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Review of  The Care and Education of Young Bilinguals: An Introduction for Professionals


Reviewer: Mitsuyo Sakamoto
Book Title: The Care and Education of Young Bilinguals: An Introduction for Professionals
Book Author: Colin F. Baker
Publisher: Multilingual Matters
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Book Announcement: 11.2137

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Review:


Colin Baker (2000) The Care and Education of Young Bilinguals: An
Introduction for Professionals. Multilingual Matters, Clevedon, England.
200 pages.

Reviewed by Mitsuyo Sakamoto Modern Language Centre, OISE/UT

Synopsis:

This new book of Colin Baker's has integrated important elements of his
previous works (Baker 1993, 1996). Concise, comprehensive, and
accessible, the book discusses issues of bilingualism in light of most
recent literature relevant to the field. With a view to de-mystifying as
well as to providing a rich insight into the notion of bilingualism, the
book provides a comprehensive account of bilingualism, ranging from the
various definitions of bilingualism to the politics involved in bilingual
terminologies or notions which otherwise may be too abstract for those who
are unfamiliar with the field. For this reason, it is assumed that the
book is well geared towards professionals such as speech therapists,
doctors, psychologists, counselors, teachers, and special needs personnel
who may be required to deal with bilingual children in the course of their
professions.

The book consists of 13 chapters. The first few chapters "Getting to Know
Bilingual Children", "The Advantages of the Bilingual Child", and "The
Everyday Use of Language by Bilingual Children" focus on the individual
bilingual child, explaining fundamental concepts dealing with bilinguals
and bilingualism. The focus then broadens to other external aspects of
bilingualism, concluding with social and political factors pertaining to
bilingualism and bilingual education.

There are several useful features contained in this book. Similar to the
author's previous work (Baker 1993, 1996), this book contains a list of
further readings for those who wish to gain a deeper understanding of the
issues addressed in the book. The important terms are highlighted in bold
and there is a 23-page glossary at the end of the text for those who are
unfamiliar with jargons often used by applied linguists.

As the book indicates, this book is not intended for scholars with an
in-depth knowledge of bilingualism in search of recent research; rather
it is designed as an introductory text for professionals who may be
dealing with bilingual children.


Comments:
The great appeal of this book is its accessible, concise, and
comprehensive style. Because it is a text intended to introduce the
reader to various fundamental concepts in bilingualism, it is written in a
way as to disemminate information objectively, thus keeping subjective
remarks by the author to a minimum. Therefore, the book avoids any
conclusionary remarks about bilingualism and bilingual education.

Nevertheless, this reviewer found some statements/claims made in the text
to be too strong. For example, the author writes, "There is no critical
age for second language learning" (p. 45, emphasis in the original).
However, although not conclusionary, there is a great deal of research in
the field which suggests that there may be critical age(s) in second
language acquisition (SLA) (e.g., See Birdsong, 1999; Harley, 1986;
Johnson & Newport, 1989; Long, 1990; Singleton, 1989). It would be
misleading to suggest in such a definite manner that no critical age
exists for SLA.

Furthermore, some claims made in the book lack supporting literature. For
example, the author writes, "Current research suggests that minority
language chlidren succeed better when they are taught initially through
their home language" (p. 46), "The child's home language of English is not
being replaced but supplemented by French" (p. 118), "Canadian research
indicates cognitive advantages in bilingualism" (p. 126), "Many modern
language and speech therapists now refute the suggestion that bilingualism
is a burden, even for individuals with congenital or acquired language
disabilities" (p. 129), yet none of these claims bear supporting
literature to back up the claim. Although the lack of references may not
have been considered a grave problem for a book intended only to give a
comprehensive overview of bilingualism, the reviewer still felt
uncomfortable with strong claims being made without sufficient evidence to
support them.

Despite the comprehensive nature of this book, detailed examples
documenting the intricacies and complexities of bilinguals in real life
situations are not included. That is, the perspective adopted is solely
that of researchers in the field, and the real-life experiences of
bilingual children and their families are not brought forward. This
reviewer fears that this may lead to a prescriptive understanding of
bilingual children.

Although this book extensively lists up-to-date references at the back of
the book, as well as suggestions for further reading at the end of each
section in the book, it does not include any list of internet resources.
This may be a good addition in a future edition, as not everyone may
readily have access to academic journals for more information.

Overall this book is a well-designed, well-written piece of work which
would make an excellent introductory text for those who are interested in
and in search of concise and updated information on bilinguals and
bilingual education.

Bibliography:

Baker, C. (1993). Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism.
Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Baker, C. (1996). Foundations of Biligual Education and Bilingualism.
2nd Edition. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Birdsong, D. (Ed.). (1999). Second Language Acquisition and the Critical
Period Hypothesis. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.

Harley, B. (1986). Age in Second Language Acquisition. San Diego, CA:
College Hill Press Inc.

Johnson, J. & Newport, E. (1989). Critical period effects in second
langauge learning: The influence of maturational state on the acquisition
of English as a Second Language. Cognitive Psychology, 21, 60-99.

Long, M. (1990). Maturational constraints on language development.
Studies in Second Language Acquisition, Vol. 1, 153-167.

Singleton, D. (1989). Language Acquisition: The Age Factor. Avon, UK:
Multilingual Matters.

Biography:
Mitsuyo Sakamoto recently received her doctorate degree in Second Language
Education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the
University of Toronto (OISE/UT) under the supervision of Dr. Jim Cummins.
Her areas of interests are bilingual and multicultural education,
specifically sociological perspective pertaining to language acquisition
and maintenance.


 
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