Raising Multilingual Children: Foreign Language Acquisition and Children (Anglais) Relié – 30 octobre 2000
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Before my first child was born I searched the local bookstores, picked the brains of friends with bilingual children, and scoured many a university library for information about raising children in a multilingual environment. Lire la première page
Couverture | Copyright | Table des matières | Extrait | Index | Quatrième de couverture
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The first thing that took me aback was that Tokuhama-Espinosa brags throughout the book how informed she is about various fields of study, such as neuropsychology and linguistics, and that this 'expert' knowledge only took her a year of research to obtain. When I read her summary of work done with phoneme perception in children (p. 20-21) my fear that her grasp of the field would be too superficial was confirmed. This is research I have reviewed in depth, and while Tokuhama-Espinosa did an adequate job of giving a short summary suitable for the layperson, she not only fails but misleads in her *interpretation* of the data. The authors of these studies are careful not to go beyond the results of their data, which is to say that children have a certain period where they can distinguish between any phonemes (meaningful sounds of the language) in any of the world's languages, to a point where, when presented with some difficult sound pairs in various languages, can only distinguish between those phonemes which are found in their native language. Tokuhama-Espinosa, on the other hand, interprets this data to mean that children between zero to nine months have a 'window of opportunity' (her term) to learn a foreign language. According to the author, this is the only time when children can learn to speak a second language without an accent. Such an interpretation is most certainly wrong, since some studies with immigrant children to the US have found that children below 6 years of age when they began learning a second language have been judged to have accent-free speaking ability. The authors of the studies do not make this interpretation of their data, and Tokuhama-Espinosa is misleading her reader to do so.
Next, Tokuhama-Espinosa says there is a special and second window of opportunity from ages 4-7. This seems to imply that if you haven't exposed your child to a second language by 9 months, you might as well not even start until they are 4 years old. Again, this is rubbish! The younger the better for native-like control of a language, and I've never heard of any science which would confirms the author's division of ages here.
The author also glosses over the difficulties of raising children multilingually, and as a previous reviewer says, seems to imagine that everyone has access to international schools and parents who speak another language natively. She seems to have thought of few 'recipes' for raising multilingual children. ...
The practical aspect of the book is not better developed than the theoretical one. For example, the advice to "read in as many languages as you are proficient in", is seemingly inconsistent with "one parent one language" advice for talking. The book suggests to develop verbal skills in different languages simultaneously, but written skills consecutively (first for one language and then for another). Again, this is largely unsubstantiated, except for the fact that such is the practice in some international schools.
On the positive side, the author does bring home the criteria for the successful multilingual development, such as strategy, consistency and creating opportunity. Unfortunately, most of the time this criteria is self-evident. If my child is learning a foreign language creating opportunities for practice is a pretty obvious idea to me.
Overall, the book might prove useful for someone who has never been exposed to the idea of multilingual education. But since the book's statements are not well developed I would not recommend the book.
Again, fantastic resource and an easy read if becoming a multi-lingual family is your goal, but if you are looking for a "nuts and bolts how to manual" for bilingual fluency, this falls short (as do many others).
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