This week, I am having a draw to award a family language planning session to one family who attended my mini-seminars at the Delft Mama Toddler Information Fair.
Over the course of three sessions, I met parents choosing to raise their children bilingual, and families who had no choice but to raise their children with more than one language. From “easy” situations like Dutch-English families, to families dealing with four or more desired languages, all of these parents left the session with some good ideas about bilingualism and probably with more questions. Interested parents found their way to my blog, and signed up for the contest. So, what is the prize?
Every family raising bilingual children needs to have, at the very least, one family language plan. The plan follows a child from birth (or later) through to the end of secondary school. The process of creating a family language plan helps parents consider their options, prioritize, and make a plan for success. This includes mapping out where the input in each language will come from (in terms of people and time), how literacy will be approached in each language and how challenges will be dealt with. One plan is fine for families who are living permanently in one location. Families who move, or who may move, need to have alternate plans, each one designed for a certain set of circumstances. For example, a family who are living in the Netherlands, and speak German and Chinese, will have an initial plan that is based on the childcare/schooling opportunities available to them if they stay in the Netherlands. If there is a possibility of the family moving to an English-speaking country, they must have an alternate plan which outlines how they will adjust to continue to meet the goals of German/Chinese bilingualism, and how they will deal with Dutch, if it was a part of their plan. If there is a possibility of the family moving to Germany, they will also have an alternate plan that outlines their bilingual strategy for the target languages of German/Chinese, and any others that were part of their original plan, such as Dutch or English.
The benefits to this type of planning are numerous, and include ensuring quality language input in a variety of situations, and also include elements such as support for literacy and additional languages. By anticipating the language needs of the children across different life circumstances, the parents have a better chance of guiding their children towards full and functional bilingualism.

Stay tuned for the winner of a FREE Family Language Planning Session, announced here on December 1, 2011.