By Sari Pietikäinen, Alexandra Jaffe, Helen Kelly-Holmes, Nik Coupland
Sociolinguistics from the Periphery "presents a fascinating book about change: shifting political, economic and cultural conditions; ephemeral, sometimes even seasonal, multilingualism; and altered imaginaries for minority and indigenous languages and their users"
Review of Language Strategies for Bilingual Families
Date: Thu, 28 Oct 2004 23:09:28 +0800 From: Beate Luo Subject: Language Strategies for Bilingual Families
Author: Barron-Hauwaert, Suzanne Title: Language Strategies for Bilingual Families Subtitle: The One-Parent One-Language Approach Series Title: Parents & Teachers Guides Publisher: Multilingual Matters Year: 2004
Dr. Beate Luo, Feng Chia University, Taiwan
This 220-page monograph shows the results of a questionnaire given to over 100 families and additional interviews of 30 families. It aims at answering the question how successful the 'one-person-one-language' (OPOL) strategy is, where each parent speaks his or her native language. In addition, it examines other strategies such as 'mixed use', 'minority language at home', 'trilingual', 'non-native', and 'time and place'.
The author, Suzanne Barron-Hauwaert, specialized in bilingualism and bilingual education. She has published several publications on this subject and is a member of the Editorial Board for The Bilingual Family Newsletter. In addition, she has gained substantial experience in the education of bilingual children by becoming herself a mother of two bilingual children.
The introduction states the ten questions the author wanted to investigate in her study, gives an overview of the organization of the book, some background information on the selection of families for the questionnaire and the interviews, as well as on the author herself.
Part one of the first chapter deals with the origin of OPOL, summarizes the most important research done on child bilingualism, and looks at parents' opinions about OPOL. In part two the author explains the differences between mixing and code-switching, how the first is more a stage in a child's development, the influence parents and their language use have on mixing and code-switching, and what parents think about mixing.
The second chapter focuses on very young children to up to three years. In the first part the author stresses the importance of motherese and fatherese, of the consistency of their language use as well as how exposure to a language may be increased. The second part looks on the stages of development of language learning in two languages, language differentiation, language refusal, and how the 'false monolingual strategy', i.e. one parent pretending that he/she does not understand the majority language, can be used in order to get the child respond in the minority language.
Part one of chapter three addresses the beginning of school and problems related to homework, as well as the question if the other parental language or a third language should be chosen when it comes to choosing a foreign language class. In part two the author talks about the cultural heritage of the parents, as well as bicultural identity and the problem of anomie, and shows how children reacted to growing up with different cultures.
Chapter four is devoted to the interaction between family members using the OPOL approach. Part one looks at the problem how children deal with talking to both parents, switching between languages. In part two the role of the extended family, especially the linguistic role of the grandparents, is discussed, while part three focuses on the language use of siblings when talking together. Part four finally addresses the problems arising with communication with the outside world and visitors, what kind of strategies may be needed or how the strategies used may be adapted in a temporary way, to suit the circumstances.
Chapter five looks at some of the areas, which can affect the success and failure of bringing up children bilingually. The first part discusses how parent's expectation often do not match with the reality, how parent's positive or negative beliefs in their child's potential bilingualism can affect the outcome, what parents think are the advantages and disadvantages of bilingualism, and the influence the prestige of each parental language in the society where they live may have and consequently affect the outcome. The second part concentrates on issues such as isolation of one partner, the one-parent family, speech problems and how these can erode the confidence of the family in supporting bilingualism when under pressure from monolingual speech therapists.
Chapter six focuses on tri- and multilingualism. Part one first gives a definition of tri- and multilingualism, what parents think about their trilingual children and how they cope with three languages and cultures. Part two of this chapter gives a summary of a study the author made in 1999 on ten trilingual families.
In chapter 7 the author examines other strategies such as 'minority language at home', 'trilingual strategy', 'mixed strategy', 'time and place strategy' and the 'artificial' or 'non-native' strategy besides the 'OPOL ¡V majority-language strongest', and the 'OPOL ¡V minority-language supported by the other parent' strategies and discusses how strategies may change in order to suit the circumstances.
The last chapter gives a summary of all the important issues raised throughout the book and different ways to implement OPOL successfully in a household.
Finally, sources of information for bilingual families and a glossary, which defines key words pertaining to bilingualism, are given.
This book provides an excellent framework for parents who are interested in and concerned by raising bilingual children. Although it has been shown before that the OPOL approach is working, which influence siblings and the extended family may have, etc. (see Taeschner 1983; Doepke 1992; Cunningham- Anderson and Anderson 1999; Baker 2000; Tokuhama- Espinosa 2001; just to name a few), this book still provides a rich resource of information. It gives a detailed summary of the research done before, which is then used to support the many directions and practical advice on how to support a child's linguistic development. Furthermore, the authors own experiences as a member of a bilingual family as well as the comments of parents from the questionnaire and the many case studies give an even deeper insight into the many facets of raising bilingual children. It is thus not just a guide for parents but as well interesting for researchers.
However, there are mainly two criticisms one may have. The first one is the presentation of graphics, which are often not well enough explained. As an example for this I want to mention Figure 2.1 on page 25, captioned 'Age and language proficiency in children'. The data in this figure are presented and discussed in the text as if this was a study where children's competency in two or more languages had been recorded over a period of time, while it actually compares children of different background and different age groups at one specific time with each other. Another example can be found on page 57. Here, the differences in language proficiency between girls and boys are discussed for different age groups, but the corresponding figure (Fig. 3.2) gives data only for boys and girls in total - without separation into age groups.
Another criticism goes to the editor, because the many typing errors in this book are quite annoying. With a bit more proof- reading these errors could have been easily eliminated.
Baker, C. 2000: A parents' and teachers' guide to bilingualism. Multicultural Matters, Clevedon
Cunningham-Anderson, U. and Anderson, S. 1999: Growing up with two languages: A practical guide. Routledge, London
Doepke, S. 1992: One parent, one language. An interactional approach. John Benjamins, Amsterdam
Taeschner, T. 1983: The sun is feminine: A study in language acquisition in childhood. Springer Verlag, Berlin
Tokuhama-Espinosa, T. 2001: Raising multilingual children: Foreign language acquisition and children. Bergin and Garvey, Westport, CT
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ABOUT THE REVIEVER
Dr. Beate Luo is an associate professor at the Foreign Languages and Literature Department of Feng Chia University in Taiwan. Her research interests include teaching English as a Foreign Language, developing course material for English for Specific Purposes, and bilingual education. She is as well a mother of three bilingual children.