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Universal Design & Higher Education in Transformation Congress,30th October -2nd November 2018, Dublin Castle


Bilinguals have options as to which language they can use. However, the options are not truly theirs but depend on multiple factors such as the country of residence, profession, business relations, and family circumstances. Therefore, bilinguals have to choose which language they use more and which less, and as language proficiency correlates with the frequency of its use, they often have sacrifices to make. Previous studies have shown that language acquisition in bilinguals can be uneven as the development of each system relies on the amount of language exposure and use, which in bilinguals is divided between two languages (de Houwer, Bornstain & Putnick, 2014, Marchman et al., 2016, de Houwer, 2018). Due to sociolinguistic and environmental factors, such as, for example, schooling, motivation and language attitude, the exposure to one language, usually to the majority language, is greater and more varied than to the other, in most cases the minority language. As a result of this imbalance in input, the acquisition of the minority language might be hampered (Meisel, 2006; Treffers-Daller, Ӧzsoy & van Hout, 2007; Montrul, 2015). Starting in early childhood, the exposure to the minority, heritage language becomes reduced and limited to the context of home1, while the majority language becomes the language of schooling and often socializing. These circumstances lead to a growing disparity between the amount of input the children receive in the minority and majority languages, and this has been shown to affect the language development. The initially stronger minority language becomes less dominant within a few years of the onset of schooling, while the majority language becomes the dominant one. Studies examining various language domains have shown that this switch in relative language dominance occurs in middle childhood, usually between 8 and 11 years of age (Jia, Kohnert, Collado & Aquino-Garcia, 2006; Jia, Aaronson & Wu, 2002; Eilers & Oller, 2002), and that the weakening of the minority language continues into adulthood (Portocarrero, Burright & Donovick, 2007).

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