What Every Parent Should Know About Bilingualism Yanira Alfonso, EDS ESOL Teacher Hopkins Elementary School
An informative video about how you can more effectively help your child in school and a guide for teachers.
Video Content: • Relationship between bilingualism and learning • Benefits of bilingualism • Conditions that facilitate bilingualism • Bilingualism and achievement strategies • Recommended Readings & References
Will my child’s performance in school be affected by being bilingual? • Work with majority language peers in a majority language classroom • Bilingualism is not valued by the school • Yes, your child may fall behind in school. • Bilingual child’s language has to match the complexity level of the curriculum
My child seems to be underachieving at school. Is this because of bilingualism? • No. Bilingualism more likely leads to cognitive advantages than disadvantages. • Under-achievement blamed at lack of exposure of the majority language is incorrect. • Fast conversion to the majority language may cause more harm than good. • Denies the child’s skills in the home language • Denies identity and self-respect of the child
Will learning to read in a first language interfere with reading in the second language or the other way around? • No. It greatly helps children to learn to read in the second language. • Literacy skills transfer. • Language boundaries are helpful. • Dad can read in one language, mom in another.
Will learning a second language interfere with development of the first language? • No. Definitely not. • Mixing words may occur in young children. • Effects are generally positive.
If the two languages have different scripts, will learning to read and write be a problem? • No. • Learning to read in a different script helps learning to read in another language. • Some skills still need to be learned. • But some skills still transfer.
We have just moved to a different country. Should we speak that country’s language in the home to help our children? • No. Artificial switch in language will not help. • Switching country and language difficult for child. • Level of conversation will change. • Conceptual growth of children may be hindered. • Infants or very young, children do not need their parents to speak to them in the majority language.
What may happen if the majority language overtakes the minority language at home? • Much will be lost. • You deny existence of your first language, yourself, your past, your family history and traditions. • Heritage, family identity, subtle psychological processes that hold families in unity, the cultural cement that holds minority families together, will be lost. • Loss of the minority language may divide the family.
In teaching your child your native language you transmit: • Something about yourself • Values • Beliefs • Your heritage and the extended family • You are able to give your child more rather than less.
Will my bilingual children have a problem of identity with two different cultures? • Maybe. • Important and sometimes problematic issue. • May develop different identities in different context.
Books on child care and child development warn me against bilingualism. How should I react? • Many misconceptions exist. • Find out information from reliable sources where there is: • Informed comment • Expert understanding • Greater experience and awareness of childhood bilingualism • A list of reliable references is included at the end of this video.
People around me are prejudiced. Should we as a family switch to speaking only the majority language? • No. It will not change racism, discrimination, and prejudice. • Bilingualism exists alongside racism, deprivation, poverty, unemployment and disadvantage. • Good reason to become fluent in the majority language. • Not at the cost of the first or minority language.
Should we ensure our child is educated in the majority language to aid employment prospects? • Opportunity to compete for jobs increases with majority language skills. • In some cases, it increases even more with a second language in demand by employers. • Argument for thorough bilingualism, not for majority language monolingualism.
Will my child become equally fluent in two languages? • Usually, no. • Only a few exceptions exist. • Many bilinguals are stronger in one language than another.
What are the advantages of my child becoming bilingual? • Communicate with a wider variety of people. • Experience two or more cultures. • Bridge between generations. • Bridge between communities. • Pass on the heritage language of the family.
Advantages (Cont’d): • Your child will be able to think more flexibly. • Advantage in social relationships. • Potential for more friends rather than less. • Communicate with grandparents and relatives in different countries. • Childhood bilingualism widens social, cultural, and educational horizons.
What conditions facilitate bilingualism in the family? • Children are born ready to be bilinguals and multilinguals. • Plenty of stimulating language experiences. • Opportunities to listen, speak, read, and write in both languages. • Quality communication between parents and children.
Conditions that facilitate bilingualism in the family (Cont’d): • One parent one language. • Child learns one language at home and the other language in a playgroup, school, or community. • Teenagers participate in out-of-school events in their minority language.
Conditions that facilitate bilingualism (Cont’d) • Parents encourage writing, when child can hold a crayon or pencil. • Writing is developed in stages: • Squiggles • Copies letters • Relates sounds to letters • Puts sounds together to spell like-words (inventive spelling) • Starts writing words • Starts writing sentences and then stories
Conditions that facilitate bilingualism in the family (Cont’d) • Child is taught to read in the dominant language first and then in the second language. • Important to help the child feel a growing competence in reading. • The most important thing is that reading be a pleasure.
Conditions that facilitate bilingualism (Cont’d) • Young children • Pick up language very easily. • More likely to pick up appropriate pronunciation of both languages.
Conditions that facilitate bilingualism (Cont’d) • Some children learn to be bilingual faster than others, • Depending on: • Ability and aptitude • Child’s interest • Complex number of factors affect the rate of bilingual development
What family conditions are less likely to facilitate bilingualism? • Minority language parent away from the family. • All day Majority language nursery or preschool. • Early exposure to majority language. • Teenagers reject minority language.
Alternatives for working parents: • Minority language weekend school • Minority language nursery school • A family daycare with a (Minority) caretaker • A Minority language family member caretaker
Part IV: What strategies can I use to encourage bilingualism and achievement?
What can families do to help their children remain bilingual? • Accept the challenge; Get motivated. • Have a positive attitude towards bilingualism. • Recognize that children’s bilingual skills constantly change. • Make a Family language plan.
Conversation strategies would ensure: • Parent language is not too complex. • Expansion on a child’s attempt to communicate. • Plenty of open questions. • Connection of words with objects to convey meaning. • Parent to be a good listener and encourager.
I am a one-parent family. How can I raise my child bilingually? • Speak minority language at home. • Speak minority language four days, and majority language three days. • Use each language in different context.
Provide richness of language • Establish richness of language experiences in a variety of situations. • Develop vocabulary • Take trips • Expose your child to music and drama • Make language enjoyable. It is the most important factor.
Use the Mass Media to your advantage • Watch T.V. or radio, preferably in the weaker language. • Minority culture as well as language. • Bilingual, bicultural is the goal of bilingualism.
Practice the minority language • Visit relatives. • Language school. • Educate your neighbors. • Communicate do not constantly correct.
Establish language boundaries • Consistent in keeping languages separate. • Have clear expectations about language use. • Avoid excluding visitors • Explain to them your language rules.
Correct mixing the two languages by: • Not criticizing your child • Not constantly correcting your child • Not mixing languages yourselves • Constantly encouraging your child’s attitude toward the two languages
When should I begin to teach my child to read? • The day your child is born.
What can I do to teach my child how to read? • Talk to your child and ask questions. • Buy simple books for your child. • Teach your child how to value books. • Teach your child that a book has pictures and objects. • Teach your child nursery rhymes. • Read books to your child everyday.
Reading strategies (cont’d): • Develop ‘sight’ vocabulary first. • Using pictures alongside words, • encourage your child to recognize and read those words. • Help your child to recognize words in the environment.
Reading strategies (Cont’d) • Get your child to talk about an experience, while you write it. • Copy one sentence two times on a card. • Cut up the words for one of the sentences. Have your child put it back together. • Give your child the same story with words missing. • Ask your child to write the missing words.
Reading strategies (Cont’d): • If it feels normal and natural, yes introduce books in both languages. • As long as you keep both languages separate, • and give equal exposure to both languages.
Reading strategies (Cont’d): • Stock up on books in each language. • Explore the internet. • Books in two languages not necessary.
The most important thing! • READ TO YOUR CHILD EVERYDAY. • Make reading active: • Elaborate and explain the text. • Relate the story to your child's own experiences. • Ask questions about the story.
If my child is under-achieving, what can I do? • Educate in minority language to keep up the academic skills • Results will include fluency in the majority language.
How do I find out more information about bilingualism? • Get informed by reading • Order books through major/university bookstores. • Visit your local and university library.
Thanks for taking the time to care! Remember you CAN make a difference, but START TODAY!