Viva Bilingualism: The Benefits of Bilingualism in the United States
In his article Viva Bilingualism, James Fallows analyzes such issue as bilingualism in the United States, in particular, the author argues that two or even more languages can successfully co-exist in America. The article has caused a great public response as it breaks some myths about bilingualism which are still popular in the US.
2. Fallows’ Main Points
The author starts his article with the story of his family which is a good example of how two or more languages can successfully coexist in America. Mr. Fallows and his wife are monolingual English speakers, while their children are bilingual, they speak both English and Chinese. As a result, the Fallows have created a trilingual environment at home, which is quite common for many American families. Moreover, the author emphasizes that bilingualism is not something unusual or strange, it is a natural thing which can be found in every corner of the world.
The second myth about bilingualism which James Fallows breaks in his article is that bilingualism can be harmful for children’s development. The author debunked this myth by providing several scientific studies which prove that bilingualism has a positive effect on children’s cognitive abilities. In particular, bilingual children outperform monolingual children in such tasks as flexible thinking, problem solving, and multitasking.
Another myth about bilingualism which is addressed by the author is the idea that there is a conflict between languages, and one language always prevails over the other. However, James Fallows argues that this is not true, languages can peacefully coexist without any conflicts. The author provides an example of Catalan and Spanish languages which are spoken in the autonomous community of Catalonia in Spain. Although Catalan was suppressed during the Franco dictatorship, it has successfully survived and now it is official language in Catalonia alongside with Spanish.
The fourth myth about bilingualism is that members of a multilingual community will have difficulties communicating and interacting with one another. This idea is also false according to James Fallows who believes that such communities can effectively function if they have common values and traditions. The author provides an example of Switzerland where four different languages are spoken by the population, however, people have no difficulties communicating with one another and they successfully cooperate with each other both at work and in everyday life.
3. The Relevance of Bilingualism in the United States
The issue of bilingualism is highly relevant for the United States where Spanish is spoken by around 41 million people (Pew Research Center, 2015). Moreover, according to forecast made by Pew Research Center, by 2050 there will be around 138 million Spanish speakers in the US (Pew Research Center, 2015). This growth is mainly driven by Hispanic immigration which has constantly increased since 1970s (Pew Research Center, 2015). Consequently, more and more American children grow up speaking both English and Spanish at home.
It should be noted that although most Hispanics in the United States are monolingual English speakers, around 21% of them are bilingual and 5% are monolingual Spanish speakers (Pew Research Center, 2015). Moreover, it is predicted that by 2050 around 32% of Hispanics will be bilingual and 14% will be monolingual Spanish speakers (Pew Research Center, 2015). These numbers prove that bilingualism is becoming more and more common in the United States, and it is likely that in the future the US will become a truly multilingual country.
In conclusion, it should be noted that bilingualism is a natural phenomenon which can be found in every corner of the world. Although some myths about bilingualism still exist, they should definitely be broken in order to open people’s eyes on this issue. Bilingualism has many benefits and it can effectively function in such multilingual countries as Switzerland and Catalonia. In the future, the United States is likely to become a truly multilingual country where two or even more languages can successfully coexist.