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Review of  Raising Bilingual-Biliterate Children in Monolingual Cultures

Reviewer: Kara Tiffany McAlister
Book Title: Raising Bilingual-Biliterate Children in Monolingual Cultures
Book Author: Stephen J. Caldas
Publisher: Multilingual Matters
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Language Acquisition
Issue Number: 18.1036

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AUTHOR: Caldas, Stephen J
TITLE: Raising Bilingual-Biliterate Children in Monolingual Cultures
SERIES: Bilingual Education & Bilingualism
PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters
YEAR: 2006

Kara T. McAlister, Mary Lou Fulton College of Education, Arizona State

Stephen J. Caldas's _Raising Bilingual-Biliterate Children in Monolingual
Cultures_ reports on a longitudinal case study of Caldas's three children,
who were raised as bilingual-biliterate French-English speakers in
Louisiana. Using a variety of methods, Caldas collects and summarizes data
on the extent of his children's abilities in French and English, their
perceptions of themselves as bilinguals, factors influencing language
preference, and the conscious choices parents must make in order to raise
bilingual-biliterate children in the United States. The study is unique in
that it offers an intimate account of one family's journey to bilingualism
from infancy through late adolescence.


Chapter One provides an overview of the book, with an introduction to the
author and his wife. It is here that the reader first meets the Caldas
family and their mission to raise bilingual-biliterate children. This
chapter also touches on some of the larger issues affecting a child's
development as a bilingual, including the role of peers, the power of
media, the issue of accent and the general turbulence of adolescence, which
are addressed in more detail in subsequent chapters.

In order to frame the study socially and politically, Chapter Two
introduces a brief historical overview of bilingualism in the United
States, with a focus on the context of French in Louisiana. Though this
chapter only superficially outlines bilingualism and education issues in
the United States, the synopsis of French revitalization efforts in
francophone Louisiana is interesting, as it is rarely addressed in
discussions of bilingualism and bilingual education. Given the intended
audiences of this book, as either researchers already well-versed in
bilingualism or parents trying to raise bilingual children, the absence of
a more in-depth overview of theoretical issues concerning bilingualism and
bilingual education is understandable, if regrettable.

Chapter Three addresses the methodology of the study, particularly the
different instruments used for data collection. Some of the instruments
used, such as the Bilingual Preference Ratio and the French Proficiency
Survey, were developed by the author and his wife in order to capture what
they were observing. Despite this study being a longitudinal mixed methods
study, the majority of the data referred to in this book come from
qualitative observations and interviews, though Chapter Eleven is devoted
solely to the analysis of the quantitative data. The use of qualitative
data further supports the intimacy the reader experiences as Caldas relates
the inner-workings of his bilingual family and the struggles they
experience. Both the Bilingual Preference Ratio, an instrument designed to
gauge language preferences from natural language samples, and the French
Proficiency Survey have been developed by the author and Caron-Caldas
(2000) specifically for this study, and though they have not been piloted
elsewhere, the instruments will most likely be usable in other studies.

Chapter Four details the origins of the study, including a narrative of how
the author met his wife, why the author started learning French, and the
ultimate purpose of raising a bilingual, biliterate family. Caldas
establishes himself as a late learner of French and his wife, Caron-Caldas,
as a both a native speaker of French and a French Immersion teacher. This
chapter also briefly addresses the issue of social class, though not beyond
establishing the social class of the family and peer networks.

Chapter Five discusses the role of the home and community environments in
the language acquisition of the children, with a particular focus on
sociolinguistic factors. This chapter also spells out steps taken in
infancy toward establishing a bilingual home environment, including why the
family chose to abandon the One Person One Language approach (Saunders,
1982; Taeschner, 1983; Döpke 1992, Romaine 1995; among others). The three
language communities and the language politics within each community are
described, as well as the family's establishment of a French-speaking
community through the purchase of a cottage in Québec and the role this
played in family bilingualism. Additionally, issues of discipline and
profanity are reported, reflecting how culture and contextual language
preference can help shape a family's bilingualism.

Chapter Six details the role of academics in the acquisition of the
children's French, and also addresses some of the parents' concerns about
the effects of bilingualism and immersion programs on academic outcomes.
This chapter is interesting in that it underscores the effects of
socio-economic status on academic achievement and the relative minimal
effect of bilingualism, at least for language majority students. The
children's proficiency in French is also discussed, specifically in terms
of the French Proficiency Survey, which measures perceptions of language
proficiency, rather than actual performance.

The role of reading, hobbies and the media are discussed in Chapter Seven,
which outlines the prevalence of English in American day-to-day life. The
manipulation of media such as television to create rich immersion
environments is detailed here, along with the conversely detrimental role
of television programming and similar media in adolescent life in terms of
maintaining bilingualism. This chapter also reflects some of the
limitations bilingual parents face in fostering the use of a minority
language in the home, given the prevalence of the majority language, and
English in particular, in the field of information technology and certain
hobbies. This chapter also outlines some of the benefits the Caldas
children had growing up with two educators as parents, particularly in
terms of the literacy resources available to the children through the
mother, who is an elementary French immersion teacher.

Chapters Eight, Nine, and Ten constitute the gem of this study, as they
follow the three bilingual children throughout adolescence and address how
the social pressures typical of adolescence affect not only the children's
bilingualism, but also their perceptions of themselves as bilinguals and
members of a bilingual family. These chapters detail the struggles of both
the parents and the children in negotiating language use in the family and
overcoming adolescent resistance. The formation of adolescent identity is
also explored in the context of bilingual t(w)eens in a largely monolingual
society. The power of peer groups in language choice and identity is
particularly well described, given the varying peer groups the children had
in Louisiana and Québec.

As mentioned previously, the quantitative data collected throughout the
study are analyzed in Chapter Eleven, with a specific focus on each family
member's language preference, as determined through the Bilingual
Preference Ratio. The language preferences of the children are also
correlated, and the longitudinal results of Edelman's Contextualized
Measure of Degree of Bilingualism (Edelman 1969) and the French Proficiency
Survey are analyzed. It is important to note here that language
proficiency per se was never formally assessed, so there are no
quantitative data available for a comparison of the children's abilities to
their age-appropriate monolingual counterparts. However, the academic and
social accomplishments of the children attest to their French and English
abilities, as do their peers' and family members' perceptions.

Lastly, Chapter Twelve offers a number of suggestions for parents raising
bilingual-biliterate children in the United States. Although these
suggestions reflect the findings of the study, they cannot be extrapolated
to every bilingual family, despite the author's attempt to do so. Some
suggestions, such as the need for authentic societal immersion, are
supported by research beyond this study, while other suggestions,
particularly regarding minority language parents, fail to take current
research into account. For instance, the author briefly supports the
effectiveness of structured immersion for English Language Learners (ELLs),
using data from his study as well as anecdotal evidence from a fellow
student from his high school years. Similarly, Caldas also supports the
Time on Task approach (Porter 1990, Rossell & Baker, 1996), equating it
essentially with first language acquisition. Neither of these discussions
is well-informed by the research, as the author cites Crawford (1998) for
each, despite the vast amount of more current and comprehensive research.
For instance, Crawford (2004), Rolstad, Mahoney & Glass (2005) and Genesse,
Lindholm-Leary, Saunders, & Christian (2006) all offer excellent overviews
and analyses of the research on language minority education, including
immersion programs. This oversight is unfortunate, given the extensiveness
of the book, as it detracts from what the study does have to offer in terms
of understanding bilingualism, especially in adolescence.


Although this case study provides a wealth of data concerning how one
family raised bilingual-biliterate children, the greatest danger is that
the findings will be extrapolated to families in different socio-political
contexts. Similar to how Canadian French Immersion programs have been
translated into English Immersion programs in the United States with
limited success, the suggestions and practices detailed in this study do
not reflect the needs of minority language children learning English,
though the author suggests that they do. Without a doubt, the Caldas
family enjoys a certain level of privilege that is reflected not in their
bilingualism, but in the resources available and differing obstacles
encountered in maintaining that bilingualism.

Above all else, Caldas fails to address the fact that he and his family are
pursuing a policy of additive bilingualism, which is sustained outside of
the home. The Caldas twins are supported in their French-speaking efforts
in their French immersion program, and all three children are validated as
French speakers in Québec, at some points despite their accents. The study
also reports supportive attitudes from peers and family in Québec regarding
the children's bilingualism and reports a noticeable lack of negative
attitudes in the United States towards the children's and family's use of
French. Additionally, the parents understand both languages, reading and
other materials are readily available and encouraged in both languages, the
children are learning English and French simultaneously, and they are given
sufficient support in doing so in school and at home. These factors all
contribute to the children being validated and accepted as accomplished
speakers of both languages. This does not reflect the experiences of most
minority language families, where the ability to speak a language other
than English is not valued beyond the home and where children are
continually defined by how much (or little) English they know. One can
imagine that the Caldas family's journey to bilingualism would be very
different if neither parent spoke English or if the family came from a less
prestigious language background. Indeed, many of the resources the Caldas
family relied on, such as the cottage in Québec, French reading and media
materials, immersion programs, and a general knowledge of educational
methods and resources, are not readily available to traditionally bilingual
(language minority) families in the United States.

Though the study is extensive already, understanding the family's
bilingualism could be augmented by other lines of research. For instance,
Caldas does not address code switching, although he refers to language
mixing in his data and even prescriptively refers to speaking Franglais as
''sloppy'' (p. 42). Despite this view, it would be interesting to revisit
the data to look at familial code switching, particularly in terms of
identity and language negotiation. Similarly, how language use was
actively negotiated, particularly among the children, would likely be
another fruitful area of research. These suggestions for further research
are not meant as criticisms of the current study; however, given the
obvious wealth of data, there is much else that could be done with it.

_Raising Bilingual-Biliterate Children in Monolingual Cultures_ is
comprehensive for its context, although the book needs to be read with care
by those unfamiliar with bilingual education research, as the findings of
this study are not entirely applicable to minority language families, such
as those with children in structured immersion programs. Despite this, the
study does provide excellent insight into a number of factors affecting
familial bilingualism and raising children who are bilingual and
biliterate. Of these, Caldas spends the most time exploring how his
children negotiated bilingualism during adolescence, both in Louisiana and
Québec, and invites the reader to observe these turbulent times with humor
and empathy. It is commendable that Caldas is willing to share his
family's experiences in such detail, as the study is a valuable
contribution to the field of bilingualism.


Caldas, S. J. and Caron-Caldas, S. C. (2000). The influence of family,
school and community on 'bilingual preference': Results from a
Louisiana/Quebec case study. Applied Linguistics, 21, 365-81.

Crawford, J. (1998). Ten fallacies about bilingual education. Retrieved
from ERIC at

Crawford, J. (2004). Educating English Learners: Language diversity in the
classroom (5th ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Bilingual Education Services, Inc.

Döpke, S. (1992). One parent, one language: An interactional approach.
Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Edelman,M. (1969). Contextualized measures of degree of bilingualism.
Modern Language Journal, 53, 179-182.

Genesse, F., Lindholm-Leary, K., Saunders, W., & Christian, D. (Eds.).
(2006). Educating English Language Learners: A synthesis of research
evidence. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Porter, R. (1990). Forked tongue: The politics of bilingual education. New
York: Basic Books.

Romaine, S. (1995). Bilingualism (2nd ed.). Oxford: Blackwell.

Rolstad, K., Mahoney, K., & Glass, G. V. (2005). The big picture: A
meta-analysis of program effectiveness research on English Language
Learners. Educational Policy, 19, 572-594.

Rossell, C. H. & Baker, K. (1996). The education effectiveness of bilingual
education. Review of Educational Research, 75(2), 247-284.

Taeschner, T. (1983). The sun is feminine: A study on language acquisition
in bilingual children. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.

Saunders, G. (1982). Bilingual children: Guidance for the family. Clevedon,
UK: Multilingual Matters.

Kara T. McAlister is a Ph.D. student in the Mary Lou Fulton College of
Education at Arizona State University. Her research interests include
formal aspects of bilingualism, second language acquisition, and
code-switching, as well as teacher preparation in bilingual education. She
currently teaches Masters' level language and methods courses for pre- and
in-service teachers, and is particularly interested in facilitating
teachers' understanding of language in the classroom.

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