Maximize Your Child's Bilingualism
Updated: Oct 17, 2019
A book overview: Maximize Your Child's Bilingual Ability: Ideas and Inspiration for Even Greater Success and Joy Raising Bilingual Kids by Adam Beck
I recently picked up this book and wanted to share it with our community. These are my personal take-aways from the book and NOT a full spark notes write-up of each point made by the author. Overall I greatly enjoyed reading the book. The author made it a very easy read for busy parents. The book is made up of two main parts: "Perspectives" and "Principles". There are 30 perspectives or ways of thinking for parents, caregivers, and teachers who are all-in for bilingualism. He also presents 30 principles or actions that should be taken by these adults in their journey of raising and teaching bilingual children. He makes it clear, that both perspectives and principles are needed when raising bilingual kids. If you only have perspective then you lack the action to reach your goals, if you only have principles then you lack the goals and won't know how to evaluate all the work you put into bilingualism.
From the 60 points he makes, I will pick a few from each part of the book that I found extra insightful and helpful. I hope they resonate with you as much as they did for me.
Stay Conscious of Your Quest
Beck talks about being mindful in what you do as a parent in your journey of raising bilingual children. He encourages parents to read & write, interact with others, use reminders, and mediate about raising bilingual children. Read books, blogs, and articles that promote bilingualism (like Nene Bilingüe ;) ) for inspirations and ideas. Write about raising bilingual children as a blog or in a personal journal. Find others who are also raising bilingual kids, make friends in person and virtually. Set reminders for yourself to do the above or to promote a certain routine at home. Lastly, meditate about your goals, your actions, your successes, your troubles, or your overall progress in raising these little ones.
Be Very Serious, Be Very Playful
The author paints a scenario where you sit and picture your children in the far future as grown adults without you. How would you want them to remember you? He makes a great point - raising bilingual children isn't about being a task-master or a tyrant, its about being serious about your goals, consistent in your actions, and playful in your approach. Because at the end of the day you probably want your children to remember all the fun times you shared (even better when those memories are in the target language!).
There is NO Failure
What is guerentted in this journey of raising bilingual children is PROGRESS. He is admit that even when your child isn't at the level of ability where you'd like them to be - stop looking at it as failure and instead see it as feedback. It means that you may need to change your approach to continue to see progress.
Choose an Effective Language Strategy
For those of us who like numbers and studies, Adam Beck makes note of one that really caught my eye. A 2007 study by De Houwer found the rate of success depending on the strategy the family uses in raising bilingual children. When both parents used the minority language and restricted their use of the majority language it yielded a 96.92% success rate. The use of the target language at home will always create the greatest amount of exposure and need. When one parent uses one language and the other parent uses both languages this allowed for a 93.42% success rate. If both parents use both languages then you'd be reaching a 79.18% success rate. When one parent uses the target language and the other used the majority language (or the One Parent One Language) may reach 74.24%. Lastly, when one parent used both languages and the other parent used the majority language this reached the least success rate of 35.70%. The caveat to this is that your family may define success differently than the study, but these numbers may help in choosing your approach.
Reshape the Basic Conditions First
The author points out the work of Ana Paula a trilingual speech-language pathologist who counted the acronym "NERCh" as key strategies to nurture your child's language development. Narration: Narrate ALL activities in your minority language. Including but not limited to brushing teeth, getting ready, driving, field trip etc. Expansion: Affirm your child's utterances in the target language by expanding their thoughts with greater vocabulary. Recast: Repeat what a child says in the target language or by using correct grammar as a model. Choices: Instead of an open ended questions, ask them questions with a limited range of choices. This allows you to provide the necessary vocabulary for them to answer your question.
Read Aloud Everyday
15! 15 is the magic number Beck suggest for you to read aloud to your children, regardless if they can read independently or not. Because our aim is to raise bilingual children, then reading at least 15 minutes in the target language is needed to help reach your goals. As a teacher, it is easy to identify which children read & are read to and which children aren't. The children who are have stronger language skills, larger range of vocabulary, greater background knowledge, and enjoy reading. He also suggests reading aloud books that interest them, picture books, and even magazines or the newspaper. Bottom line, make reading in the minority language part of your daily routine.
Hope these few points provided just enough insight to spark your interest to head to your library or Amazon to pick up a copy and continue reading. Please do share your thoughts about the books and your personal take-aways. You can always email us at firstname.lastname@example.org , follow on our Instagram or Facebook pages.