole, they are distributed into complex interrelated networks

    The synapses need to be watered like plants in a desert through usage. Speakers of languages will be watering their language when they incidentally overhear hear someone asking for a ticket on a bus, for instance.

      Cognitive research indicates that it takes 10,000 hours to develop mastery. This applies to developing native-like fluency in a new language. The figure is notional. Some learners will learn languages quicker than others, but the figure provides an indication of the scale of task.

      Native language learning and maintaining fluency in it can be viewed as being similar to learning and practising to become a concert pianist. Research indicates that it takes them 10,000 hours to develop concert proficiency, fluency, but they still need to practise for around 3 hours a day to maintain that fluency. This reflects the time monolingual speakers devote to developing and maintaining their native language fluency when it is all around them.

      Bilingual language learning and maintaining fluency in it can be viewed as being similar to someone practising to become a concert pianist and trumpet player. The will be common ground between the two, but there are be significant differences. They cannot practice both at once. The fluency will generally relate to the time they devote to each.

    If someone living in France speaks French and German, and if they go to work in Germany, the balance of their language fluency will change. It is possible for native speakers to completely lose their language, if it is not used often enough.

        The concept of bilingualism could be viewed in terms of learners learning and retaining two separate languages. It would be extremely difficult for them to develop the same level of fluency as native speakers in each. Even in foreign countries like Japan, where English is fluently spoken by many people there, their vocabularies are very limited.

    Concert pianists will have a repertoire of music that they are prepared to play. Language fluency is developed in domains, contexts. Bilinguals develop fluency in specific contexts in each language. If Welsh speakers in Cardiff, for instance, become highly practised at shopping in Welsh, then they will become fluent in doing so.

    Bilingual’s fluency will also be developed in each of the four language skills, speaking, listening, reading and writing. A person can speak one of their languages, but they can be illiterate in it. They may also comprehend a language but not be able to speak it.

       Language capabilities are very plastic. They are not fixed in time. The restraint on the transferability between languages is the ability fluently recall vocabulary and well-practised phrases. If a speaker frequently asks for a rail tocket in a given language, such as in Welsh, then it will become so automatic they will need to give little thought to it.

Plenary

    The characteristics of bilingualism are complicated. The bilingualism of a person will relate to balance of the two language capabilities, which will not be fixed in time.  The profile of bilinguals, their language history and the language environments that they have and they will continue to influence that balance throughout their lives.

      The balance of bilingualism is very plastic. It is not fixed in time. Grosjean, who is a psycholinguist, explains that in his early years, he was brought up as a French speaker from birth, and when he came to England, he learnt English, and it became his stronger language in his teens. He was able and needed to learn the majority of languages of two countries where the language is all around learners.

      Strictly speaking, languages cannot be learnt, they must be lived through. The concept of flying time must refer to the development of all fluent mastery. The fact that someone can have a fluent conversation in English, does not mean that they will develop the skill. It needs to be practised in their second language. New language learners who want to become bilingual must decide what proportion of their daily lives they will need to devote to drowning themselves in the second language.  i.e. 10%, 30% or 50%.


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