LINGUIST List 12.260

Wed Jan 31 2001

Review: Baker, Care and Education of Young Bilinguals

Editor for this issue: Terence Langendoen <>

What follows is another discussion note contributed to our Book Discussion Forum. We expect these discussions to be informal and interactive; and the author of the book discussed is cordially invited to join in. If you are interested in leading a book discussion, look for books announced on LINGUIST as "available for discussion." (This means that the publisher has sent us a review copy.) Then contact Andrew Carnie at


  1. Alex Kasonde, Review: Baker, Care and Education of Young Bilinguals

Message 1: Review: Baker, Care and Education of Young Bilinguals

Date: Mon, 08 Jan 2001 14:44:11 -0500
From: Alex Kasonde <>
Subject: Review: Baker, Care and Education of Young Bilinguals

Baker, Colin (2000) The Care and Education of Young
 Bilinguals. An Introduction for Professionals, Multilingual
 Matters Ltd, Clevendon, UK, 200pp.

Kasonde, Alexander, Emory University

Bilingualism is increasingly becoming a permanent feature
of our digital generation. Due to fast aviation and
efficient navigation technologies, individuals and
small linguistic communities have mushroomed in
distant localities. Gone are the days when, in
isolation, Homo Monolingus roamed the streets of
our cities. Even the phone call connects different
people speaking different languages in business
and in human relations. By writing The Care
and Education of Young Bilinguals, Colin Baker
is reponding to demand for professional advice.
The professional and technical information
contained in the book is primarily addressed to
practitioners in contact with bilingual youngsters
at school-going age. These practitioners includes
speech therapists, doctors, psychologists,
counselors, teachers, and special needs personnel
(p.vii). To this short list could be added bilingual
parents themselves with their relatives and friends.

It is striking that the book is written in a language
accessible to a wide readership. This choice was
made deliberately to avoid creating an additional
intellectual ghetto. Thanks to the collaborative
work with Anne Sienkewicz, the tone of the
entire text is almost parental and loving but
certainly far from being assuming and patronizing.

The Care and Education of Young Bilinguals
comprises 13 chapters, a good introduction and
glossary of concepts central to the study of
bilingualism. The various headings are presented
here partly to summarize the work. Chapter 1
Getting to Know Bilingual Children;
Chapter 2 The Advantages of Bilingual Children;
Chapter 3 The Everyday Use of Language by
Bilingual Children; Chapter 4 Bilingual Children
and Families; Chapter 5 Bilingual Children in
Communities; Chapter 6 Bilingual Children
and Thinking; Chapter 7 The Education of
Bilingual Children; Chapter 8 The Bilingual
Classroom; Chapter 9 Developing Biliterate
Children; Chapter 10 Bilingual Children with
Special needs; Chapter 11 The Assessment
and Education of Bilingual Children
with Special Needs; Chapter 12
Multiculturalism, Racism, and Bilingual
Children; and Chapter 13 The Politics
Surrounding Bilingual Children.

The author has divided each chapter
into thematic sections numbering from
2 themes (chapter 11) to 8 themes
(chapter 5). This type of heading is
helpful for any learners, scholars, and
students who need to refer to specific
concepts and paragraphs (e.g., Chapter 5,
Theme 6: Diglossia).

The subject matter covers a wide spectrum
of issues pertinent to the needs of
bilingual children and monolingual
children alike. Like all youngsters,
bilingual children need education and
social understanding to grow up
into responsible members of their
respective communities and society
at large. That is why the distinction
between Double Semilingualism (p.6)
and Cr�me de la Cr�me (p.8) is an
expression of insight into the complexity
of the topic. Bilingualism is an added
advantage or a major handicap depending
on the totality of circumstances. Bilingualism
in itself does not necessarily beg pity
and sympathy. It is all about proportions
and needs and how these factors can be
matched in a responsible way.

In conclusion, I urge the readers of
this review to see the book for themselves.
It is a worthwhile investment of
resources. Furthermore, I suggest the
improvization of short theatrical sketches
based on the thematic sections to
dramatize the ever recurrent
existential question of difference
and similarity, integration and
assimilation of new and exotic
friends called immigrants. This can
be an effective way of bridging
the gap between bilinguals and
monolinguals under the banner of
school activities.

[Biography of reviewer not included. --ed.]
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