The Meaning of Bilingualism Today*


  • Nelson Brooks

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      Nelson Brooks (Ph.D., Yale University) is Associate Professor of French at Yale, Director of Summer Programs, and Director of the Summer Language Institute. He has taught French at school and college levels for the past forty years. Since 1957 he has been conducting courses in the Yale Graduate School for future teachers of foreign languages. He is the author of several language tests, of the book Language and Language Learning, and of numerous articles on pedagogical subjects. Since 1958 he has served from time to time as consultant to the language program of the U.S. Office of Education. From 1960 to 1964 he served as a member of the Board of Education in New Haven, Connecticut. He was director of the project that produced the MLA Cooperative Foreign Language Tests. In 1966 he published a brochure on teaching culture in the language class.

  • *

    With minor changes, the text is that of a talk given 24 Aug. 1967, at the Conference on the Role of Canadian Universities in the Teaching of English and French as Second Languages, Laval University, Quebec, Canada. It was also published in the Proceedings of that meeting.


ABSTRACT: Bilingualism is the habitual use of two languages by one person; in its purest form the two are quite separate. Its attainment is not marked by the crossing of a boundary but by a gradual transition, the earliest stages of which can be valid within limits. On its inner side, bilingualism relates to preverbal thought, making available to the speaker two separate systems of expression. The best place for the development of bilingualism is the home. The next best place is the classroom, but only if it provides ample practice in face-to-face communication. An exclusively philological approach does not encourage the separation of the two language codes. An all important ingredient in helping the learner gain control of the new language as an entity separate from the mother tongue is the dyadic factor—the behavior two individuals considered as one.