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Productive Bilingualism Means More Than Speaking Two Languages

Tutorials » Productive Bilingualism Means More Than Speaking Two Languages

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While it’s obvious that translators need to be bilingual in order to translate properly, there is more to it than just speaking two languages. What is known as “Productive Bilingualism” is characterized by the notion that “the total is greater than the sum of the parts”. What this means is that the incorporation of two cultures can result in a greater understanding of both languages, as they each play off each other to excel one’s understanding.

An even simpler way to put it is that as a bilingual speaker gains more proficiency in one language, as a result, the understanding and proficiency of the other language is also increased.

As Yihong Gao explains in his book, Foreign Language learning’1+1>2’,the extra gains of productive bilingualism are stated as follows: 1) language aptitude enhanced; 2) better perception, analysis and evaluation; 3) keener sensitivity of other’s needs and emotions; 4) deepened C1 identity with a pluralistic view; 5) sharper creative ability; 6) personality growth. (Gao, pp.147-148)

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In essence, productive bilingualism involves more than just languages. Inherently it involves two culture systems and emphasizes the development of learners who are integrated into both systems. While the speaker embraces the new culture of his or her secondary language, they actively maintain their native one.

The phrase “productive bilingualism”, in Gao’s words, refers to “the command of the target language and that of the native language positively reinforce each other; deeper understanding and appreciation of the target culture goes hand in hand with deeper understanding and appreciation of the native culture. In the process of learning another language and related culture, the learner’s personality becomes more open and integrated at the same time.” (Gao Yihong’s Abstract)

For translators, this productive bilingualism is what should be strived for. With local customs and colloquialisms changing all the time, the only true way to reach true fluency is with the productive bilingualism method.

*Gao, Yihong  Foreign Language Learning “1 + 1 > 2” Beijing: Peking University Press 2001

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Tutorials » Productive Bilingualism Means More Than Speaking Two Languages

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