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
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
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
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
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
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
| ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
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.