Metalinguistic Awareness in Monolingual, Bilingual, and Multilingual Children
Language acquisition in a bilingual setting in children and metalinguistic awareness in children
Metalinguistic awareness is what makes acquiring and differentiating between more than one language successful. It is the mental ability to distance oneself from language and understand that words used to describe the world are not an aspect of the world in itself. It is the realisation that an object can be referred to by different words or sounds according to the different languages. Metalinguistic awareness is the mental ability evident in all of us and it is something we learn at an early age. It enables us to understand the meaning and identify certain linguistic utterances although they might just be one of the many versions of possible utterances available to refer to something. In more concrete terms, Luca could refer to an edible round, red or green object as an “apple” in English, “Apfel” in German or “maçã” in Portuguese. They are three different words referring to the same object. The different words used to describe the apple are no characteristics of the apple but of the according language (Mertz & Yovel, 2010). Luca can therefore chose which word to use when referring to this object and acquired the mental ability to distinguish between the languages. Luca’s metalinguistic awareness will give her a better understanding of languages in general and build the foundation for further language acquisition in her later life.