Sunday, September 25, 2011

Raising a bilingual child

I'm sure a lot of parents have gone through this process, for some, I'm sure it seemed easy, for others challenging.
Even since I said my "I do" in front of my future hubby, I knew I wanted my kids to know Romanian. And when I say "know", I mean: understanding it, speaking, it, writing it, reading it. Even if I'm way too early in this process to say: "I'm gonna be there" or " I will succeed", I just hope our kids will not be only fluent in Romanian and English but also French and at least Spanish.
I strongly believe "bilingualism" and further more "multilingualism" has more benefits then generally people realize.
Because I'm not only a first time mom but also a first timer in raising my baby bilingual, I wanted to have a different view of this matter from the point of view of 2 professionals and mothers in the same time whose kids are already bilingual. That's how I came across and read 2 books:

1. Raising a bilingual child  by Barbara Zurer Pearson, PhD

2. 7 steps to raising a bilingual child by Naomi Steiner, MD

As you may have already noticed the first writer is an academic teacher, the second is a doctor, but both of them are mothers and have raised bilingual kids.

The books are different in approaching the subject but at the end of the day, they draw the same conclusions: how important bilingualism is and that the best way to approach it is by being persistent and consistent.
Basically, the one important method to raise your kids bilingual is OPOL (One Parent One Language), meaning that, for example, in our family's case, I only speak with my kid in Romanian and my husband talks to him in English. It's also important to keep talking to him in the minority language as much as you can during daytime (even if you're out doors or indoors) Pearson would suggest an average of at least 4 hours a day in the minority language. Extra material (like books, songs, Tv etc) in the minority language also helps a lot, as well as the exposure to other people talking in the minority language (like grand parents, cousins, aunts etc)
Always keep in mind that your kid will always be more advanced in the community language (ex. English) than the minority language he/she hears at home.
And also, in the first years of life, it is very normal for the bilingual kids to mix words from both languages. (my son, who is 25 months, mixes words from English and Romanian, having a tendency of learning the easiest words from both languages, but he is perfectly understanding both English and Romanian).
Don't get intimidated by people telling you to stop talking in another language 'cause it will confuse the kid. There's not such thing as that because the human brain is set up in such a way as to absorb as many languages from an early age without any problem.
Bottom line, having read the 2 books, I can not tell I got the winning recipe or the right way to do it! I believe every experience is different as every situation is different. But, by reading the books, I got to understand some situations that I would't have otherwise and I also became more confident I was doing the right thing.
If you want to raise your kid bilingual, first you need to commit yourself to it, stick with it and be persistent. Reading these books or some other material about it also  helps a lot.
As our bilingual journey continues, I will write more about it.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing. I am bilingual, my older kids are (they read and write on extreme need, but they can) and I subscribe to the idea of persistence. I've seen many cases related to romanian and more that resulted in kids not speaking romanian than being able to. And I noticed that kids lost the language when their romanian speaking parents spoke english to them. In a way I am curious how it will work this time, because unlike the other 2, the youngest is in daycare 10 hours/day, previously we had romanian sitters until school age. Hugs and hold grounds, enjoy every little aquisition!!!


I work on movies-I love movies

  • 21 grams
  • 4,3,2 - Mungiu
  • Age of innocence
  • American Beauty
  • An Education
  • Apocalypse now
  • Atonement
  • Blind Side
  • Burn after reading
  • Casino
  • Gone with the wind
  • Good fellas
  • Good Will Hunting
  • Hereafter
  • Inception
  • Julie & Julia
  • Kill Bill - vol 1
  • Kill Bill - vol 2
  • La Vita e bella
  • Mar al dentro
  • Midnight in Paris
  • Million Dollar baby
  • Mystic River
  • Nine
  • Orient, Occident
  • Panth's Labyrinth
  • Slumdog millionaire
  • Some like it hot
  • Sophie's choice
  • The bridge of Madison County
  • The departed
  • The English Patient
  • The Godfather
  • The Hours
  • The Talented Mr. Ripley
  • Train de Vie
  • Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona