Bilingualism

So I’m taking this class – Second Language Acquisition and Bilingual Children – from this person – Raquel Anderson – to fulfill my Acquisition requirement.

I’ve always been very interested in Bilingualism, and as this class seems likely to be intense I expect to learn a good deal about it this semester.

One interesting thing about the professor: she’s from Puerto Rico, and therefore is a second-language speaker of English herself. Her accent, however, is near-flawless. It’s pretty impressive, and also very cute (in the sense that while 96% American, there are still subtle traces of Puerto Rico that sound very cool). I love listening to her talk.

Her grammar (and especially word choice), however, aren’t as good. Don’t get me wrong – she still has impressive skill with English for a second-language learner, but she hesitates often over word choices and occasionally gets it wrong. Probably not unlike the way I speak German.

What’s interesting to me about this is that Olaf Sporns, a professor of Neuroscience with whom I had a class my first semester at IU, has exactly the opposite problem. His grammar and word choice are absolutely flawless; he’s easily the most impressive second-language speaker of English I’ve ever met in that way. Especially the word choice. (He did make one frequent “typical German” grammar mistake – which was to say “how does it look like?” in place of “what does it look like?” – but other than that…) Indeed, a native German speaker (who shall remain nameless) whom I know who talked to him reports that Olaf no longer speaks German well. However, he retains a noticeable German accent.

What I’m getting at, of course, is that cases like this go a long way to convincing me that there is indeed a competence-performance divide.

One thought on “Bilingualism

  1. Perhaps it points less to a competence-performance divide than to a modular account of grammar.

    It sounds like Raquel has her phonology in order, while her syntax (and lexicon?) correspond less well to the L2. Vice versa for Olaf.

    I imagine we both agree that the two don’t count as evidence for the critical period hypothesis, as Raquel’s situation shouldn’t occur under standard construals of the CPT.

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