Book Reviews Languages - hgunn.uk


Baker (2011) Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism - Bilingualism

        This is a well researched deep book. It has been written by Colin Baker. who is Welshman, who is a world authority on bilingualism. Readers need to be aware that education contains a broad church of academic authorities in different fields. 

      No educationalist is an authority in every field. Bakers work is a  primarily a top down review of research.

       Baker refers to the revitalisation of historical minority languages in his initial chapter. He argues that bilingual speakers do not necessarily need to develop fluency in each language to be referred to as being bilingual, they normally have a  dominant language and that they will apply each of their languages in different contexts.

         Baker refers to functional bilingualism that refers to the contexts that bilinguals apply their languages in. They cannot use both languages similtaneously. They may use a specific language(s) with the friends, work and teachers, for instance, and in activities like shopping, work, leisure and hobbies, or religious meetings.

        The interesting feature about bilingualism is that the way it grows will reflect the circumstances that learners are in.

       Baker refers to balanced bilinguals, who have a relatively equal capability in each language. Incipient bilinguals, who have a strong and weak language. Ascendant bilinguals, who are developing a second language. 

        Baker also refers to similtaneous bilinguals, who will develop their bilinguals from birth, and sequential bilinguals, who acquire it after birth. 

        Baker refers to a time when it was believed that le learning through two languages interfered with each other. He argued that there is cognitive overlap between the two. 

        This view is valid. Semantic memory stores words and concepts in abstract forms, but each need to be practised to develop fluency in each. Baker claims that one language can be dominant.



Baker (2011) Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism - General

      There is problem through the world as Baker illustrates of children needing to learn a new majority language to be educated through it. The learning of new language is not an instant process. This is a problem throughout the world.

      Baker clearly asserts that "The language the child is using in the classroom needs to be sufficiently well developed to able to process the cognitive challenges of the classroom". pg 166. He refers to research that indicates there tere is learning deficit of up to seven years through learning a non-native to be educated through the medium of it.  pg. 170.  

    Baker does claims this can be made up in later schooling.

     Baker contends that a new language can be learnt to replace another language. It is possible for second and third languages speakers to lose their language in favour of prestige languages, such as English in the U.S.A. 

    Non- English speaking parents will then become able to support their children's language development. 

      Baker contends that there is no convicing evidence bilinguals are more intelligent and that they enjoy significant cognitive advantages. The positive cognitive value he refers to bilingualism are not quantified. It is unclear if it applies to sequential language learner.

     Baker contends that language attitudes can become part of "Larger societal processes and ideologies that can be aimed for bias, racism and discrimination". p129 ts.

      Baker also refers to issue of teaching mathematics in different languages. He concludes that curriculum tasks should matched to language competency.

      This is an issue with Pisa. The mathematics that is bedded into native langauge may not necessarily b the same in each language.

         Baker also refers to Ulpan being as emergency measure in Israel. His condoning of Ulpan clearly indicates that he is not an educationalist. 

        The reason why Wlpan was used in Israel was they had a large influx of people from a range of different countries, who spoke a range of different languages. They needed to learn Hebrew to be able to live their everyday lives. 




Grosjean and Ping  (2014) The Psychologinuistics of Bilingualism

       This very interesting book refers to research on the cognition of bilingualism. It is illustrates complexity of the issue and that there are no simple answers to bilingual issues. Most interestingly it explains that bilingual speakers in most parts of the world use each of their language in specific contexts

      It refers to interesting comparisons between distinct language forms in the world. This raises serious concerns about the reading comparisons of Pisa. It explains that South Korean and Chinese language are two distinct forms of language. Both are very different way to alphabetical languages.

   This questions the validity of Pisa, because not only do language capabilities correlates with mathematics and science attainment, but it is difficult to determine how comparative reading scores can be constructed from so many diverse languages.

        It refers the distinction between simultaneous and sequential language learning and some of the advantages of bilingualism. It also illustrates that the fluency that learners and speakers achieve is related to language usage in macro and micro terms. A bilingual can be fluent in one context, but they will not be in another.

      It also explains that the balance of bilingualism and the dominant language in bilingualism can change. It not fixed in time. This reflects the fact that the human brain is very plastic. Bilinguals may not be able to perform successfully in each language in specific contexts.

     It also refers to the fact that word learning is declarative, conscious memory, and also that fluency that bilingual develop in each language will be related to how much the language is used and the contexts that it is developed in.

    This a deep book that anyone who has an interest in bilingualism should read. As with some many educational issues, it raises as many questions as answers.


Yule (2017) The Study of Language 

      This a standard university text book on language. It consider all aspects of form of language. It refers to aspects of language cognition and language learning. His work ilustrates the complextiy of language.

     Yule refers to a Welsh as being a language of the community and learners of minority language need to become fluent in majority language to participate in the wider society.

    Yule cites Israel as the only country in the world that has turned a minority language into a majority one.


Catherine De Lange (2013) What Your Superpower 4th May New Scientistc

      Catherine in this very interesting paper considers what hidden talents she may have. She firstly established that prodigious talent was related to exceptional working memory.  She discovered in sport, born to run, that specific physical charectoristics including the maximum output of the body are need to become a top athlete.

      She consider being a food taster, but she discovered a quarter of the population would fail a test to be one, because they do not have  specific tasting gene. She discovered that even leaders need certain genetic traits to become one.

      Catherine refers to some persons being naturally good at risk. She finally refers to a sixth sense of peroception. People who are more aware of their bodies signals than other. People who possess it are more emotionally sensitive to peoples feelings.

    There is retired Welsh rugby prop called Gethin Jenkins.  Forward, especially props tend to the slow work horses in the game compared with the fast wings. Forward props have a historical reputation for not being intelligent.

      Gethin was intelligent and had exceptional fitness. Many players may strive to reach that standard, but few if any, will reach it. 

    Sometimes players have unique range of skills range that possibly no one else will ever possess. We are all unique being. Each of brains is different.

     Smith in his book on 'Luck' states in team sports most sides imitate what the other sides do and achieve the same levels of fitness, but it exceptional talent that often makes the difference between the two teams.

     The same applies to intelligence. which is related to working memory capacity. In pure terms intelligence is always relative. All communities will create people with exceptional talents, but there will not be very many of them.

     Although most people are around average, the notion that all children have equal learning potential is not sustainable. Sadly, there are children at the other end of the spectrum to those with exceptional talents.


David Reynolds (2013) Failure Free Education

          Professor David Reynolds, Professor of Education, offers a very interesting account of school standards related to international school practice. 

       Unlike Andreas Schleicher, head of the O.E.C.D., who is a statistician who appears obsessed with Chinese education, where rote teaching prevalent, Reynolds reviewed mathematics teaching in the United States to establish best teaching practice. He refers to practices that are applied internationally that should be of interest to all teachers. 

        He refers to how schools addresses differentiation across the world. In the United States children are required to repeat a year. Some countries expect older children to support the lower attaining children. There is no simple answer to the problem.

          Reynolds warns of the danger of importing methods from other countries, because there are so many factors that influence what they achieve. He called for the abandoment of D.I.Y. teaching methods in Mujis and Reynolds (2010). He calsl for more epirical research in his book.

        Research is word that can be misused in teaching. Blenkin and Kelly (1991) contended that there was skepticism about research in the United Kingdom. Gunn (2017b) illustrated that the political resistance to implementing to the Cockcroft (1982) into mathematical education. 

    Michael Gove when he was the English education minister decided that he did not believe in experts!

       Teachers are essentially glorified farmers growing synapses in the brain and it takes over ten years to grow an educated child. Valid research is predictive. It always valid predictions to be made.