Happy New Year, everyone! I hope 2015 is full of great things and happy memories in the making for you!
This post is about a book I read recently, Be Bilingual - Practical Ideas for Multilingual Families by Annika Bourgogne. Ms Bourgogne contacted me via this blog to tell me about her book and very kindly sent me a copy.
Bilingualism, or multilingualism for that matter, is a very broad and exciting topic, the subject of many books and research studies. Bilingualism in children is particularly fascinating in my view, there is much talk about the notion that at an early stage in our development we are able to learn and attain perfect native fluency in several languages, an ability that is then lost by the time we reach a certain age. Exposure to more than one language from birth certainly has an impact on a child's cognitive abilities and the way they compartmentalise and absorb information.
I know a lot of people who grew up in multilingual households and are perfectly bilingual in their parents' respective languages. I also know some people whose parents come from different countries and do not share the same mother tongue, yet those people are proficient in the language of only one of their parents. I have a friend who is half Spanish and half German and was raised in Spain. His first language is Spanish, but he speaks only a smattering of German. I once asked him if his father ever spoke German to him as child and he said yes, but his father tended to use German when he was upset or telling him off for something, so the language eventually acquired a negative connotation in his mind. I don't know if that was indeed the main reason why my friend never learned his father's language as a child. The fact is, gaining proficiency in two languages as a child just because your parents speak those languages is not a given. Raising a bilingual child evidently requires a fair amount of time, effort and determination on the part of both parents. However, if you are a parent and you have made the choice to raise your child(ren) bilingual or even multilingual, then the subject of Ms Bourgogne's book and situations outlined in it are likely to resonate with you.
The book is, in essence, a practical guide for parents raising bilingual children and the author draws on her own experience of raising her two children bilingual in Finnish and French to offer advice, encouragement and practical tips to parents in a similar situation. The book does contain some theory related to bilingualism in children and details several approaches to effectively introducing your children to several languages, such as "one parent, one language approach", also referred to as OPOL in the book. Ms. Bourgogne, who is clearly passionate about bilingualism, conducted extensive research and undertook a study into the subject matter. As part of this study, she interviewed a number of families raising children aged 10-12 bilingual in Finnish and French in order to gain insights into their situation and approach to bilingualism. The children's verbal and written skills in both languages were then assessed in order to compare the results against the information provided by the parents.
The book is written in a friendly and approachable style and is a good mixture of theory and practical ideas about all aspects of bilingual learning, from watching DVDs and reading books and magazines in the minority language to making regular trips to countries where that language is spoken. It also addresses a few common challenges faced by parents in this situation, such as children's occasional and rather understandable reluctance to use both languages equally, especially if one of them is not spoken outside the home.
If you are parent to one or several bilingual children or if, like me, you do not have children but are interested in the subject of bilingualism and are keen to find out more about it, chances are this book will be an interesting read for you.
You can also find further information about the book and the author on her website.
Are you a parent raising a multilingual child or were you a multilingual child yourself? Have you read this book and have feedback about it? I'd love to hear about your experience, so feel free to drop me an email via the Contact page!
Blogger disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for my perusal. Regardless, I only recommend products and services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I never accept any other form of compensation for book reviews.