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Advantages of bilingualism

The many advantages in becoming bilingual are outlined below

Communication advantages

  • Communication within the family may be improved. Being able to communicate with each parent in the parent‒s preferred language may contribute to making the parent-child relationship closer and enables parents to pass on part of their own heritage to their child. Bilingualism is also valuable in enabling children to communicate with extended family.
  • Wider communication – international links. Bilinguals may also be bridge builders between different language communities.
  • Biliteracy – gives knowledge of different world views and values


Cultural advantages

  • Bilinguals have the opportunity to experience two cultures, complete with behaviour systems, traditions, stories, greetings.In short, they have two windows on the world.
  • Greater tolerance and less racism. It seems likely that bilinguals would be more tolerant of difference and diversity and less likely to be racist but this is yet to be scientifically tested.


Cognitive advantages

  • In tests that measure creative thinking or divergent thinking (e.g. imagine you have a brick/tin can/cardboard box – how many ways could you use it?) bilinguals regularly score higher i.e. they think of more uses than monolinguals. (Most tests do not measure this i.e. IQ measures convergent thinking when there is only one right answer). Bilinguals seem to think more freely, more elaborately and more creatively.

Character advantages

  • Raised self esteem. This may depend on the attitude of the wider community to the languages spoken. However, in general, in Europe/the US, being bilingual is seen as a positive thing (once achieved). Also, the praise and recognition of the second language given by parents in order to achieve bilingualism may also help self esteem.
  • Security in identity. Bilinguals have close links with their heritage, they know who they are and where they come from. Children who loose one half of their linguistic heritage may regret this later.


Curriculum advantages

  • Increased curriculum achievement. Studies have found that bilingual children who have a fairly well developed knowledge of two languages do better at school. This may result from multiple factors, such as higher self esteem, creative thinking and a wider worldview.
  • Bilinguals find it easier to learn a third language than monolinguals find it to learn a second language – two thirds of studies show this result, the other third could find no difference. It is not yet known why this should be – it could be down to higher confidence.

Cash advantages

  • Economic and employment. Studies show that bilinguals earn more on average in the US and more recently in the UK. As companies become more and more international there is a need for bilinguals in media, sales, marketing, customer services. Although children may resist one language, by the time that they are young adults almost without exception they are extremely grateful to have two (or more) languages. The short term struggle is worth it in the long term.
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Common concerns

My partner doesn’t speak or understand my language. I feel that s/he is being excluded from family life because s/he does not understand conversations between my child and me.

Our members have had different ways of dealing with this. Much depends on whether the partner is him or herself supportive of the decision to raise the child bilingually. Some partners have used the opportunity of hearing the language spoken to begin to learn the language – perhaps backed up by an evening class – this is easier for those with an ear for language and some confidence than for others.

In other cases, agreement has been reached that any very significant or important interactions are repeated in English for the partners’ benefit. A number of people have told us that they allowed this concern to influence the language they spoke with their first child (who is not, or who is less, bilingual) but decided with the second that they should just go ahead and not let this worry them (and in each case the second child is much better able to understand and willing to speak both languages.) Where the partner is very anti-bilingualism, it does make things very difficult, we know a number of cases where one parent has stuck to their guns and the partner has eventually come round.

I have read that it is very important to have a system and not to switch things around. Despite this, I find it very difficult to stick to speaking one language to my children.

This raises a number of points and it is a difficult area where the experts don’t agree. Over 90% of bilinguals switch and mix their languages. This is normal. Professional translators are given special training and lots of practice to stop them doing this. If you find you can’t stop switching, this is normal. It is not something to feel guilty about and it is one of the instances where you should maybe invest energy in reinforcing the language in other ways, rather than putting all of your efforts into sticking to one language at all times – and seeing this as the most important thing in terms of achieving bilingualism. If you are in a family where each parent speaks one language, it may be more of a problem if the parent not usually speaking the community language (here English) starts to switch frequently into that language. Doing this will reduce the amount of the other language the child will hear – although we know of many families where this has been the case and the children are still bilingual. In some cases, but by no means always, frequent switching is the first step of a process whereby the person stops speaking their language most of the time and talks in English. Switching may be more of a problem for very young babies and toddlers (who have not necessarily worked out that two different languages are involved). Once your child can distinguish and says things like Grandma speaks Spanish/Swahili etc, this is almost certainly not going to be a problem. It is certainly our experience that when the parent who would normally speak the community language (English) switches into a minority language e.g. Farsi, French, etc it can be very positive for the child. It reinforces the language which is getting the least input/support. The fact that the person may speak the language imperfectly may also not be a problem as long as the child is hearing a mother tongue speaker as well. What is almost certainly a bad idea is when wholesale changes are involved before children understand that separate languages are involved. E.g. a couple who both speak Spanish to their child whilst living in England decide that the mother will switch to English when they move to a Spanish speaking country in order to retain the children’s English. One of their children, who is around one year old is very confused by this. Older children adjust fine.

My child understands my language but won’t speak it

This is extremely common – it is usually a phase and usually quite short lived – although some members’ children have kept this up for several years. Spending time in a place where that language is the community language, (for those for whom this is an option) almost always solves it (when the child is good and ready i.e. not necessarily the first time you try this). This is possibly because speaking that language starts to become normal instead of the exception, but also since if the children want to ask for anything to anyone apart from their parents, they need to ask in the language they are reluctant to speak.

This works particularly well with relatives and friends you may be staying with. It helps if parents refuse to translate. If you find this difficult to resist, some members have arranged to leave children alone with grandparents and aunts to help this process along. It can also work well with other children – e.g. around a hotel swimming pool.

Clearly it only works if the community does not speak the child’s other language(s) and so will not respond if they make the request in that language. This type of scenario can be engineered without travelling by arranging for childcare by a relative or friend or carer who either genuinely speaks only the language the child is reluctant to speak or who is prepared to pretend to only speak and understand that language (obviously not an option if your child has heard this person talking English in the past).

The good news is that once your child has decided to speak, it is a bit like a switch being turned on, within days, they will make sentences and in many cases the switch stays on once they get home.

Some members have reported the process taking over 3 weeks, others under two weeks. It is probably the case that a concentrated day in day out process is needed – one day every week of the minority language may or may not be enough – let us know if you know of people who have done this without a concentrated period and it has worked.

My child says she doesn’t understand when I explain things in my language and asks me to reply in English.

This tends to be an issue with slightly older children who are spending some time in an English language environment whether at daycare, a nursery school or school itself. It can be even more the case with children at school who are given homework in English.

Members have different views about this. Many are concerned that children have the vocabulary in English to discuss the subjects at school. Many are concerned that their children genuinely won’t understand the answers in another language and will be none the wiser.

Others feel that children will never gain the full range of vocabulary or concepts in their other language, if these issues are only discussed or explained in English. Even if their other language is less developed, they argue that even complex issues can be expressed in relatively simple language that the child can understand. (A slightly different question arises when a child asks for a word to be translated. Here most of our members would give the child the requested translation – if they know it! – although some would instead refer the child to the parent who normally speaks that language with them if they are present.)

Is it possible to learn and speak perfectly 3 or more languages in parallel ?

I don’t feel confortable speaking my language in family or public because nobody understands and I don’t want to be rude

Should I first teach speaking the language and then reading and writing ?

Can I switch the family language when my child is a toddler ?

Our family is relocating to a different country, what are the language issues ?

At what age is it best to start teaching my child a second or third language ? When is it too late

discontinuity in learning another language, gaps ?

I have been advised by a professional, not expert in bilingualism, to stop speaking another language to my child

how to handle status and negativity towards a language

missed opportunity and regrets

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Alan Bradley

Alan Bradley was our first guest-speaker on the 6th November 2003.


He began by highlighting the varying situations of languages in Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Indonesia, India, Italy, Iraq and the Isle of Man. The languages varied from one that was now effectively extinct (Isle of Man) through widely used international languages (Italian), languages which had been not valued (Kurdish in Iraq), languages which were once suppressed but are now valued (Irish Gaelic) etc.

He also mentioned his experience of teaching Spanish A level evening classes where a large proportion of his students were mother tongue language speakers – i.e. parents bringing up children bilingually probably know a lot more than he can do. He mentioned that the academic field in bilingualism is still in its infancy, at an early stage of understanding and there is very little that the academics can say for certain. The research focuses on particularly difficult areas that we still don’t understand e.g. how the human brain works and how human being interact.

In the meantime, each family has a wealth of experience that they have acquired by trial and error. The only problem with this is that it is tempting to believe that what has worked for you will always work for others (to project your solution) whereas in fact each family is different. Academics can get together data from large numbers of families to try to determine what works for most people. In the academic field, until the 1960, most academics in the UK believed that bilingualism was not a good thing – was confusing for children etc.

Bilingual children were seen as being at a disadvantage, having a problem they had to overcome. This was known as the “deficit model. This linked into the prevalent politics of the time – with Britain running a colonial empire and English was imposed as a language all over the world. (One theme that emerged throughout Alan’s talk was the close link between languages and power). This also explained why there were absurd punishments for children caught speaking Welsh in schools and so on. Academics prior to the 1960’s used incredibly crude techniques to try to demonstrate that bilinguals had lower IQ scores i.e. they tested recent immigrants to the USA who were English Russian bilingual on tests which relied on a knowledge of baseball and then concluded when people failed that they were not intelligent!This also explained why there were absurd punishments for children caught speaking Welsh in schools and so on. Academics prior to the 1960’s used incredibly crude techniques to try to demonstrate that bilinguals had lower IQ scores i.e. they tested recent immigrants to the USA who were English Russian bilingual on tests which relied on a knowledge of baseball and then concluded when people failed that they were not intelligent !

The UK is still a society that does not value bilingualism and despite the multicultural variety of a city like London (possibly the most multicultural city in the world), very little is done to promote bilingualism. At every stage of life from pregnancy, health visitors to childcare to primary and later schooling and exams, monolingualism is the expected rule and bilingualism the exception.

Alan provided some useful working definitions that people use to talk about bilingual situations

Cultural capital: The value or assets that a person possesses that consist of their knowledge, skills, education, culture, and language. Not financial, though it may lead to financial success.

Code switching: Changing from one language to another in a conversation

Ethnolinguistic vitality: If this is high, a language group is likely to flourish in an intergroup context. Connected to numbers of speakers, status of the language, and the group’s control of the language.

Linguistic imperialism: The imposition of a language by a colonial power; the use of one language to dominate others.

Linguicide: The destruction or killing of a language. This may be done deliberately, or by neglect – which is often the same thing.

Linguistic landscape: The visibility or presence of a language in the surroundings: e.g. posters, signs, music. Research has suggested that the extent that a language is used in multilingual situations can be linked to how visible it is in the landscape.

Finally, Alan set out the results of a piece of research that he had learnt about whilst attending a conference in Bristol. The researcher was Annick De Houwer.
The study looked at home language use of 18,016 families of which 1866 involved a family where a language other than Dutch was used at home. The research was carried out in a Dutch speaking area of Belgium – Flanders.
The research on the 1800+ families discovered that the position of the child in the family (i.e. first child, middle child, last child) had no overall effect on whether or not the child spoke a minority language at home.
The group discussed this and several people could give examples where the first or second child had either acquired a minority language more quickly or where there had been a lot more resistance. It was agreed that different factors may come in to play with children at different ages and depending on the gaps between the children and so it was likely that there were a variety of positive and negative factors that had cancelled each other out statistically in the research.
The research also discovered that the gender of the parent using a language other than Dutch to the children statistically made no difference. Several of the group (including the note taker!) were very surprised (so much so that I stopped taking proper notes!). It was suggested that although it was still more common for women to be the primary care giver and to spend more time with children, it may also be true that men still tend to have higher status that women both within families and within society. This may mean that the children are more keen to speak the higher status language spoken by their father and this cancels out the greater time input from their mother. ( A great PhD for someone here!)

On the other hand, the language other than Dutch spoken by the parent did have an effect. Moroccan Arabic and Turkish were the languages most likely to be spoken by the children compared to other European languages. The group speculated about some of the possible reasons for this: large communities, strong traditions, mothers who may not work and who may not learn Dutch. All agreed and Alan confirmed that the difference between the languages i.e. coming from very different language groups with different grammars and so on makes no difference (Turkish is from a very different language family from Dutch) but clearly other factors (as yet not clearly determined) do.

The other factor that did make a difference was whether the parents spoke Dutch or a minority language to each other…

98% of families where both parents spoke a minority language and neither spoke Dutch had at least one child who spoke the minority language at home.

96% of families where both parents speak the same minority language but one parent also speaks Dutch had at least one child who spoke the minority language at home.90% of families where both parents speak the same minority language and both speak Dutch had at least one child who spoke the minority language at home.
79% of families where one parent spoke the minority language and one parent spoke Dutch had at least one child who spoke the minority language at home.

48% of families where one parent speaks the minority language and both parents speak Dutch had at least one child who spoke the minority language at home.

Alan began by highlighting the varying situations of languages in Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Indonesia, India, Italy, Iraq and the Isle of Man. The languages varied from one that was now effectively extinct (Isle of Man) through widely used international languages (Italian), languages which had been not valued (Kurdish in Iraq), languages which were once suppressed but are now valued (Irish Gaelic) etc.

He also mentioned his experience of teaching Spanish A level evening classes where a large proportion of his students were mother tongue language speakers – i.e. parents bringing up children bilingually probably know a lot more than he can do. He mentioned that the academic field in bilingualism is still in its infancy, at an early stage of understanding and there is very little that the academics can say for certain.

The research focuses on particularly difficult areas that we still don’t understand e.g. how the human brain works and how human being interact.In the meantime, each family has a wealth of experience that they have acquired by trial and error. The only problem with this is that it is tempting to believe that what has worked for you will always work for others (to project your solution) whereas in fact each family is different. Academics can get together data from large numbers of families to try to determine what works for most people.

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Amy Thompson

Amy Thompson from Speak to the Future – campaign for languages, the UK Federation of Chinese Schools and Chair at NALDIC – National Subject Association for EAL. (september 2012)


EAL is the “other side” of bilingualism. According to the January 2011 School Census, nearly 1 million pupils in English schools speak another language in addition to English. There are 16 languages which are spoken by more than 10,000 pupils. These numbers are comparable to the number of pupils with special educational needs (SEN), but the provision available is not comparable. The most spoken languages are Panjabi, Urdu, Bengali and Polish. There are 300 languages registered as being spoken in London.

Government policy to make learning foreign languages non-compulsory has led to a decline in language learning. (Schools are subject to pressure from league tables and it is considered more difficult for pupils to achieve high grades in languages.) The introduction of the English Baccalaureat (Ebac) has done a bit to reverse this trend.

In European survey on language competence, England performed very poorly. Only 9% of 14-15 year old pupils studying French in England reach the level of being “an independent language user who can deal with straightforward, familiar matters.” The corresponding figure for the 14 countries surveyed – usually for pupils learning English – is 42%. 30% of pupils in English schools do not reach the level of “a basic user who can use very simple language with support.”

75% of the world is bilingual. According to the Eurobarometer opinion poll on EU citizens’ attitudes towards multilingualism and foreign language learning, 72% of people in the UK think that everyone in the EU should be able to speak at least one other language as well as their mother tongue. However, only 39% of people in the UK (one quarter of whom are native speakers of other languages who can converse in English) are able to hold a conversation in a foreign language. This compares to an EU average of 54%. The UK remains near the bottom of the EU table.

There is a big discrepancy between the uptake of foreign languages in private and state schools. The languages taught in primary schools are dominated by French (89% of schools in 2008), Spanish (25%) and German (10%), while a small number of schools (3% or under) offered Italian, Chinese, Japanese and Urdu. The main languages taught in secondary schools are French, German and Spanish. Others include Italian, Russian, Mandarin, Japanese, Urdu and Bengali

The future of language teaching in primary schools will depend on the review of the National Curriculum (but the program struggles with the lack of expertise among primary teachers.) The government has decided not to proceed with the new primary curriculum which would have made language learning statutory in Key Stage 2. However, it has confirmed its commitment to the importance of primary languages, saying that it believes that language skills are important to the social and economic future of the country.

In the secondary sector, the government has said it is committed to increasing the number of pupils studying languages post 14. In 2011, they introduced the Ebac, by which schools will have to report on how many young people achieve A*-C grades at GCSE in English, maths, a science, a language and a humanity.

There are 16 languages with GCSE accreditation – these can change depending on the number of entries. Asset languages system – thinking of getting rid of some languages because they are not commercially viable.

There are many challenges ahead. The numbers of pupils studying French and German at GCSE plummeted by 54% between 2002 and 2011. There was some reversal of this trend in 2012 primarily due to the inclusion of languages in the Ebac. A’level entries for languages have fallen. One third of university language departments closed between 2002 and 2009. 60% of employers are not satisfied with the foreign language skills of graduates. There is a shortage of English mother tongue interpreters at the European Commission.

The objectives of Speak to the Future are to reverse the downward trends in the coming years, build on positive developments and ensure that languages are truly valued in this country.

Useful websites:
www.speaktothefuture.org
www.naldic.org.uk
www.all-languages.org.uk
www.cilt.org.uk
www.supplementaryeducation.org.uk

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Charmain Kenner

Charmian is a specialist in bilingualism and biliteracy (learning to read and write in two languages), a Lecturer at Goldsmiths College and the author of books about biliteracy.

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Jean-Marc Dewaele – 2004

Jean-Marc Dewaele is Professor in Applied Linguistics and Multilingualism at Birkbeck College, University of London. He has published widely on individual differences in psycholinguistic, sociolinguistic, pragmatic, psychological and emotional aspects of Second Language Acquisition and Multilingualism.

He came to talk to our group on 14th December 2004.

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Li Wei

Professor Li Wei of Newcastle University is a well known researcher on bilingualism. Many bilingual parents intend to stick to speaking one language to their children, but some find themselves switching unconsciously. Professor Li Wei is the leading authority on this area of linguistics and came to talk to our group on 5th March 2005.

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The resource Unit – 2006

The resource Unit held a talk for WFBG member on 25th September 2006.

The Unit runs training for people wanting to set up a school or who are already teachers or on management committees. 
You can contact them on 020 7700 8189 or on info@resourceunit.com.

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Virginia Gathercole – 2006

Virginia Müller Gathercole is a Professor at the School of Psychology at the University of Wales Bangor. She is a specialist in bilingualism in very young children. Her main research in language acquisition was for monolinguals but she also studied some bilinguals (Spanish/English in Miami and Welsh/English).

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Vicky Obied

GUEST SPEAKER on 7th December 2013 

at the Limes 3.30 – 5.30 pm

Vicky Obied will come to talk to the group about the issues that may arise in multilingual families when the children are around secondary school age and get into the teenage years. 

Having herself raised two multilingual children through their teenage phase, as well as carried out research that involved interviewing multilingual teenagers, Vicky will share her insights about this phase of multilingual family life.

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Colin Baker

Colin Baker, Professor of Education at Bangor University, came to talk to our group on 16th September 2006. He is the author of a number of books including : A Parent and Teachers Guide to Bilingualism, Encyclopedia of Bilingualism and Bilingual Education and B is for Papillon, Biliteracy in the home. Although an academic, Colin Baker is clearly committed to practical aspects of how to make bilingualism work in the family and at school.

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Francesca La Morgia – 2010

Francesca La Morgia talked to your group on 2nd October 2010. She is an academic specialist in multilingualism and has also set up a group to help multilingual familes in Ireland where she is based. Francesca will share with us her expericence and talk a little about the group she has set up: Bilingual Forum Ireland.

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Books of interest

Growing up with Languages


Reflections on Multilingual Childhoods
By Claire Thomas

Primarily aimed as a practical resource for parents, but also of interest to students and researchers because of its unique content, it includes recollections and advice on many of the common issues or dilemmas that arise in multilingual families.

A team at WFGB interviewed 50 adults about their memories of growing up speaking two or more languages. We did this because we had often been told that although children sometimes had mixed feelings about being multilingual during their childhoods, once they reached adulthood they invariably were very positive and grateful that they had been raised speaking more than one language. We felt that investigating this a bit more would create a book that would boost the morale of parents in multilingual families and might also give them some sense of what their children were feeling. The interviews covered a wide range of issues and people growing up in different situations and countries. The results were analysed by Claire Thomas and written up into a book.

Waltham Forest Bilingual Group has a limited number of copies available. Pick up a copy at our monthly sessions at the Limes centre in Walthamstow or order online below.

All profit from sales through WFBG will go to help cover running costs and support to multilingual families by the group.

Summary by Multilingual Matters:

A unique new insight into multilingual families, this book views multilingual childhoods from the point of the child and is based on over 50 interviews with adults who grew up in multilingual settings. The book charts their recollections of their childhoods and includes many different types of families, discusses many of the common issues that arise in multilingual families, and draws examples from all over the world. The book fills a significant gap in the literature and resources available to multilingual parents. It was researched and written by a self-help group of multilingual parents and thus the book remains very practical and gives clear and realistic advice to multilingual parents facing choices or dilemmas. However, because of its unique viewpoint, this book also includes much new material that will be of interest to researchers and students of bilingualism.

Review:

This book looks at the lives and the trajectories of multilinguals and lets them talk about their experiences. The author demonstrates how fluid and dynamic bilingualism is within a family, but it also shows what bilingual families have in common and what can be done to maintain bilingualism. A great book!
Jean-Marc Dewaele, Birkbeck, University of London, UK

This book takes a unique approach in addressing the complexity of multilingual families through the voices of multilinguals. Based on accounts by adults of their multilingual childhood experiences and memories, the author clearly demonstrates the different circumstances of multilingual families and their diverse language practices. The book vividly depicts what it means to be multilingual and spells out the benefits and the challenges associated with it. It is definitely a must for all parents who are raising multilingual children. 
Xiao-lei Wang, Pace University, USA

Claire Thomas’ Growing Up with Languages is a very welcome addition to the growing number of practical books on bilingualism. Straightforward and accessible, it provides information about and insights into bilingual upbringing that parents will find helpful as they chart their way through unknown waters, by giving them a glimpse of possible futures. The approach is original, basing the text on the stories of how adult bilinguals grew up with two or more languages, and providing advice and suggestions that are always grounded in real experience that is easy to understand and relate to. The author’s voice, while authoritative, is never prescriptive and her guidance suggests rather than directs in a way that empowers parents to reach their own particular solution to the challenge of bringing up children bilingually. Eminently readable, this book will undoubtedly become a classic and an important point of reference for all those interested in how people grow up speaking more than one language.
Ricky Lowes, Chair, Plymouth Multilingual Families

Author Biography:

Claire Thomas is herself the mother of two children who are being raised bilingually. She was a founding member of Waltham Forest Bilingual Group and has been Secretary of the group for 8 years. She has helped design and run several different forms of workshops for parents and has discussed bilingual family decisions and dilemmas with literally hundreds of parents. Waltham Forest Bilingual Group is a small, entirely voluntary, group of parents in multilingual families. It provides support to parents in such families in North East London via a regular monthly drop in event, quarterly workshops and speaker events.

All profit from sales of the book through WFBG will go to help cover running costs and support to multilingual families by the group.

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Bilingual families

Article published in local “Surestart” Newsletter in September 2004

Bilingual Families

There are many families in Waltham Forest who speak a language other than English and who wish to make sure that they bring their children up speaking two or more languages. English society is largely a monolingual one, in spite of a large number of minority language communities, and many people here find the idea of bilingualism odd and abnormal. Few are aware that across the world there are more bilingual and trilingual people than there are monolingual ones. Most people in countries like China, India and Kenya speak more than one language.

There are a lot of myths about bilingualism and many people who are not experts have opinions about it – even though their ideas are often ill informed and very out of date. People used to think that speaking two or more languages confused children and delayed their development. This has now been disproved and it is clear that bilingual and trilingual children are at least as intelligent as monolingual ones. In fact their multilingualism seems to give them a more flexible thought pattern which is very helpful in some areas of the curriculum (and in life generally).

As English is such a dominant language in the UK, and because there are no dedicated resources or information points for people raising children bilingually, it is difficult to know where to go for information. Of course, there are specialist speech therapists (including some within the Sure Start office) but their role is really to solve problems that children have in learning to understand and talk at all rather than to help parents encourage children to speak two (or more) languages fully. Many parents have lots of questions: –
• I am a mother tongue speaker of another language, but should I speak English to my children to help them settle into school when the time comes?
• Although I speak to my child in another langugage, he knows I understand English. Will my child think that everyone speaks English and will he or she try to speak it to their grandparents who don’t?
• Does the fact that it is the father in the family who speaks the non-English language (and who spends less time with the children) mean that it is impossible to raise children speaking both languages?
• Will I be able to teach my children to read and write in my language which uses a different alphabet?
Every family is different and there are no easy answers to all of these questions, but just listening to parents who are a few years ahead, whose children may now be in school, who speak two or more languages, can help parents think through these decisions and make the choices that are right for them and for their children. Also sharing these concerns with those who are at the same stage as you, can give you encouragement to continue, on those days when you wonder whether the effort is worthwhile.

In 2001, a group of parents who were all trying to raise their children bilingually got together. We found that between us we had lots of experiences and ideas that we could share. Out of this a small voluntary group was formed – the Waltham Forest Bilingual Group. More than 25 families have now joined. We meet regularly and exchange emails to share experiences and to encourage each other. We also arrange events where speakers come to talk to us about relevant subjects and we give presentations to other groups who ask us to.

‘We would warmly welcome you to join our group, as we are always looking for more members to share experiences and ideas. If you would like to join or to find out more about the group – please call Claire on 020 8531 6448 or Chris on 020 8529 8189.