Bilingual kids are trapped in a double-bind



The other night at Wal-Mart, I was amazed by this little kid who talked hollered at his baby sister about being my way.  He then turned to me and apologized, but with no hint of an accent.  He was bilingual, like me, and he seemed well conditioned to being able to switch between languages as needed.  He was able to code and decode between languages easily and his capability got me thinking…

Message coding and decoding enter the sociocultural process.  For bilingual kids, there are several mixed-messages that, in some cases, short circuit the response process. For them, the mental constructs that they enter the system with become challenged due to a lack of ability to mediate their lives. Language allows mediation, but for any non-English speaking child, there is a gap in message response ability.  For example, when the Wal-Mart boy first entered school, i’m willing to bet that he encountered some challenges in organizing his home systems against the systems he encountered at school.  I still remember running into the same challenges.  Those challenges grew into confusion about my place in the world.

Furthermore, when value systems become challenged along with the language deficit, sense of self becomes at-risk. This is the beginnings of a double-bind situation, “When the individual is involved in an intense relationship; that is, a relationship in which he feels it is vitally important that he discriminate accurately what sort of message is being communicated so that he may respond accurately and the individual is caught in a situation in which the other person in the relationship is expressing two orders of messages and one of these denies the other and the individual is unable to comment on the messages being expressed to correct his discrimination of what order message to respond to” (Becvar & Becvar, 2003, p. 21).  This is a pathological condition that bilingual children must face daily.  In order to account for this potential, social systems must be analyzed and defined in order to better facilitate and disrupt a potential double-bind situation.

In order to disrupt those pathological conditions, we all must understand that even if people speak English, there can be similar clashes within value and language decoding processes.  As usual, I seek awareness of the potential to learn from others; I believe with all that I am that if we can all understand  that sometimes we can misunderstand each other, we can try to listen a little better.