Scholarly article on topic 'Bilingualism or Biliteracy: Predicting the Interdependence of BICS and CALP in Learning English as an L3'

Bilingualism or Biliteracy: Predicting the Interdependence of BICS and CALP in Learning English as an L3 Academic research paper on "Psychology"

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Abstract of research paper on Psychology, author of scientific article — Sima Modirkhamene, Laleh Toupa Esfandiari

Abstract This study examined the performance of two different groups of bilinguals (dominant bilinguals vs. balanced biliterate/bilinguals) in two sets of skills, that is, BICS (Basic Interpersonal Communicative Skill) and CALP (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency). It was hypothesized that different types of bilinguals perform differently on tests of reading as CALP and speaking as BICS. A total number of 96 senior learners of English as an L3 within the age range of 21-24 participated in this study. Fifty two (28 female, 24 male) were fully biliterate Kurdish-Arabic EFL learners from Salahaddin University in Kurdistan, Iraq and the remaining 44 (12 female, 32 male) were Kurdish-Persian bilingual learners of English from Kurdistan University in Kurdistan, Iran. Data was collected through a highly reliable linguistic background questionnaire and the reading and speaking tests of the First Certificate in English (FCE). Results submitted to a series of two-way ANOVA statistical test indicated that bilingual subjects performed better than biliterates in reading. On the other hand, no statistically significant difference was observed between the two groups with regard to their performance in BICS. In addition, findings indicated no significant interaction between linguistic background and gender of the participants as it impacted performance in L3 tasks. Findings are discussed in relation to the effect of active use of languages in the community, and the differential effect of degrees of bilingualism on L3 acquisition.

Academic research paper on topic "Bilingualism or Biliteracy: Predicting the Interdependence of BICS and CALP in Learning English as an L3"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 98 (2014) 1140 - 1147

International Conference on Current Trends in ELT

Bilingualism or Biliteracy: Predicting the Interdependence of BICS and CALP in Learning English as an L3

Sima Modirkhamenea, Laleh Toupa Esfandiarib' *

a Department of English Language and Literature, Urmia University, Urmia165, Urmia, Iran b Islamic Azad University of Tehran, Science and Research Branch, Tehran, Iran

Abstract

This study examined the performance of two different groups of bilinguals (dominant bilinguals vs. balanced biliterate/bilinguals) in two sets of skills, that is, BICS (Basic Interpersonal Communicative Skill) and CALP (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency). It was hypothesized that different types of bilinguals perform differently on tests of reading as CALP and speaking as BICS. A total number of 96 senior learners of English as an L3 within the age range of 21-24 participated in this study. Fifty two (28 female, 24 male) were fully biliterate Kurdish-Arabic EFL learners from Salahaddin University in Kurdistan, Iraq and the remaining 44 (12 female, 32 male) were Kurdish-Persian bilingual learners of English from Kurdistan University in Kurdistan, Iran. Data was collected through a highly reliable linguistic background questionnaire and the reading and speaking tests of the First Certificate in English (FCE). Results submitted to a series of two-way ANOVA statistical test indicated that bilingual subjects performed better than biliterates in reading. On the other hand, no statistically significant difference was observed between the two groups with regard to their performance in BICS. In addition, findings indicated no significant interaction between linguistic background and gender of the participants as it impacted performance in L3 tasks. Findings are discussed in relation to the effect of active use of languages in the community, and the differential effect of degrees of bilingualism on L3 acquisition.

© 2014 TheAuthors.Publishedby ElsevierLtd.Thisisanopenaccessarticle under the CC BY-NC-ND license

(http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Urmia University, Iran.

Keywords: Bilingualism; Biliteracy; BICS; CALP; Interdependence Hypothesis; Third language

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +98-9144430515 - +981912248521 E-mail address: s.modir@urmia.ac.ir; Laleh.t.esfandiari@gmail.com

1877-0428 © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license

(http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Urmia University, Iran.

doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.03.527

1. Introduction

As people learn languages, they develop certain skills. They seem to transfer these skills, especially the cognitive ones, learned/acquired in their first language (L1) or probably any other previous language to the target language. Jessner (2006) and Ringbom (1987) attribute this cross-linguistic transfer to a natural feature of multilingual learning and use in multilingual contexts. In multilingual settings, psycholinguistic research focuses on the effect of bilingualism on additional language learning, trilingualism, and cross-linguistic influence that have turned out to be of major importance for research on the educational and psycholinguistic perspectives of multilingualism. Studies regarding such issues are especially important when speakers with different linguistic backgrounds (e.g., bilinguals, biliterates, trilinguals, etc.) are involved in learning additional languages (English as an L3 in this study).

Some studies ( e.g. Cenoz & Valencia, 1994; Swain, Lapkin, Rowen, & Hart, 1990) on the acquisition of third language (L3) in a bi/multilingual context maintain that it is literacy skills in already-established languages that transfers across languages and facilitates the acquisition of a third one. This interdependence, according to Cummins (1991) is more dominant among literacy/academic skills especially when the learners reach a certain threshold level in their language repertoire and if they possess the necessary level of cognitive skills. In this vein, Bialystok (1988) suggests that bilinguals with different levels of bilingualism enjoy different advantages compared with each other and compared with monolinguals. In her study of bilinguals with different degrees of bilingualism, she distinguished biliteracy and level of bilingualism (20 partially French-English bilinguals, and 17 fluently French-English bilinguals). She compared bilinguals with each other and with monolinguals in different task performance throughout her studies. The results she gained showed that bilinguals performed significantly better on the three tasks compared with monolinguals. On the other hand, full bilinguals outperformed partial ones in language arbitrary tasks and syntax-correction task.

In the same vein, Thomas (1988) examined meta-linguistic awareness among 13 bilingual with different degrees of bilinguality and 19 monolingual L3 learners in relation to their language learning strategies. As regards the degree of bilingualism, 7 bilingual participants had learned their second language (L2) at home with no formal exposure to it and 6 of them had studied their L2 formally for two years. The results of a semester of French instruction showed that the biliterate bilinguals gave less importance to the role of grammar and vocabulary and knew how to use language correctly in social situations than did monolinguals. Similarly, in a Catalan-Spanish bilingual context, Sanz (2000) also found a positive relationship between 201 biliterate vs. dominant bilinguals and their knowledge of EFL as an L3. The results were in line with those of Thomas (1988) and Cenoz and Valencia (1994) in that biliterate bilinguals outperformed monolinguals. Supporting Cummins' (1976) proposal of the interdependence hypothesis and Threshold hypothesis (1979), Thomas emphasizes that literacy in L1 and L2 facilitates the learning of the third language. But the question is whether one can ignore other positive aspects of being bilingual and attribute the findings purely to biliteracy.

Some scholars (e.g. Wagner, Spart, & Ezzaki, 1989; Berman, 1994; Verhoeven,1994; Modirkhamene, 2006) propose that, in addition to biliteracy, there are certain other factors, such as the active use of the languages in all contexts ( within the family, with peer groups, in the community, etc.), that seem to positively affect L3 learning. Through a thorough review of the literature on bilingualism, Modirkhamene maintains that in the process of learning an additional language, bilinguals develop other skills such as enhanced language processing strategies, communicative skills (Baker, 1988), and advanced cognitive operations (Lambert, 1981), not emerging merely from biliteracy, that contribute to effective L3 learning.

In this regard, Errasti (2003) in an attempt to analyze the influence of bilingualism on proficiency in the writing of English as an L3 concluded that it was the social factor of using one language more in the society that contributed to a better performance among the participants in her study. Similar interpretations where drawn by Aronin and

Toubkin (2002) who examined the relationship between Russian as L1, Hebrew as L2 and English as L3 in immersion programs for Russian- speaking students in Israel. In their study, Hebrew (as the participants L2) which was used more frequently in their everyday life was accounted as a reason for its interference with the subjects' L3 (English).

Therefore it is thought possible that the effect of social factors is as remarkable as educational factors with regard to bi/multilingual development. Modirkhamene (2006) believes that active use of the languages a bilingual knows in various contexts may be a powerful factor in improving language processing strategies. Her findings support Cummins' (1979) interdependence hypothesis but not in the educational side, rather in the socio-cultural side. She states that being literate in the languages of a bilingual is not the sole guarantee to benefit from bilinguality. Accordingly, she recommends further empirical research on interdependence of skills across languages with a focus on various bi/multilingual contexts and various types of bilinguals. The findings of such studies are of paramount significance for a multilingual country like Iran where there are a lot of ethnic group members (e.g. Azeri, Kurdish, Gilaki, etc.) involved in learning English as an L3, whereas their rich linguistic background is overestimated.

2. Method

2.1. Participants

Applying the quantitative method of inquiry, this study compared two groups of bilinguals (i.e., bilingual and biliterate EFL learners) with emphasis on the ideas Cummins (1976) proposes through the interdependence hypothesis. The main objective was to find out whether L1 literacy (the type of bilinguality) affects performance in CALP or BICS skills of English as an L3.We focused on a total of 96 senior learners of English as a third language who belonged to 21-24 age range.

The first group (#=52) encompassed 28 female and 24 male biliterate Kurdish-Arabic students from Salahaddin University in Kurdistan, Iraq. Their first language was Kurdish in which they were literate and had academic studies. They all reported speaking Kurdish at school, at home and in the community. In addition, they rated nearly the same level of performance in their second language, Arabic, which they were literate in.

The remaining 44 belonged to the second group including 12 female and 32 male Iranian Kurdish-Persian bilinguals from Kurdistan University in Iran. Iranian students were not able to read and write in their regional first language, that is, Kurdish. They spoke Kurdish at home, in the community and most of the time at school. However, their literacy and academic studies were only in Persian, the lingua franca and language of education in Iran. Like the Iraqi students, Iranians were grown in middle class families. Only 4.5% could be included within the high and the third classes which were excluded from the study.

Reportedly, all the participants spoke in their L1 (Kurdish) with their parents at home except in a few number of families who also sometimes spoke in their L2 at home. All of the participants who spoke languages of the same typology reported using their two languages, that is, L1 and L2 in the community in a balanced proportion.

Regarding the human geography, Kurdistan as a Kurdish speaking community in the Middle East is divided into two regions by means of the border between Iran and Iraq. The most significant difference between the groups is that Kurdish speakers of Iraq study Kurdish as their L1 at school but their Iranian counterparts speak Persian, their L2, as their academic language while maintaining to use Kurdish as their heritage language in informal settings.

2.2. Instruments

For the study to run forward and accomplish its expected objectives, a number of instruments were taken into

account. The very first type of data collection instrument was a 15- items questionnaire that adhered to getting demographic and general background information including the participants' gender, age, socio-economic status, language typology as well as linguistic background (self-rating items about L1, L2 and L3 knowledge and use), frequently used languages, length of learning English or other foreign languages.

The second instrument was the FCE test (2001), namely, reading comprehension with 28 items. The speaking section of the FCE test encompassing collaborative and interactive tasks was also used. The standardized test of FCE served two purposes: homogenizing the participants in terms of their English language proficiency, and the measure of BICS and CALP skills.

3. Results

Taking gender as a moderator variable, we assumed that linguistic background (bilingualism vs. biliteracy) significantly affects EFL learners' performance in reading as a CALP skill. Descriptive statistics representing means and standard deviations of the groups with regard to reading is indicated in table 1.

Table 1 Descriptive statistics: Reading as a CALP skill (both groups)

Groups Gender N Mean Std. Deviation

Male 32 10.60 3.54

Bilinguals (Iran) Female 12 8.69 3.99

Total 44 10.08 3.72

Male 24 7.26 2.10

Biliterates (Iraq) Female 28 7.16 2.24

Total 52 7.21 2.160

Male 56 9.17 3.42

Total Female 40 7.62 2.91

Total 96 8.52 3.29

Note: total score for the reading paper is 20

Comparison of the total mean scores of bilingual and biliterate subjects reveals that bilinguals (M= 10.08) performed better than the biliterates (M=7.21). In addition, males (M= 9.17) performed generally better than the females (M= 7.62) in test of reading as a CALP skill. In order to statistically examine the significance of these differences, two-way ANOVA was applied (table 2).

Table 2 Results of Two-way ANOVA (CALP)_

Type III Sum of

Source Squares df Mean Square F Sig.

Corrected Model 228.306(a) 3 76.102 8.728 .000

Intercept 5924.291 1 5924.291 679.467 .000

Linguistic background 123.201 1 123.201 14.130 .000

Gender 20.962 1 20.962 2.404 .124

Linguistic background and Gender 17.225 1 17.225 1.976 .163

Error 802.151 92 8.719

Total 8010.118 96

Corrected Total 1030.457 95

Dependent Variable: CALP

Linguistic background: Bilinguals and biliterates

a R Squared = .222 (Adjusted R Squared = .196)

Noticing lines 3 and 5 of table 2, it is shown that there was a significant difference in the performance of bilingual and biliterate subjects on the reading test as a CALP (Sig. = p < .05, F (1, 92) = 14.13) which is greater than the critical value (3.95). Considering the amount of means in table 1, the difference was in favour of bilingual subjects (M= 10.08). It is probable that biliteracy had no or very insignificant effect on the performance of biliterate subjects in reading as an academic (CALP) skill in English.

Furthermore, there was not a significant difference in the performance of male and female subjects in both groups regarding reading (Sig. =, F (1, 92) = 2.404 F). Additionally, the interaction between linguistic background and gender that could possibly affect the performance in reading of the participants was not significant (Sig. = p=.163, F (2, 60) = 1.97). Figure 1 indicates the interaction between bilingualism, biliteracy, gender, and CALP score of the participants.

О 9.00 ■

Gender

- - - Male

Q ■ Female

^^^^ \

^^^^ \

^^^^ \

^^^^ \

^^^^ \

^^^^ \

^^^^ \

Bilinguals (Iran) Biliterates (Iraq)

Figure 1 Estimated marginal means of CALP skill

We were also interested in finding out whether linguistic background (bilingualism vs. biliteracy) significantly affects EFL learners' performance in speaking as a BICS skill.

Data on the performance of each group in speaking as a BICS skill and the ANOVA output are presented through tables 3 and 4.

Table 3 Descriptive statistics for both groups (BICS)

Groups

Gender

Std. Deviation

Bilinguals (Iran)

Male Female

14.29 13.41

2.75 3.41

Total 24 13.85 3.06

Male 10 12.30 2.80

Biliterates (Iraq) Female 6 13.25 2.94

Total 16 12.65 2.79

Male 22 13.38 2.89

Total Female 18 13.36 3.17

Total 40 13.37 2.98

Note: the total score in 20.

The comparison of the total means across groups shows that bilinguals (M= 13.85) performed better than the biliterates (M= 12.65) in speaking. Moreover, males (M= 13.38) turned out to perform nearly the same as females (M= 13.36) in the test of speaking as a BICS skill. However, in Table 4, line 3, it is indicated that this difference in the performance of the two groups in speaking was not statistically significant (P =.283).

Table 4 The results of Two-way ANOVA (BICS)_

Source Type III Sum of Squares Df Mean Square F Sig.

Corrected Model 21.754(a) 3 7.251 .802 .501

Intercept 6545.654 1 6545.654 723.675 .000

Linguistic background 10.750 1 10.750 1.189 .283

Gender .013 1 .013 .001 .970

Linguistic background and Gender 7.686 1 7.686 .850 .363

Error 325.621 36 9.045

Total 7503.000 40

Corrected Total 347.375 39

Dependent Variable: BICS Linguistic background: Bilinguals and biliterates a R Squared = .063 (Adjusted R Squared = -.015)

It is also shown that there was not a significant difference (sig= .283, F(136)= 1.18) in the performance of bilingual and biliterate subjects in terms of the speaking test as a BICS skill. Furthermore, there was not a significant difference in the performance of male and female subjects in both groups regarding the speaking as a BICS skill (compared with the critical value of 4.11). Figure 2 indicates the interaction between bilingualism, biliteracy, gender, and BICS score of the participants. The interaction between linguistic background and gender as they impacted performance in speaking was not significant (Sig. P=.97, F(136)= .001).

Bilinguals (Iran) Biliterates (Iraq)

Figure 2 Estimated marginal means of BICS skill

4. Discussion and Conclusion

This study set out to examine the differential effect of literacy in L1 in acquiring English as a third language. Findings showed a significant difference, favouring bilinguals, between the performances of the two groups in reading. Similar performance in speaking, however, was observed across the two groups. It seems that, contrary to the common notion that literacy puts the bilinguals in general and biliterates in particular in an advantage; literacy was not of any significant help to the learners in this study. The findings run counter to the findings reported by Sanz (2000), Swain, Lapkin, and Hart (1990), and Thomas (1988) who proposed that it is literacy in the L1 that has different dispositional effects on bilingual individuals when they are confronted with learning a third language.

On the other hand, the findings seem to be in line with what Modirkhamene (2006) and Errasti (2003) argued. They suggest that it is the social factor of using one language more in the society that contribute to a better performance in L3 learning situations. It seems that bilinguals through constant contact with different languages in the society develop some other skills like enhanced language processing strategies, communicative skills (Baker, 1988), and advanced cognitive operations (Lambert, 1981) not emerging merely from biliteracy.

Moreover, lack of significant difference between the two groups especially in the speaking task may indicate the heightened communicative sensitivity that is identified as one of the communicative advantages of bilinguality. It is proposed that in a conversation act, bilinguals need to plan their speech from their language storage incorporating more than one language while trying to keep them apart. This balancing ability is a developed language management skill (Cenoz & Jessner, 2000), which is pointed out as a positive outcome of previous language-related processes. Through repeatedly switching to an appropriate language in various bilingual situations, the participants appear to subconsciously develop a sensitivity of awareness to the communication needs of other speakers. For them, this sensitivity, possibly brings about other useful aspect of being bilingual (not solely biliterate) in communication. This greater sensitivity accounts for the development of communicative competence and communicative methods (Clyne, as cited in Jessner, 2008) particularly when third language acquisition is involved (Herdina & Jessner, 2002). It can be assumed, thus, that these methods have achieved an improvement through constant language use in the community even if there is no first language literacy instruction. To sum up, one can conclude that various degrees of bilinguality and different socio-linguistic contexts (Lambert, 1981, Jessner, 1999, Errasti, 2003; Bialystock, cited in Jessner, 2008) may have different dispositional effects on bilingual individuals when they are confronted with learning a third language.

The key findings in the present investigation expanded our view on research on multilinguals and the issues related to cross linguistic interdependence and additional language learning. They bring new areas of enquiry as far as different degrees of bilingualism and additional language learning is involved. What seems to be the outcome of this study and similar ones is that the most salient feature in learning additional languages in bi/multilingual contexts is that two or three languages can be at work at the same time while playing different roles. In other words, in performing target language tasks, one language can be the source of extra schematic and world knowledge and experience and the other may provide the learner with available strategies and styles. How to benefit from an already established language system should (even if they are not academically developed) , thus, especially be introduced to the foreign language learning contexts. Such a position which is clearly linked to Cummins' (1979) idea of a common underlying proficiency in relation to the Interdependence Hypothesis can be recommended to the teachers to raise knowledge about other languages, including both L1 and L2 of whatever degree of development, in their classroom. In certain contexts of language instruction, as Jessner (2008) recommends moving away from isolation towards cooperation between the languages in the learner should be fostered in third language acquisition. This is in fact the language-centered approach suggested by Clyne (1997) which means creating a relationship through and with language(s). However, future studies should adopt a longitudinal design to look into the interaction of previous language development and L3 learning in multilingual contexts with a more delicate control of other interacting individual factors like age, gender, language recency, and socio economic status.

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