Biculturalism is the ability to effectively navigate daily life in two social, culturally different groups and adapt to a second culture while preserving ones heritage culture. In sociology, biculturalism usually involves two distinct cultures in co-existence. Bilingualism is closely related to the phenomenon of language acquisition. Language is an important means of shaping the identity and understanding yourself as a part of a social group. It is also fundamental in spreading a culture. When two languages or cultures come into contact, there is a certain contact between two communities. Language serves as a vehicle in conveying and preserving the values and traditions of the culture.
The life of Rodriguez may serve as an example. The son of working-class parents Mexican immigrants lived within bilingual society, where Spanish was a private language and English a public one. Many children experienced not only living within two languages, but also within two worlds frames. There is a special scheme of bilingual education which allows non-English speaking children to use their mother tongue as the language of school. However, it is a fiction rather than the reality. The child was fated to become a problem student socially outcast cut off from the civilization.
In bilingual families one language very often predominates. The parents spoke Spanish, however the family lives in the community where English was an official language. Despite the subtle differences, a person feels slightly more at home in one language in certain settings. For instance, for Rodriguez Spanish was the preferable one, since it was always in usage at home during the conversations with parents. Balance was the main problem in this situation. The child needs to hear and use both languages with the same frequency and in various circumstances. The parents very often determine which language is more important. As a result, the child do not feel the need in less important language. Moreover, if one language has a predominant status, certain elements of another language are neglected and ignored. In the case with Rodriguez, the parents underestimated the situation. They isolated the child from public language. They made small tries to learn and communicate in English unwillingly, whereas their child had to face difficulties at least at school every day.
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It is surprising that the father is more unhelpful in English than mother. The parents spoke with Rodriguez at first only in Spanish and on the contrary English was the forbidden language. The lack of desire to help their child creates a negative attitude and resistance towards the English language. In such a way, a child felt incertitude, confusion and apathy to the society. It results in embarrassment and childs feeling different. Listening to the parents speech in English was even more embarrassing for the child because of its incorrect pronunciation and confused syntax. He became nervous and confused. Through private Spanish language, Rodriguez was marked as a member of the family. The sounds of the magical world in which he lived belonged to private agreeable Spanish and public fearful English language. Certainly, clear boundaries where each language is spoken were harmful for a child. Rodriguez confessed that childhood fears influenced the adulthood. The distinguishment between hard and soft sounds made the boy timid, shy and too dependent on home language as if insisted that Rodriguez belonged only the family and not to the society. The boy admitted that addressing to him in Spanish while entering a class would not frighten him so much. Instead, he was a disadvantaged child with ghetto language. The parents are to blame for this situation because thy isolated their child and only the teachers encouraged him to speak loud to the class in English.
Only after a small incentive from his parents the misconceptions and discomfort about private and public languages have disappeared. Rodriguez came to the conclusion that he is an American citizen. He felt relief after overcoming his fears. This sudden boost of confidence changed the life of the family. Rodriguez grew more and more resolute about his own public identity. He was no longer an alien or a foreigner in the society. He could benefit from the rights and opportunities essential for full public individuality. Despite the fact that the society in which Rodriguez lives nowadays is rather impersonal and less emotional, he is a winner. Overcoming these fears helps one to succeed in life.
The life of Zora Neale Hurston may be an example of bicultural co-existence. The protagonist explored the racial prejudice and social exclusion that shaped the life of many African Americans. She has been raised in an all-black town Eatonville. Zora faced the racial discrimination while admitting insignificance of the color of her skin. She was not aware of racial division existence. Consequently, she neglected it. Zora entertains and welcomes the citizens of her city. The author never really emphasized on the racial inequalities that exists in America. Her high value of pride and self-esteem are impressive. Comparing to Rodriguez, her life is a rare case of the ignorance of biculturalism. It is almost impossible not to react to the complete resistance of the society.
Zora mentioned that she was not tragically colored since she was busy living her life. The slavery served as a price for her isolation. She was confident and she knew what she wants. The child happened to be the center of the universe in such frightful way. Zora felt the embarrassment while being with the people of different skin color. She did not consider herself a citizen of United States. At certain times she had no race at all. Despite that fact, she is quite optimistic person with a positive image of the world. She can endure and face any hardships. She got the message to handle any racial challenge across. In fact, she is not strongly affected by living in bicultural society as Rodriguez, who lived in the bilingual community. Zora is a simple girl with her own feelings, dreams and thoughts.
To my mind, there are several advantages of bilingualism. Telling the stories and playing language-based games serve as a perfect opportunity to build the close-knit family. Discussing diverse topics can be culturally relevant. Families are involved in the activities that boost the childs self-esteem. Bilingual children have better social understanding and can consider multiple perspectives. They better understand the thoughts, desires and intentions of other people. Moreover, bilingual children perform better tasks that involve switching between different activities. Bilingualism develops the flexibility of mind and provides positive social interactions. Bilingual children find it easier to identify and differentiate the sounds of the spoken language and have an earlier understanding of the correspondence between letters and sounds. Biculturalism provides the awareness of other peoples points of view. The children understand at an early age that other people may have thoughts and opinions that differ from their own.
In addition, bilingualism and biculturalism can help in future life in multitasking environments. For instance, driving and mathematical skills require responding only to high-priority tasks and develop executive function. It can give additional benefits. In my opinion, working in bicultural and bilingual environment is always an advantage. If one is familiar with other culture frames, one has an opportunity to work in social area, for instance with the refugees. Bilingual children have the spontaneous understanding of language structure. They selectively pay attention to relevant information and switch between alternative solutions to a problem. Biculturalism actively contributes to the evolution of ones own cultural experience through interactions with others. Bicultural people have the unique perceptions based on their personal cultural lens and facilitate am understanding of other cultures and traditions. Bicultural individuals are able to switch between the differing sets of norms, behaviors and cultures schemes. They interact in the influencing and co-developing network of cultural information. Biculturalism gives a chance to people to see differences and similarities in different cultures including traditions, celebrations, food and music. I believe that the main disadvantage concerning biculturalism is in the domain of language at the level of lexical competence and access. Bilingual children have smaller vocabularies in each language than monolinguals. There are certain stereotypes about different cultures and communities and very often people have to confront and face the related stereotypes difficulties.
When two cultures come in contact, individuals are changed and they become more like their environments. This process usually involves adaptation and adjustment. The resistance and attempts to change the environments appear. The boundaries between two culture frames are lost. They turn into wider and more imaginative perspectives. The culture cannot be lost unless the community disappears. Certain features such as traditions of celebrations can disappear as the culture assimilates. However, two cultures are able to co-exist and enrich one another. Individuals cannot ignore the biculturalism or bilingualism since they are the members of the society.
In conclusion, culture basically characterizes the society as an identifiable community which includes history, geography, religion, literature, political system, folklore, values and beliefs. It goes without saying that living within two cultures influences the social norms and values of another culture. However, whether these two cultures co-exist harmoniously depends on the people. Bilingualism is usually bounded with biculturalism. Childhood is a time of profound emotional, physical, social and cognitive development and an additional language can become a window to the world. It is up to the parents to consider this language an asset rather than an obstacle.