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Review of  Growing Up with Two Languages


Reviewer: Magdalena Anna Fialkowska
Book Title: Growing Up with Two Languages
Book Author: Una Cunningham-Andersson Staffan Andersson
Publisher: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Language Acquisition
Book Announcement: 16.2180

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Date: Tue, 12 Jul 2005 19:47:36 +0200
From: Magdalena Fialkowska <fialka@ifa.amu.edu.pl>
Subject: Growing Up with Two Languages: A Practical Guide

AUTHORS: Cunningham-Andersson, Una; Andersson, Staffan
TITLE: Growing Up with Two Languages
SUBTITLE: A Practical Guide
PUBLISHER: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
YEAR: 2004

Magdalena Anna Fiałkowska, School of English, Adam Mickiewicz
University, Poznań, Poland

OVERVIEW

The book aims to serve as a practical guide for parents whose
everyday life involves using two or more languages. The authors
attempt to describe how families are affected by living with two
languages and cultures and how these aspects are related to each
other in a bicultural and bilingual environment. Many issues are
discussed "cross-methodologically", i.e. are based on opinions
provided by informants living in various linguistic arrangements.
Throughout the book the authors convince the readers that a bilingual
home is not a privilege of exogamic couples and, and even though it
may involve issues unknown to a monolingual home it is less
complicated that one may think. The book presents data from 150
individuals and families. It provides new and updated Internet
resources, gives information on the problems faced by teenagers and
their possible solutions, reports on new research into language
acquisition, and offers first-hand advice and examples.

SYNOPSIS

The book consists of nine chapters, four appendices, a glossary, a
bibliography, and a term index.

CHAPTER 1: Families with two languages
The first section discusses the origins of family bilingualism. The
authors show how reasons for moving from one country to another
are influenced by people's diverse expectations and motivations. In
the second section language choice, language mixing, language
switching, and communication are discussed. The language that
parents decide to use at the beginning will influence the future system
of communication in the family. The last section focuses on the
minority language families, i.e. immigrants, refugees, international
employees, and visiting academics who move to another country.
These families are in a better position since, if necessary, they can
close their door to the majority culture in order to feel "safe" at home
using the minority language. The authors make it clear, however, that
these families are not free from problems.

CHAPTER 2: Expecting a child in a bilingual home
In this chapter the most important question is: "What do you want for
your child?" People's reasons for raising children bilingually vary
depending on plans, e.g., if the family intends to stay in the majority
language country, or not. The first section stresses that a child should
be able to become a part of the minority language community if there
is one in the area, and whatever the situation, it should be vital for the
parents to ensure that their children should not only be able to
communicate with their minority language relatives, but also be aware
of the cultural background of the minority language parent. Parents
are also advised to speak their native languages to the child. The
second section of the chapter focuses on planning, e.g., who is going
to speak which language to the child, and in what way any unusual
conditions, e.g., child's disability or a sudden need to move away, may
influence this system. The problem of giving names to children is also
introduced here and several solutions are suggested. The last section
draws parents' attention to issues such as children's willingness or
unwillingness to be exposed to public attention by speaking the
minority language to them, negative opinions about the minority
language, reactions from minority language grandparents, and others.

CHAPTER 3. The family language system
Chapter three attempts to distinguish between three types of systems:
One-Parent-One-Language method, One-Parent-One-Location
strategy, and several types of "artificial" bilingualism, such as placing
children in an international school or employing a foreign au-pair.
Each strategy is discussed separately. The authors explain that any
system will work if it answers the needs of the family members and is
flexible enough to be changed if necessary. It is underlined, however,
that no system is allowed to interfere with the siblings' choice of
language to communicate. Many aspects, e.g., the child's unbalanced
input in the OPOL method or being strict about the system established
at home, are supported by the informants' opinions.

CHAPTER 4. Language development
Chapter four briefly describes the moment when a child recognizes
speech and starts producing sounds. The importance of an equal
input in both languages is stressed and advice is given on how to
correct a child who mixes newly acquired words when addressing the
parents without disappointing the child. The question taken up is why
it is essential for the minority language parents not to avoid using their
native language unless it is necessary. These parents often do so in
public so as not to expose their child to public attention, or switch to
the majority language when talking to their offspring in front of
monolingual children so as not to let them feel left out. Because of
these practices, such parents often become hesitant speakers unable
to cope with discussions with their teenage children, whose
knowledge of the minority language soon becomes passive.
Interference and mixing is the focus of the second section, which
convinces us that "what is true for one child may not be for other" (p.
55), and, consequently, with two or three children parents may
witness very different ways of linguistic development. There is no
need to worry, though, if the interference and mixing phase gets
sorted out with time in the case of one child and in the case of the
other some encouragement is necessary to make the child use
appropriate words. The chapter ends with a brief overview of the
critical period hypothesis.

CHAPTER 5: The child with two languages
This chapter focuses on schooling as well as the pros and cons of
bilingual upbringing. During early childhood, any attempts to analyse
the stream of sounds made by a child are hindered by the existence of
two languages, while the amount of words that the child has to learn is
doubled. For older children being different from the peers turns out to
be a problem and a question arises as to what can be done to make
children feel proud of their atypical childhood. The advantages of
growing up in two languages include having access to the rich world
of language and literature, and the ability to communicate with one's
relatives with ease. Also, if necessary, passive knowledge of the
minority language can easily be activated. In the second section, the
authors consider it vital that children learn their two languages at their
own pace, and stress that literacy in both languages is the only way to
help children discover the true value of being bilingual.

CHAPTER 6: Practical parenting in a bilingual home
Chapter six opens with a list of instructions helping children make the
most of the bilingual situation around them. Home language education
and Saturday schools are suggested, and additional ways of
enhancing children's exposure to the minority language are listed, e.g.
networking (i.e. meeting monolingual minority language speakers),
mini-immersion (when a child attends school in the minority language
country for a few days), trips, TV, books, and others. The second part
gives some ideas how to obtain materials in the minority language and
concentrates on what should be done at home to help a child become
fluent in the minority language. These involve: talking to a child about
things a parent is/was/will be doing, listening to the child with gentle
corrections of his/her speech, keeping track of the child's development
in order to compare its stages, reading to and with the child.

CHAPTER 7: Competence in two cultures
Chapter seven is concerned with raising children in two cultures. In
the first part the authors present two groups of parents having
contrasting views on bicultural upbringing. Yet, the authors stress that
regardless of whether the parents want their children to be bicultural
or not, every family must make a firm decision which must be made
active. It is also explained that "while parents alone can give children a
second language, they will not be able to give them a second culture
without the help of others and the support of the society" (p. 88). The
difference between helping children "feel at home" in the two cultures
and merely showing them how to "be polite" in both of them must be
remembered. The second section deals with religion and briefly
explains why religion and culture are intimately associated with each
other. The last section focuses on traditions, hospitality, and social
behaviour with its consequences. This section stresses the assets
which are offered by the intercultural upbringing not only to young
people - by showing them how the same aspects may be viewed
differently - but also to adults who can see their own culture through
new eyes.

CHAPTER 8. Problems you may encounter
This chapter analyses several problematic areas. The first is
concerned with the parents' linguistic competence and the quality of
input that a child receives. Parents are advised to use their native
language, since the use of other language than their own may result
in the child's acquiring non-native features in their speech. Minority
language parents are advised to support their language so as not to
let it become old-fashioned. These parents may try one of the
methods recommended in the subsection on language attrition. The
second issue deals with semilingualism, defined as a lack of native-
speaker competence in either of the speaker's languages. The notion
of semilingualism is applied to children who have a limited exposure to
the minority language. The chapter ends with two sections devoted to
such problems as divorce, death of a parent, moving away, or bringing
up a child with disabilities.

CHAPTER 9. The way ahead
In the last chapter such aspects as motivation, identity, self-image,
encouragement for teenagers and improving language proficiency are
discussed. It is emphasized that motivation will fluctuate and that
parents' motivation strongly influences the children's willingness to
speak the minority language. This is why working with children
systematically is extremely important, and, at the same time, very
difficult. Children often feel disappointed that they are not
indistinguishable from their monolingual peers, and parent's
encouragement may be of help to them. As regards identity,
teenagers are the most sensitive group and convincing them that a
visit to the minority language country can fill most gaps left in the
minority language may ease most of their doubts. However, the book
rightly points out that the parents' main aim should be to ensure that
their children feel at home in the majority language country, while it is
secondary to help them feel at home in the minority language country.
Improving one's linguistic proficiency is also discussed.

APPENDICES
Appendix A: Organising a workshop on raising children
This appendix may function as a guide for parents, teachers, and
others interested in the mutual exchange of experience and tips
concerning raising children in two languages. It provides readers with
a sample of a programme for a two-hour high-level workshop, and
helps them prepare a similar meeting in their own communities giving
them a list of issues to be considered.

Appendix B: Ways to support a child's development in two languages
This appendix discusses three types of meetings supporting children's
bilingual development. The goal of The Parent and Child Group is to
make families with the same minority language meet and exchange
opinions. The Minority Language Play School is a place where
children are left with teachers or leaders. Smaller children may need a
settling-period, thus is it better suited for pre-school and school
children. Finally, Saturday School is a good idea for children of all
ages, but as this type of meeting needs extra motivation, children are
rarely willing to sacrifice another morning at school. All these ways of
supporting children's bilingualism require good teachers, materials,
location, and funds.

Appendix C: Documenting a child's linguistic development
The third appendix is a set of three photocopiable sheets for parents
to keep track of their children's linguistic development: Vocabulary
Development sheet consists of four columns ("Object", "Language
1", "Language 2" and "Comments"), Mean Length of Utterance and
Language Mixing sheet (one column for "Sentence", one to count
words and one to count mixing) and the Pronunciation sheet (one
column for words and the other to explain problems a child has with
pronouncing them).

Appendix D: Internet resources
The last appendix enumerates Internet addresses grouped into three
categories: Web links, Meeting places and Locating material. They are
a helpful starting point providing links to many resources, including
discussion panels, mailing lists, online communities, Internet
bookshops and others.

CRITICAL EVALUATION

What made the book especially intriguing to me was the authors
themselves: brought up in Northern Ireland, Cunningham-Andersson
studied Spanish, French and Irish as a foreign language learner, was
a second language learner living in Spain for a year, and first came
into contact with Swedish at the age of 20, while Andersson uses a
language which he has not fully mastered to communicate with his
wife. Their book covers a wide spectrum of aspects concerned with
not only raising children to be bilingual, but also their future, their
relations with friends and family, the parents' linguistic situation and
development, and many others. All these aspects are supported by
creative ideas and opinions provided by informants coming from
various corners of the world and speaking different languages, e.g.,
English, Japanese, Spanish, Hebrew, Swedish, Taiwanese,
Portuguese, Slovak, German, Chinese, French, and others. Much
attention is paid to aspects omitted in other books, such as close and
distant plans, death of a parent, sharing religious plans for children or
feelings of other "parties" involved, e.g., grandparents, cousins, aunts
and uncles, friends, peers etc. The authors do not claim that their
methods are ideal, but show both strong and weak sides of many
choices, which makes most of their advice easily applicable, helpful
and practical.
The section about literacy is worth mentioning as one of the most
comprehensive and useful parts (Chapter 6), stressing the importance
of reading to and with children (especially those raised bilingually)
before and after they learn how to read. Mostly, I appreciated the
authors' optimistic approach towards unforeseen turns in life which
force parents to change or give up their plans for a bilingual family. I
was also happy to find a comprehensive overview of problems and
rewards of introducing two cultures, as well as many social and
individual challenges resulting from living "in two cultures". It was also
intriguing for me to observe how reading about other parents'
experience helps me understand the authors' explanations. One of
the greatest advantages of the book are the appendices which I found
to be an invaluable source of information and ideas showing that a
workshop can be more than just a meeting for the parents.

As to the drawbacks, first I would like to point to the confusion in the
use of the term "bilingual". In the preface, the authors explain that
their avoidance of the term "bilingual" results from the difficulty in
providing the criteria to measure one's bilingualism (p. xii). Later in the
book, they do not provide any comments when quoting parents using
this term with reference to the children's abilities. I find this situation
perplexing, as it seems clear that informants use the term "bilingual" to
describe their children's ability to communicate in both languages, not
necessarily being balanced in both of them. Since positing a generally
accepted definition appears to be so difficult, why to abandon the term
so soon? And why do it at all?

I feel a similar ambivalence towards certain limits that the book places
on itself. Firstly, the authors mostly refer to groups, organizations, and
families in Sweden, i.e. their own home country. Secondly, some
advise might be given from a family in which children have to learn an
alphabetic as well as a non-alphabetic writing system, e.g., an English-
Japanese family.

CHAPTER 2:
The section "Making plans" (p. 18) seems to deal with similar aspects
as the previous section ("What do you want for your child" (p. 12)), i.e.
planning and choosing what is best for the child. They might have
been included under one heading.

CHAPTER 3:
Naming one of the sections "'Artificial' bilingualism" (p. 41) seems
contradictory and unfair to me. The authors avoid the term since
defining a bilingual without going into details is too complicated. They
claim that it is almost impossible to be truly bilingual unless one
receives the same amount of input of the two languages, which in
reality is a very difficult task. Thus, trying to raise a child to be bilingual
(which is already doubtful) with the use of "artificial" methods seems to
be even more impossible. In addition, why should we call it "artificial"
at all, if a family wants to change the place of residence for some time
to help their children pick up a foreign language?

CHAPTER 8
The authors advise parents bringing along a pre-school helper to the
country they are going to move to in order to maintain the children's
skills in the minority language. Since such a scheme is very costly, it
may, however, not be available to many bilingual families. In the
subsection "Death of a parent" (p. 113) the authors claim that if it is
the minority language parent who dies, the children's competence in
this language is seriously jeopardized. I believe that if the majority
language parent dies, children's linguistic and psychological
development is equally endangered. There are families where minority
language parents do not learn the majority language and in such
cases these parents' competence in the majority language may be too
low to communicate with children immediately after the death of the
majority language parent. Although there is still the minority language
to use, it is often the children's weaker language, and talking, e.g.,
about school may be difficult for the first few months.

APPENDICES
My only criticism here applies to Appendix D. Some of the pages are
old (e.g., Bilingual Families Web Page was last updated in 1998),
while some URLS are not valid (e.g., Bilingual Families Web Page >
Resources > Nordic Languages > Barnesiden). In addition, there
occurs some permanent error when one tries to subscribe to the
mailing list under Biling-Fam Internet mailing list.

The book is generally nicely edited with very few spelling errors.

CONCLUSION

Overall, this book is aimed for all parents who would like to give their
children a chance to grow up in two languages. It may be valuable not
only for families where parents have different native languages, but
also for any family where children are taught a minority language, be it
in the kindergarten, from an au-pair or at school. Problems to consider
are often similar in there families, and this book collects them all in one
place. This book may also appear useful for teachers working with
children brought up in mixed families, as it helps them learn what kind
of problems such children deal with and how to help them.




 
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER


Magdalena Fiałkowska is currently a PhD student at the English
Department at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland, but in
two months she will transfer her PhD to the University of Surrey,
Guildford, England. She will spend three years in the Department of
Linguistic, Cultural and Translational Studies working on her PhD,
which is going to be focused on the acquisition of morphology by
Polish-English bilingual children.


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