7 Steps to Raising a Bilingual Child
Updated: Oct 17, 2019
Here I am again, with a second book regarding raising bilingual children! This month I picked up the book 7 Steps to Raising a Bilingual Child by Naomi Steiner, M.D., with Susan L. Hayes. I found this text interesting starting off with the authors. Dr. Steiner is a developmental-behavioral pediatrician who also has raised both of her children bilingually and Susan Hayes is a writer and editor based out of New York. I recommend this book to parents who are in the initial stages of making the decision to raise their children as bilinguals. It has great worksheets throughout the book as they outline their 7 suggested steps. It allows for lots self reflection and planning for the parents. With that being said, this is not a full summary - think of it more as interesting points I would like to share with you. I highly encourage you to pick up a copy from your local library to take full advantage of the materials and resources provided by the authors.
Here are their 7 Steps in a nutshell:
"The degree of success you have in raising your child to be bilingual will be directly related to your own family's definition of bilingualism and to your conviction that pursuing that level of language proficiency is the right thing to do."
The authors reiterate that bilingual has NO universal definition. They make a great point in the above quote - therefore there really isn't a right way to raise bilingual children other than to do what works for your family to reach your family goals. The authors detail three proficiency levels: Level 1 bilingual is a "passive bilingual" where they only understand a second language. A Level 2 bilingual can speak a second language more or less fluently, enough to carry a conversation. Finally, a Level 3 bilingual or an "active bilingual" is able to speak, read, and write in two languages. In determining your family goal will help establish a plan to reach this goal.
They outline common obstacles families face when choosing to raise bilingual children. Their list consist of 9 tips to achieve maximum language input, I have chosen 5 to share.
Lastly, I really liked that the authors included reading and writing in their chapters. I feel that most books on raising bilingual children only focus on the speaking part and leave out the reading and writing components. The two take-aways from this section were:
A. It is ideal to find bilingual books, but it will not always be easy. Their solution - translate as you go. Your translation does not have to be perfect to be able to comprehend the story. I am usually hard on myself for this so I have come up to the solution of translating our books that are not bilingual versions. Check out our blog post for the details. For me, a little work upfront has gone a long way whenever my kids want me to read to them.
B. When having your child write in a specific language, have them think in that language rather than translating from English. My children are not old enough to write yet, but I tried this technique with a family I tutor and I saw the difference in regards to their confidence when writing. It came down to providing the child with an opportunity to use their own available vocabulary. Not to mention the look of surprise on their face knowing that they could do it with a bit of effort was worth it.
I recommend this book for all bilingual families. Especially for parents who are goal setters and planners. But please, don't take my word for it and go check it out yourself!