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Raising a Bilingual Child [Format Kindle]

Barbara Zurer Pearson
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CHAPTER 4

Establishing a Bilingual Environment

In chapter 2, I discussed the issues involved in language development in general. Everything you learned for
learning one language holds just as true for learning two or more languages. You see that, as parents, you do not teach
children language, but you create better or worse environments in which your children’s language develops. In this chapter, we explore special strategies for creating enriching environments within your household so that your child can learn a second
(or third) language.

The key to raising bilingual children is for parents (or less often, the school) to establish the minority language. The
language of the broader community–the language of school, commerce, government, and the mass media–is a given. In
every culture, all healthy children learn the majority language, even when their parents do not. But families must make a
special effort to “grow” both a majority language and another one. The minority language may be a heritage language that
parents or grandparents have brought from another country, or it could be another language chosen by the parents for
any of a variety of reasons. For example, it might be a second official language that children are expected to learn, as in
Canada, Switzerland, or Hong Kong. Sometimes speakers of a country’s majority language opt to educate their children in a
language that they believe will have strategic importance later in the child’s life, such as Spanish in the United States. Or it
could be that the individual seeks to communicate in another modality, as with a spoken and a signed language.

For any given person being raised in a bilingual situation, we cannot know whether she will become actively bilingual or
not. But we can be aware of trends. We can compare groups who are bilingual to others who seem to have the potential for bilingualism, but did not pursue it or did not achieve it. With my colleagues in the University of Miami Bilingualism
Study Group, I explored the practices and ideas bilingual groups have in common. From these studies, I pinpoint
the key ingredients in their experiences for fostering the second language. At the end of this chapter, I explore ways
to take advantage of this knowledge in your families. Then, in chapter 5, you will hear from parents who have used these
principles, and together we will evaluate how their strategies worked for them and how they might work for you.

I emphasize ways to strengthen the minority language because that is the more difficult case. However, the same principles
are effective for a child who is learning a new community language, such as an expatriate or a recent immigrant. Parents
wishing to encourage or reinforce the use of the community, or majority, language can also employ these strategies.

As you read this chapter, I’d like you to consider where your child will hear and use her languages and what other resources
are available to give the child’s languages a broader context than just your nuclear family.

The Foundation for a Bilingual Family

If you do not buy a lottery ticket, you will not win. Similarly, if you do not maintain a bilingual environment, you will not have bilingual children. Luckily, the odds of children becoming bilingual are not like the odds of winning a lottery. If two languages loom large in your life, chances are they will be part of your child’s life as well. But if you, the parents, are not actively using two languages daily, then bilingual upbringing must be a conscious construction on your part. Having access to meaningful
interactions in two language environments gives you the ticket to play. The stage is set for your family to become bilingual. But then you must actively seize the opportunity. You must want to make it happen, and you must believe that your actions can have an impact on whether it will happen.

Beliefs and Attitudes

Annick de Houwer, a psycholinguist in Belgium, suggests that these two beliefs on the part of the parents are the best predictors of whether children will learn two languages: Parents must have

• a positive attitude toward bilingualism and
• an “impact belief”–a belief that their own language practices have an impact on the child’s practices.

It is crucial for you, as parents, to have an awareness of how your own language practices affect your child’s learning, and you must use your knowledge of your role to insure the quality and quantity of your child’s language exposure. These two beliefs usually go together, but either one can be absent. You probably know a parent with an impact belief but without a positive attitude toward bilingualism. For example, someone who has been speaking a minority language with his child–
and witnessing that she learns it–has an impact belief. He sees that his language behavior shapes his child’s language behavior. But suppose that the child’s teacher convinces this parent that his child’s intellectual growth will be hampered if he continues to raise her with two languages. Now he no longer has a positive attitude toward bilingualism. He has
replaced it with a negative one, and the child, who had been on her way to becoming bilingual, loses the second language (amazingly quickly, it turns out).

The opposite situation is also all too common. One example comes from an intensive study of the Taiap people of Papua, New Guinea. In interviews with researcher Don Kulik, almost all the parents expressed satisfaction with their own bilingualism and a desire that their children also become bilingual in the local Taiap language and Tok Pisin, one of the important languages of the wider society. However, they were not aware of how their own language use affected their children’s language
learning. They thought that it would happen outside the home and that what they spoke to the child made no difference.

We do not have to travel to New Guinea to find people with similar ideas. Many parents I heard from were like the Taiap speakers. As Mark and Cindy, an international couple living in Paris, said, “We just thought if we were in the countries where the other languages were spoken, it would happen on its own.” But despite the fact that they spent long periods of
time in France and Italy, their children heard primarily English addressed to them, and so far, at ages four and one, they have learned primarily English. The parents did not see what role they needed to play in order to capitalize on the opportunity that their living abroad presented to them.

So, neither belief is sufficient by itself. If parents lack one belief or the other, the environment they provide for their children will likely lead to weak or nonexistent learning of one of the languages. With both a positive attitude toward bilingualism and an “impact belief” that their own language use shapes their child’s language use, parents will be motivated to take the practical steps that foster both first- and secondlanguage learning.

Practical Considerations

In police lingo, parents must establish “motive and opportunity” for the minority language. They need to find ways to give children

• enough reasons for them to want to use the minority language and
• opportunities for enough exposure to it for them to be able to learn it.

Where will the “input,” the interactions that provide the raw material for children to learn the minority language, come from? Who will speak it with them, and in what situations? Parents must specifically consider where speakers are found who can use the other language. If you, yourselves, are to be major sources of the second language, it may be useful for you to record your interactions for a week or keep a diary that will give you an idea of what your language practices are actually like.

You also need to take the child’s perspective, not your own, on the value of the second language. You cannot assume that your own desire to use the language will translate automatically into the same desire in your child. Although it is usual for children to adopt parents’ attitudes and for them to want to please their parents, the use of the language must
have value in the child’s world, from the child’s point of view. How will you make the language attractive and indispensable for your child, so that, with time, mastering it will evolve into the child’s own goal?

The Odds That a Child Will Become Bilingual

Some small studies from these last decades have indicated that not every family that embarks on bilingual upbringing ends up with children who can use their two languages comfortably. Until very recently, we did not have any evidence from large-scale studies about bilingual “success rates” in large, unselected populations. Early accounts of child bilinguals were often case studies of linguists’ children (for example, Leopold, Vihman, and Deuchar)–children whose parents were knowledgeable about language and cared deeply enough about it to make it their life’s work. I am not suggesting that all children of linguists will become bilingual and all others will not, but there may be more attention to language in the households of linguists than in the
average home. Thus, they would not serve as a model for most families. More importantly, if a linguist’s child did not become bilingual, the parent did not write about it, so we do not know how many books about incomplete bilingual learning never got written.

A relatively large survey of bilingual outcomes is reported by Suzanne Barron-Hauwaert, a parent and member of the editorial board of the Bilingual Family Newsletter. She surveyed more than one hundred families, readers of the Newsle...

Revue de presse

“A timely and well-written book! … [It] helps parents prepare their children for the future….”

--J. Kevin Nugent, Ph.D., Director, The Brazelton Institute, Children's Hospital Boston and Harvard University; Professor, Child and Family Studies, University of Massachusetts Amherst

“This book is sure to become a classic! … Parents should appreciate this important book. Pearson … inspire[s] all of us to celebrate the richness of linguistic diversity in our lives.”

--Kenji Hakuta, Ph.D., Lee L. Jacks Professor of Education, Stanford University, Author of Mirror of Language: The Debate on Bilingualism

“This is a book that inspires confidence that the choice of bilingualism is a good one for parents, for children, and for our society.”
--Donna Christian, Ph.D., President, Center for Applied Linguistics, Washington D.C.

“Pearson has used her keen insights about the issues that parents are concerned about to paint an in-depth and interesting-to-read handbook.”

--Fred Genesee, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, McGill University, Co-author of Dual Language Instruction: A Handbook for Enriched Education

“Barbara Pearson' s [book] is a wonderfully written, sparkling composite of research results, personal narratives, practical advice, and wise enthusiasm for the project of bilingualism […].”
--Thomas Roeper, Ph.D., Professor of Linguistics, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Author of The Prism of Gramma

“I thoroughly agree with the author’s insights and recommendations which are both research-based and flexible and comprehensive enough to accommodate different family situations.”
--Lourdes C. Rovira, Ed.D., Associate Superintendent, Curriculum and Instructional Support, Miami-Dade County Public Schools 


“I enjoyed reading Raising a Bilingual Child and found it informative and accessible.”
--Chris Rosenberg, Principal, Starr King Elementary School, San Francisco

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8 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Great information 12 octobre 2010
Par Carolina
Format:Broché
The book balances very well theoretical background, investigation results and practical advice. The result is a very reassuring book that provides actual direction but maintaining the principle that each family is different!
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2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Merci 4 avril 2013
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
Ce livre m'a permis de faire un choix éclairé. Il se base sur des études récentes et il y a pas mal d'exemples concrets. A recommander aux parents.
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1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 pas mal 8 octobre 2013
Par tencutza
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
J'ai retenu quelques idées fort précieuses. Autrement, un livre très théorique et surtout utile pour des professionnels. Dommage que ce genre de livre ne soit pas traduiyt en français.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 étoiles sur 5  31 commentaires
41 internautes sur 42 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Easy to Read and Full of Great Academic Studies! 25 juin 2008
Par Alice E. Pierce - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
Chapter Two on Learning a First Language is the best thing I have read on First Language Acquisition and I plan to tell the professors where I work that this is the text they should use for their courses on First and Second Language Acquisition (which I have taught for four years). The information is presented in a concise and easy to understand manner so that scholars and parents alike will find it useful and interesting. I think any parent or scholar would find this a useful resource whether they are looking to understand their child's development or trying to find research to back their claims on the benefits of bilingualism. This book is a gold mine of information backed in research. There is nothing that I have read so far on the market that explains all this in such detail and in such a easy way to understand. This is a must as a textbook for a class on language acquisition or as a manual for parents to use as a reference.

A SIGH OF RELIEF FOR ATTEMPTING TO BE BILINGUAL AT HOME
After reading the introduction and the first chapter on The benefits of Childhood Bilingualism, I breathed a sigh of relief. I did not know until reading this book that there were so many other parents like myself who did not grow up speaking another language, yet they are teaching a second language to their children. The book discusses the phenomenon of so many Americans in this generation having the opportunity to travel and experience other languages and cultures. This has created a niche of people in the U.S. who are raising their children with the values and languages they acquired abroad. I live in an English-Only state with everyone questioning my reasons for bringing up my daughter in the two languages of Spanish and English. It is nice to find a home for my feelings and know there is a larger community of people out there who are following in the same footsteps towards bilingualism. Thank you for giving me hope and appreciation for what I am attempting to do by publishing this book.
18 internautes sur 19 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 An invaluable resource for anybody interested in bilingualism and bilingual upbringing 30 avril 2008
Par Miren Hodgson - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
This book is an excellent tool for anybody who wants to know about bilingual families and bilingual upbringing. The book explains in a very friendly way how language is acquired and the benefits as well as the misconceptions of children raised in bilingual environments. What makes this book unique is that the recommendations are based on research. A must have for anybody interested in language!
17 internautes sur 18 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Very informative on an academic level 6 janvier 2011
Par RO1977 - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
I found this book helpful in getting my husband and I started on a path to bilingualism. The author discusses different approaches. I bought this book because it had a whole section on OPOL (One Parent One Language), which is what we are trying.
The reason I only gave it 3 stars is because I found myself reading (or as I interpreted) many justifications as to why bilingualism works/ is important. I felt the author was trying to sell me on educating my child to be bilingual...I bought the book for a reason - obviously I believe in bilingualism, don't try to then sell me on it in every chapter.
The book was very informative and the author has done lots of research. The book in itself is very helpful.
9 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 Interesting but not useful 22 janvier 2013
Par Sandra R. Castro - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
I was hoping this book was a practical/hands on guide with advise on raising a bilingual child, but so far it just has a lot of info on cognitive development and academic studies. The little practical advise that is in there is very basic and if you're bilingual yourself there isn't much that you couldn't figure out from your own experience. The advise given is pretty obvious common sense for anyone who speaks two or more languages and/or has worked with bilingual children/families in the past.

If you enjoy psychological/cognitive development studies and discussions OR if you don't speak another language and want to get your children to be bilingual then you may get value from this book and enjoy it. If you're a bilingual parent looking to help your child in the bilingual road to hopefully have the same or better skills than you have then not a good read.
17 internautes sur 20 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Excelent, very very informative 3 août 2008
Par Bio Mom - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
My husband and I speak different languages and we are expecting our first child. She is also my parents' first grandchild and they are crazy about her. Unfortunately, my parents do not speak English, and my in-laws do not speak Spanish. For us it is very important that our child has the best of both cultures and that she grows up as an independent child that is able to express herself.

We found this book interesting, very informative and easy to read. It is a great educational tool for parents who believe in spending time with their children rather than sitting them in front of the TV.
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