I’ve been promising for years to write a post about pedagogical translanguaging. In fact, probably about five years! But I always get stuck in the details… I want to present it accurately, and really show how it works. So I created (with the help of Ollydave) this short explainer video, so people can have a 2-minute introduction to a complex topic. Click on the picture above and enjoy!
… the real issue is not whether they should become bilingual, but how to best support them in their life with two or more languages. (E. Kay-Raining Bird)
I’ve written about the topic quite a few times over the years, because it is one that causes parents great concern. It is also a topic where misinformation is rife – one of the most common pieces of poor advice that parents get is from speech and language therapists, telling them their child is language delayed because they are bilingual. This is an incorrect presumption, but all too common. The following advice is almost always to drop a language, and of course, the language to be dropped is one of the home languages. The potential consequences for a child losing access to a language they have been exposed to all their life range from social isolation within the family to insufficient cognitive development, but they are always significant and avoidable. The article linked below is an interview with Elizabeth Kay-Raining Bird, who has been researching bilingualism in children with three different profiles: SLI (Specific Language Impairment), Down’s Syndrome, and ASD (Austism Spectrum Disorders).
The full article is on Francois Grosjean’s great blog Life as a Bilingual.
A few weeks ago I sat down with Donna Bardsley at Amsterdam Mamas, to record a podcast on bilingualism and bilingual education. The topics ranged from my own experience raising three kids with three languages, to the more complex, and compelling, issue of how language status affects children who are becoming bilingual. I’ve written about language status here before (like this one) but in this podcast we get a chance to go in depth on a topic that is often overlooked in discussions about bilingualism.
Many of you may have heard me speak over the years at different events, but for those who haven’t, here is a chance to hear me live, on the Web! Click on the logo below to link to the podcast. Interview starts at 3:40.
It’s that time a year again… once the school year is up and running, parents start thinking about how things are going with their little bilingual children. I meet more parents in the Sept-Nov block than at any other time of year! I visit many schools to provide parents with an opportunity to learn more about how to help their children become successfully bilingual. For readers who have children in schools that I don’t visit (sorry!) there is an open-invitation seminar next week in Amsterdam as well.
My “Raising Bilingual Children” seminar is one of my favourites; I’ve been working on it for years, and each family I meet contributes to my understanding on bilingual/multilingual families and adds to my “book learning” and research background. I pack as much good information as possible into the 2-hour session, along with some moments of humour and time for asking questions. So if you are raising your children with two or more languages, this session will give you a solid understanding of the elements for success, and how to consider your family situation to make the best plan possible (and then how to change the plan when you need to….).
Thursday, October 15, 20:00-22:00 at the Jacaranda Tree Montessori – you can register at the link below.
You may have noticed (if you notice these things…) that’s it been a bit quiet on my end these days. I keep telling myself that I will blog “manyana” and well manyana never comes…. it’s not for lack of interest, it’s really just for lack of time (and sometimes inspiration).
Cue drum roll for excuses… I’ve just been really, really busy… Good busy, but busy nonetheless. I now lecture two days a week in a pre-service teacher training program (Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences), which gives me the opportunity to try and impact attitudes and practice about bilingualism in schools, which I think is so important. And I’ve had the chance to work with so many great schools over the last couple of years, from the German European School of Singapore to the Aga Khan Academy Mombasa and also local schools in the Netherlands as well. So it’s not that I’ve stopped caring about bilingualism and bilingual education, it’s just that I’m so busy talking about it that I have no time to write about it!
I’m planning several upcoming posts on schools and school issues, inspired by some of my work over the last year. I’d be delighted to write more posts for parents as well, but I am sadly lacking inspiration for new topics (I’ve written so many already!). If you are a parent with a question about your child’s bilingualism, or your plan, and you’d be happy to have me answer in blog form (no names or identifying information) – please do send on your question! You can use the contact form on the site, or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
This welcome attention to English learners, however, will become hollow rhetoric if the federal government does not fund significant professional development for teachers. A majority of teachers today report that they do not feel prepared to work with English learners, and most teachers in fact have limited or no training regarding the unique challenges and opportunities that accompany teaching English learners.
This is an issue that has been a major part of my work for the last years – teachers who have language learners in their classrooms need appropriate and comprehensive training. And these days, that means most teacher need training. While this article focuses on the US, the situation is no different in most parts of the world. In Europe, economic migration is pouring children into local schools that need to learn the language *and* keep their own language to succeed at school. In the UK 1 in 6 primary school children do not speak English at home (check NALDIC for good statistics) and other countries are close behind. Pre-service teacher training programs need to address this as a part of initial teacher training, and schools need to address this by providing substantial training to all in-service teachers and support staff. It’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity!
On average, it took the students 3.8 years to reach English proficiency. But over the course of the study, almost 20 percent of students did not score high enough on the state exam to be reclassified.
This is such a big question in education these days; how long does it take learners to become proficient in a new language through schooling? Most often, children are “graduated” from language support (where available) in a year or two. Very few schools can implement the 3-9 years of language support needed to ensure all children reach proficiency in the school language. This small-scale study in the US shows that learners took, on average, 3.8 years to reach proficiency, living in an English-speaking environment. We could extrapolate from this to presume that learners living in environments where the school language is not supported outside school (in international contexts) would need more time and support. How does your school, or your child’s school, measure up?
Education in the mother language is an essential part of achieving these goals – to facilitate learning and to bolster skills in reading, writing and mathematics,” she added, noting that taking this forward will require a sharper focus on teaching training, revisions of academic programmes and the creation of suitable learning environments.
Yes, yes and yes!
Firstly, I’d like to say that I think there should be more books for kids about being bilingual. I’ve had an idea in my head for years for a children’s book, but it’s still in my head…
Bilingual books are important not only to help children achieve literacy in both languages, but also to help them integrate their two (or more worlds) and see them represented in the same stories and books – much as the two or more sides of themselves, culturally, are integrated into one person. They are also very important for showing minority language speakers that their language has as much value and use as the school language, and for helping parents participate in the literacy process in their own language.
Diglot Books, make great bilingual books for kids, including an outstanding alphabet series – what bilingual child has not been confused when faced with a monolingual alphabet book? The unfortunate thing is that there are not so many books and languages available through Diglot – developing these books and getting good translations and getting them printed is all expensive in an increasingly digital world. So, if you are looking for books with Cornish (yes, really!), Dutch, French, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish or Welsh, this site is for you.
Nik Nak is a Belgian organisation that produces bilingual books in Dutch and other languages. They have quite a wide range of languages, many of which are minority languages, which is great. I’ve heard (anecdotally) that some of the translations are not fantastic but in my opinion, a bilingual book in the hand is worth two in the head…
Readers – please comment on this if you know of other bilingual book resources for children – I’d like to build up a hopefully-comprehensive list on my resources page.
Way to go California – recognising that being a language learner lasts a lot longer than the 1-2 years support usually given. It’s a first step in narrowing the gap between those-who-can in the school language and those-who-can’t… now let’s follow it up with Mother Tongue/first language teaching in schools, and models that promote positive bilingualism rather than shift to monolingualism, and with proper training for all staff – teaching and non-teaching – that work with these pupils!