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Natural and artificial bilinguals: are they so different?

The most common types of bilingualism are natural and artificial ones. Natural bilingualism is considered to be the result of influence of native speakers’ environment. The second language in terms of artificial bilingualism is basically learnt during some training course. The main study methods are real communication for natural bilinguals and text activity for artificial ones.

The Russian linguist Etmanova conducted research on the Russians equally speaking Russian and French: they are ‘ideal’ French-Russian bilinguals. But we can see differences in their linguistic consciousnesses.

The content of natural bilinguals’ linguistic consciousness is much closer to the French one. According to Etmanova, this phenomenon comes from the fact that the respondents were born and raised in France: «The use of the Russian language was limited; they spoke Russian with their families and friends». It’s interesting to note that sometimes these respondents speak both Russian and French to other descendants of Russian emigrants: but there is no doubt that the use of the Russian language causes some communication problems and they prefer to communicate in French. In addition, their integration into the French society (socialization process) caused the influence of French culture and French values.

The results of statistical analysis (Association method) show that in contrast to artificial bilinguals (their linguistic consciousness is strongly influenced by native culture), the content of natural bilinguals’ consciousness is determined by the culture they are located in, even if they continue communicating with representatives of Russian communities in France.

Source: Этманова Л.А. Психолингвистические особенности языкового сознания естественных билингвов, автореф. дис. канд. филол. наук. – Москва, 2006. – 27 с.


3 thoughts on “Natural and artificial bilinguals: are they so different?

  1. There seems to be a risky aspect to language consciousness studies, and that’s the methods. The bilingual speakers living in Russia and France have different worldviews, but is it due to the language(s) they speak and the situations in which they use them (“real communication” and “text activity”) or due to the culture and the environment they live in?

    Do the methods used by the researcher you cite give an opportunity of distinguishing between language consciousness and other kinds of ideology, either individual or collective?

  2. Each of these variants has influence on bilingual language consciousness because this psycholinguistic phenomenon possesses two plans: content and expression. As for the methods used by the researcher, in her published works she refers only to the association experiment. As far as I understand «the language consciousness» she studies also includes other psychological and psycholinguistic phenomena, such as «world vision» and «linguistic picture of the world».

    • So do bilingual French speakers living in Russia have at least some common features of world vision with the native speakers? If they do,and other Russian speakers don’t that would prove the influence of the language on the mind.

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