Growing up, I never gave much thought to the fact that I knew how to fluently speak two languages. I was really quite convinced that it was totally normal and even expected for kids my age to know how to speak English AND their native language. This type of mindset never made me think twice about what it meant to be bilingual. That was until I read up on the different cognitive features of language in the psychology text.
As researched in the text, many kids (including I) who grow up actively learning two languages may experience syntax impairment, or confusion in the arrangement of words and sentences probably due to the blending of both languages together from time to time. But this is a very minor obstacle that always results into rewarding long-term benefits. Benefits that I notice in myself today, such as my metalinguistic skills, and abilities to understand more than one culture or ethnic group, let alone be a part of it. I have learned that language can really allow you to join and be a part of different communities whether raised bilingual or not.
But I do have to admit, being taught at a young age by my parents was what allowed me to absorb another language faster and more effectively, as it is proven, "the earlier, the better". But should that really hold anyone back from potentially also becoming bilingual? Even at an older age? For many older folks, age IS the factor holding them back.
This resistance really does have me questioning whether language is learned more efficiently because of natural ability, or hard work and true determination. Perhaps both, but sometimes it's hard to tell. Especially after viewing this video about highschooler Timothy Doner, a polyglot, or in other words, a multilingual speaker. He knows how to speak 23 different languages...fluently, claiming that much of it, if not all, is due to total dedication, and that it can be easily accomplished by anyone. But 23 languages at the age of 16??? It's gotta make you wonder if he really does represent the abilities of the average human, or if he was born with some special gene to accomplish such an incredible thing.
Attached are two links, one on Timothy Doner's appearance on the NBC Today Show, and the other on his story in the New York Times along with his own Youtube video diaries on his language learning experiences.
Check them out!
NBC Today Show: