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A Parents' and Teachers' Guide to Bilingualism

A Parents' and Teachers' Guide to Bilingualism

Colin Baker


Additional Information


In this accessible guide to bilingualism in the family and the classroom, Colin Baker delivers a realistic picture of the joys and difficulties of raising bilingual children. The Q&A format of this book makes it the natural choice for the busy parent or teacher who needs an easy reference guide to the most frequently asked questions. This revised edition includes more information on bilingualism in the digital age, and incorporates the latest research in areas such as neonatal language experience, multilingualism, language mixing and the effect that siblings have on family language choice.

Baker's well-organised and informative writing is relevant to the parents and teachers of ANY bilingual child – he carefully considers issues from every angle, not just the norm. An easily-accessible, inspiring read which arms us with the confidence to make raising and teaching our bilingual children a success!

Cheryl Sánchez, The Bilingual Bookshop,

Sound advice given with erudition and simplicity is hard to come by. Once again Baker has put his encyclopedic knowledge on bilingualism to the service of parents and teachers. Every parent and teacher, no matter their circumstances, will feel their needs addressed in the sensible and generous information and guidance that Baker provides in this book.

Ofelia García, City University of New York, USA

Colin Baker is Emeritus Professor of Education at Bangor University. He has three bilingual children and has given talks for over 20 years to parents and teachers on bilingualism. His many publications on bilingualism include Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, which has been translated into Japanese, Spanish, Latvian, Greek and Mandarin and is now in its 5th edition (2011).

This is the number one resource for any parent in a multilingual family. This revised edition is now even better than before with new sections on the latest developments (e.g. the internet, stuttering and translanguaging) and the great question and answer format allows you to read as much or as little as you want – a boon for busy parents. The text is written in a very straightforward style and is accessible, practical and the recommendations are feasible for almost all families. Nonetheless, years of study and personal experience feed into the text which is subtly nuanced and emotionally intelligent. If you are only going to buy one book, this is the one you should buy.

Claire Thomas, Waltham Forest Bilingual Group, UK

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
Contents v
Acknowledgements xiii
An Introduction to the Fourth Edition xv
Introduction xvii
A: Family Questions 1
A1: What are the advantages of my child becoming bilingual? 1
A2: Are some families better placed than others to produce bilingual children? 7
A3: Is the mother more important than the father in the child’s language development? 9
A4: What happens if parents don’t agree that their children should become bilingual? 11
A5: If we raise our child to be bilingual, will it affect our partnership/marriage? 12
A6: My partner does not understand the language that I will speak to my child. Is this a problem? 14
A7: What happens if grandparents and the extended family disapprove of bilingualism? 15
A8: What is the ‘one person–one language’ (OPOL) approach? Is it effective? 17
A9: I’m a one-parent family. How can I raise my child bilingually? 18
A10: Neither of us speaks a second language. How can we help our child become bilingual? 19
A11: My children get little practice in speaking one of their languages outside the family. What should I do? 20
A12: When watching television, should my child be encouraged to listen to one language or both languages? 21
A13: My children can speak two languages. How can I help them belong to two cultures? 22
A14: How important is it that the child’s two languages are practiced and supported outside the home? 24
A15: What kind of community support is valuable for bilingualism? 25
A16: My neighbours think we should integrate more which means using a different language from the home. Should we keep separate or integrate? 26
A17: Can I learn a second language alongside my child? 27
A18: We have just moved to a different country. Should we speak the host country’s language in the home to help our children? 27
A19: What should our language strategy be with an adopted child? 29
A20: I speak two languages fluently – which should I choose to speak to my child? 33
A21: I would like to speak my first language to my child but I have got out of the habit of using it. What can I do to get back in the habit? 34
Section B: Language Development Questions 37
B1: What are the most important factors in raising a bilingual child? 37
B2: Do some children find it easier than others to become bilingual? 38
B3: Does bilingual development start in the fetal stage? 40
B4: Is it easier to become bilingual as a young child? 41
B5: How early do bilingual children recognize that they have two languages? 42
B6: Is it better for my child to learn a language early to secure better storage in the brain? 43
B7: Will my child become equally fluent in two languages? 44
B8: Is it better to develop two languages together or one language later than the other? 47
B9: How do I know my child’s language development in each language is normal and acceptable? 48
B10: Will learning a second language interfere with development in the first language? 50
B11: Are there benefits if my child has a less well-developed second language? 52
B12: What effect will bilingualism have on my child’s intelligence? 53
B13: I want my children to be successful. Should I concentrate on developing their first/majority language skills? 58
B14: Should my child keep the two languages separate in different situations and with different people (e.g. visitors)? 59
B15: Should my child use two languages with the same person 62
B16: Will my child’s attitudes affect the learning of a second language? 63
B17: Is it sensible to raise my child multilingually? 64
B18: Do bilinguals learn a third language easier than monolinguals learn a second language? 69
B19: Do girls and boys differ in their progress towards bilingualism and biliteracy? 70
B20: Are first-borns different to later-borns in developing bilingualism? 70
B21: My child mixes their two languages. Is this normal? 73
B22: Does switching between languages have any value or purpose? 74
B23: When will my bilingual child be able to interpret and translate from one language to another? 78
B24: How much will experience of majority language mass media affect the development of bilingualism in my child? 80
B25: Can music and drama help my child’s bilingual development? 81
B26: Will computers and information technology affect my child’s bilingualism? 81
B27: How important are employment prospects to preserve my child’s languages into adulthood? 82
B28: I need to change the language(s) I’ve used with my children. How will it affect them? 83
Section C: Questions About Problems 85
C1: What are the disadvantages of my child becoming bilingual? 85
C2: My child mixes the two languages. What should I do? 89
C3: My child refuses to use one of his/her languages. What should I do? 91
C4: My teenage child is speaking the majority language more and more. What can I do? 92
C5: The balance of my child’s two languages seems to be shifting. How can I ensure one language doesn’t disappear? 93
C6: Will my child learn two languages only half as well as a monolingual child? 95
C7: Will my child’s thinking be affected by being bilingual? 96
C8: Does bilingualism have an effect on the functioning of the brain? 97
C9: Will my bilingual children have a problem of identity with two different cultures? 98
C10: Will my identity change if I raise children to be bilingual and bi(multi)cultural? 100
C11: What will happen to our identity if we move to live in another country? 101
C12: Will bilingualism have any adverse effect on my child’s personality? 103
C13: Will bilingualism have any adverse effect on my child’s friendships and social development? 106
C14: My child seems to have learning difficulties. Is this due to bilingualism? 107
C15: My child seems to have an emotional/behavioural problem. Is this caused by bilingualism? 108
C16: My child has a specific diagnosed problem (e.g. severe learning difficulty, language disorder, emotional problem). Should we change to speaking one language to the child rather than two languages? What language should I speak to my child? 109
C17: My child stutters. Is this caused by bilingualism? 112
C18: A child is autistic or has Asperger’s syndrome. Should we use one language only with the child? 115
C19: People make fun of our speaking a minority language. How should I react? 115
C20: People around me are prejudiced and racist. Should we as a family switch to speaking only the majority language? 117
C21: I’m a recent immigrant to a country. Should I stop speaking my native language and switch to the first language of that country? 118
C22: My second language is not perfect. Should I speak it to my child? 118
C23: A local professional (e.g. a doctor, psychologist, speech therapist, teacher) advised me against bilingualism. Is this correct? 119
C24: Do teenagers suffer or gain if their parents come from different language and cultural backgrounds (mixed language marriages)? 120
C25: What are the most common reasons that children raised in a multilingual setting do not function as multilinguals? 121
Section D: Reading and Writing Problems 123
D1: Should my child learn to read in one language first? 123
D2: Will learning to read in a second language interfere with reading in the first language? 126
D3: If the two languages have different scripts, will learning to read and write be a problem? 126
D4: Can a child learn to be literate in three languages? 127
D5: When should a child begin to read in a second language? 127
D6: How should I help my child to read and write in both languages? 128
D7: Which approach to teaching reading in English works best? The ‘look and say’, ‘phonemic awareness’, ‘phonics’, ‘whole language’ or what approach? 132
D8: Should I buy books for my child to read that contain two languages or just one language? 136
D9: How can I locate books for my child to read in each language? 137
D10: Will my child find it hard to write in two different languages? 137
D11: My child seems slow in learning to read. Is this due to bilingualism? 138
D12: My child has problems with spelling. Is this due to bilingualism? 138
D13: My child has been diagnosed as dyslexic. Should we develop reading and writing in one language and not two? 139
Section E: Education Questions 141
E1: How can a pre-school playgroup or nursery school support children’s bilingualism? 141
E2: What are the language features of an effective pre-school or nursery school to support my child’s bilingualism? 143
E3: Should my child go to a bilingual school? 143
E4: What should I look out for in choosing a school for my bilingual child? 146
E5: Should my child be taught bilingually in the primary school but not in the secondary school? 147
E6: I do not speak the same language of the school. How can I help my children with their homework? 148
E7: The language of the university is different from that of the secondary school. Will my child suffer because they have not been educated in the language used at the university? 149
E8: Should older children not be placed in bilingual education? 150
E9: Is there a ‘critical age’ when children shouldn’t be moved to a school with a different language pattern in the curriculum? 152
E10: My children can hold a conversation in a second language. Is that sufficient for them to be taught in that language at school? 153
E11: My child is learning through a second language at school. Should we change our language pattern at home? 154
E12: How easy or difficult will it be for my children to find a job if they are bilingual? 155
E13: My child is being offered lessons as a beginner at school in a language they already speak fluently at home – what should I do? 157
E14: Is Home Education a good option for a multilingual family? 158
E15: What types of bilingual education exist? 159
E16: What are Dual Language schools? 160
E17: What are Dual Language Bilingual Peace schools? 164
E18: What are International schools? 165
E19: What are European Schools? 166
E20: What is Heritage Language Bilingual Education? 169
E21: What is Transitional Bilingual Education? 171
E22: What is Immersion Bilingual Education? 172
E23: What are the main classroom features of successful immersion programs? 177
E24: What language strategies are used in immersion classrooms? 179
E25: What is Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL)? 182
E26: What is Intensive Second Language Immersion at the end of elementary schooling? 183
E27: What is a Withdrawal class for extra language support? 184
E28: What does ‘Scaffolding’ mean, and why is it important in supporting language learners in school? 185
E29: What kind of education should I give my child if we regularly move to different countries? 186
E30: What are Saturday Schools and Voluntary Schools outside regular school hours, and how valuable are they in the development of a minority or second language? 188
E31: Will my child’s performance in school be affected by being bilingual? 189
E32: Are there positive effects of learning through the medium of two languages? 191
E33: My child is learning through a new language. Will this affect attainment at school? 192
E34: My child’s school teaches through the minority language. Will this affect my child’s development in the majority language? 193
E35: Speakers of our home language are often poor and unemployed. Should we ensure our child is educated in the majority language to aid employment prospects? 193
E36: My child seems to be underachieving at school. Is this because of bilingualism? 194
E37: Should my child be placed in a Bilingual Special Education Programme? 197
E38: My child is suffering in school because other children tease him/her about speaking another language. What can I do? 201
E39: Will my child be able to learn a new language thoroughly in the school system? 202
E40: How should two languages be distributed in a bilingual classroom? 203
E41: What is ‘Translanguaging’ 205
E42: Should Science and Mathematics be taught in an international language such as English? 207
E43: My child’s school doesn’t support bilingualism and there is no bilingual school nearby. What should I do? 208
E44: Which language should be used to test/assess/counsel abilingual child? What should be the nature of such assessment? 210
E45: Are teachers trained to help bilingual children? 213
Section F: Concluding Questions 214
F1: The economy and politics of the world is changing. Is there a future for bilingualism? 214
F2: Are monolinguals more common than bilinguals in the world? 216
F3: Why are many politicians against bilingualism and bilingual education? 216
F4: Is bilingualism a natural right of any individual? 217
F5: Does my child have a right to bilingual education (e.g. in law, a natural right)? 219
F6: Language is an important part of our religion. Should my child learn a second language for this purpose? 220
F7: I use a particular dialect /a Creole/ a Pidgin language in theome. Is your advice about raising a bilingual child different or similar? 221
F8: I have a Deaf child. Is your advice about raising a bilingual child different or similar? 222
F9: Books on child care and child development warn me against bilingualism. How should I react? 225
F10: How do I contact other parents in a similar situation? 226
F11: Is the internet going to affect my child’s bilingualism? 226
F12: How do I find out more information about bilingualism? 229
Glossary 232
Index 255