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Copyright © 2007
M. S. Thirumalai
The Impact of Gender on Proficiency,
Attitude and Social Class of Pre-University Students in Mysore within the Framework of Learners' Multilingualism
Reza Najafdari, Ph.D. Candidate
Gender distinction can be considered as one of the significant key factors which are ignored in many pedagogical domains. It can be more prominent when the distinction is intertwined with other decisive elements such as multilingualism, proficiency, error findings in semantic, syntactic and rhetoric fields, as well as social status and attitude towards learning. In the present study the researcher demonstrated that the effect of gender factor on proficiency in multilinguals is significant. It indicates the multilingual females are better than multilingual males in proficiency test as a general English knowledge. In error finding the gender difference is merely significant in grammar in a way that females are better in detecting the grammar errors than males. Besides, no significant effect of gender on social class and attitude is found.
The Indians as multilinguals use their mother tongues along with other languages. In India various languages are used in different domains indicating Indian multilingualism is mainly functional not solely geographical (Census of India, 1981). Myers and Scotton (1993) noted that the communicative competence in multilinguals should be interpreted as a phenomenon which is quite distinct from monolinguals. In broad terms, the word bilingualism can be an appropriate substitute for multilingualism when it refers to more than one language (the researcher used multilingual and bilingual interchangeably).
What can be defined as bilingualism? According to Hamers and Blanc (1986) bilingualism is considered as the psychological state of the individual who get access to more than one linguistic code as a means of communication.
1.1. Bilinguals versus Monolinguals
It is the matter of question: Do bilinguals differ from monolinguals? If Yes, from what aspects? Gumpers (1982) in his research revealed that bilingual Hindi/English Speakers will interpret the two languages differently (e.g., "keep Straight"," Seeda Jao", the former phrase is a mild warning in English but with different interpretation as "won't you please" in Hindi).
Arsenian (1937) stated that monolinguals and bilinguals take benefit from different mental structures. Guilford (1956) implied that bilinguals will gain more experience compared to monolinguals due to coming up against more challenges in different languages. Neurological studies confirm that bilinguals are distinguishable from monolinguals in their mental processes. Concerning the language deficits, De Santi et al. (1990) demonstrated that the disease can affect the manifestation of each language of the Yiddish-English bilinguals differently. It can also be inferred that the each language of multilinguals can be affected differently.
Evans (1953) argued that bilinguals' mental processes indicate more flexibility than monolinguals since their thinking is not restricted to a single language. Furthermore, it is mentioned that there is a direct relationship between bilingualism, intelligence and mental development. In the same way Macnamera (1967) suggested that bilinguals are equipped with a switch mechanism which enables them to set their languages compatible with different situations.
Bilingual- monolingual distinction is also considered from both semantic and syntactic points. Eledesky (1986) revealed that Spanish-German bilinguals produce nouns in an appropriate context with a precision less than monolinguals. Meisel (1986) stated that bilingual German children can correctly place the verb in its final position rather than monolinguals that can do it with less precision. Lindholm (1978) noted that learning phenomenon in bilinguals doesn't take place simultaneously (e.g., interrogative structures in Spanish are two stages, but it is three stages in English .That's why, bilinguals can acquire or learn the given grammatical structure sooner).
Eledsky (1986) noted that bilingual students can clearly demonstrate their abilities in vocabulary and syntax in a more sophisticated way than monolinguals.
Feldman and Shen (1971) attributed more cognitive advantages of bilinguality over monolinguality. Fishman (1967) and Berntein (1961) demonstrated that bilinguals are better comprehenders in terms of their understanding of the notion of language meaning and language use.
1.2. Gender and Performance in Learner's Linguality
Bermudez and Prater (1994) demonstrated that females are more proficient in expressing their viewpoints in writing compared to males. In spite of the notion of Milers (1987) that gender distinction is not significant and the bilingual children don't transfer their knowledge of one language to the other, Scottish education system was established on the basis of the gender difference in performance in 1970 indicating girls score higher than boys. Cummins (2000) emphasized that bilinguals gain different experience during language learning. That's why, their flexibilities are better than monolinguals while facing different linguistic challenges. Despite the fact that the gender factor was ignored or underestimated in many researches, Wodak & Benke (1997) paid duly considerations to the relationship between gender and language learning
Lakoff (1997) noted that gender-distinctive discourse is as a result of the roles and practices performed and imposed in the society. In the same way Kaylani (1996) attributed the gender difference to the social-cognitive development and learning strategy. There are also some assumptions which consider the gender difference in specific details.
In other researches another aspects of gender difference were revealed.
McCarthy (1954) urged that girls are dominant in the rate of vocabulary knowledge and use of words compared to boys. It is worth noting that boys were good at multiple -choice tests; however, girls demonstrate their abilities more in overall coursework (Sukhandan, 1999). Concerning the gender difference, Gneezy et al. (2003) noted that male and female perform differently in competitive incentive programs. Gneezy and Rustichi (2002) indicated that competition caused positive effects on performance in both sexes. Nevertheless, the effect is more significant in boys rather than girls. The gender distinction can be more intensified by the notion that "Females use significantly more learning strategies than males and use them more often" (oxford 1989, P.23).
1.3. Gender, Attitude, Social Status in Learner's Linguality
SunderLand (2000) argued that boys select foreign languages less than girls because it will give them a girlhood attitude. It was further mentioned that ethnic, socioeconomic and cultural factors were influential in gender distinction. It was implicitly mentioned that gender distinction was merely meaningful in specific context; in other words, it could not be overgeneralized. Conversely, Boucholtz (1999) indicated that American boys used Africa-American language to show off their masculinity. Other researchers considered the category of attitude from another perspective.
Researchers also considered the category of attitude from other perspectives.
Stanley (1973) noted that attitude is a culture-oriented phenomenon or stereotype (e.g., the term "male" indicates bravery, strength, and rationality as opposed to the term "female" indicating emotion, tenderness, and timidity). Baron and Byrne (1997) called the term attitude as a stereotypic manner. Baker (1992) asserted that attitude can be so much influential that in can cause preservation, decay or death in learning. In the definition of attitude several components such as cognition, affection, and readiness were enumerated in the above- mentioned research.
Trudgill (1972) in a self-evaluation test revealed that linguistic sensitivity of females is more than males. Laber et al. (1960) emphasized that bilinguals are more under the influence of their attitude and motivation in language use than monolinguals. Choi (2003) revealed that positive attitude towards languages may not be necessarily transmuted to children from society. On the opposite pole, Genesee (1995) pinpointed a direct relationship between attitude and the number of languages the bilinguals or multilinguals possess. Goodman, Cunningham and Lachapelle (2002) indicated that positive women are good at their courses and performance in the academic fields.
Heller (2000) and Pillar (2001) found a direct link between masculinity and the linguistic values in a society. Coats (1986-1993) classified the societies in terms of society with gender-exclusive distinction and societies without the same distinction in the language domain.
Ellis (1994) noted that women are more vulnerable to linguistic changes, and they are class-setting oriented with positive attitude towards the language learning as opposed to men who have more tendencies towards non-standard form of language. Bell (1974) pinpointed the relationship of social variables with culture, income, knowledge and educational progress. Labov (2001) emphasized the women's abidance by the sociolinguistic norms. Labov (1990) noted that women apply higher frequencies of standard languages than men. Moreover, women use a prestigious standard form of language which is compatible to social middle or high class. Ellis (1994) considered four variables of age, sex, social class and ethnic identity as very influential in language learning. In addition, it was mentioned that levels of proficiency and positive attitudes were higher in middle class rather than working class as micro-level features in the social structures .McCarthy (1954) demonstrated the relationship between socioeconomic status and linguistic development.
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Language of Mass Media: A Study Based on Malayalam Broadcasts - A Doctoral Dissertation | Resisting Change through Individual Heroism - Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart | Social Semiotics as a Tool for Visual Literacy | Mastering Tenses Creatively | History of Growth and Reforms of British Military Administration in India, 1848-1949 | Communication and Inarticulation -
Symbols and Images in the Plays of Eugene O'Neill | The Impact of Gender on Proficiency, Attitude and Social Class of Pre-University Students in Mysore within the Framework of Learners' Multilingualism | HOME PAGE of September 2008 Issue | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR
Reza Najafdari, Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Linguistics
University of Mysore &
Central Institute of Indian Languages
Manasagangotri, Mysore 570 0006
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