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Best book about bilingualism?

(24 Posts)
macaco Sun 12-Oct-08 12:10:55

My DS is 6 months and we are doing OPOL (me English, DH Spanish)
I read on a thread here that "growing up with 2 languages" by Staffan Anderson was an interesting book. I wondered if anyone else had any other suggestions?

macaco Mon 13-Oct-08 09:59:10


ManIFeelLikeAWoman Mon 13-Oct-08 10:19:04

Here is the consolidation of what I contributed to a similar thread, “French babies/toddlers in Surrey & bilingual book recommendations”.

“The best books I have found are the books by George Saunders, the Australian who raised his three children bilingually (English/german) though neither he nor his wife was a native speaker of German. They are, I think, out of print, but the first one at least is readily available second hand or via inter-library loans (mine cost about a fiver). Although he was a non-native, a lot of his advice seems sound and would hold good for more "conventional" bilingual families too.

”There's another one I got from Waterstones between Tottenham court road and Russell Square which was very useful and encouraging, but it's at home - I think it's called "The bilingual family - a handbook for parents" but will check tonight if you like.

“BTW the branch of Waterstones is significant - i tried the big one on TCR and they specifically directed me to the more "university" one near Russell Square tube. Or you could get it online, I suppose.

“If any of these books tickle your fancy and you actually want to know more about them, get in touch - happy to help.

”Incidentally, most of what the books tell you in practical terms can be picked up in 5 minutes and thereafter you just apply it as religiously as possible - the main benefit I found was in terms of moral support and hearing that what I was doing was NOT freakish, WOULD be good for mon petit piaf, and COULD be done if only I stuck at it.

”Bonne continuation!”

Hope this is of some help. Where are you based, btw?


Shitemum Mon 13-Oct-08 10:25:54

Right in front of me on the bookshelf are:

Growing up with 2 languages - Una and Stefan Anderson

The Bilingual family - Harding-Esch and Riley


Raising Multilingual children - Tokuhama-Espinosa

I liked the last one best but the other two were useful too.

As ManIFeel says most of it is obvious once you've read them.

I think the most important thing is to decide on a strategy and stick to it. Having said that we are contemplating changing the home language prior to moving country...

Whereabouts are you?

see my thread here

macaco Mon 13-Oct-08 10:27:12

Thank you!

I'm in spain, so the main language will be Spanish, English will come from me, my mum and British friends I have here.

I read about OPOL and decided to do that, with us each speaking only our native languages to DS and we've been doing that since he was born. I was just interested in reading up on it a bit. Particularly because people keep saying "ooh, that's hard work" and I'm a bit baffled by that..seems fine/natural to me. Thought it would be interesting to read up on possible future "problems". He's only 6 months now btw.

Shitemum Mon 13-Oct-08 10:48:19

They say OPOL is the best way to do it because that way the child is getting native languages, I mean he is hearing correct English or whatever not English from someone who learnt it as a second language.

The possible problem with OPOL is when one of the parents doesnt speak the other parents language or doesnt understand it well enough.
I have an English friend with non-english-speaking Spanish partner who did OPOL. It was fine until it got to the stage where the kids were about 3 -6 years old and there were misunderstandings becuase mum would say one thing to the kids and dad wouldnt know what she'd said and contradict her.
Now she speaks Spanish when dad is there and it makes for better family communication which is also important obviously. Since the kids are at Spanish-only school they are now getting very little English and I notice it, particualrly with the younger child. However in the long run I'm sure her kids will still be competent bilinguals as she takes them to the UK every year and they get exposure to Engish through friends and visiting relatives etc.

I think people think it's 'hard work' for the parents as they think you have to work at it and remember which language to speak, but if you are speaking your own lnguage it comes naturally and is therefore easier, no? (having said that our case doesnt fit my theory! - see thread above)
Maybe they think that it's 'hard work' for the child - if they do then they are just ignorant about bilingualism. Many people still think, based on discredited studies done with bilingual kids in the 1950's that bilingualism is bad for children!

Where are you? We're in Granada.

macaco Mon 13-Oct-08 10:57:19

shitemum, what did you like especially about the last one? My DH speaks quite good English, (although we speak in Spanish)so hopefully that family communication thing won't be an issue.
I'm in Sevilla.

Anna8888 Mon 13-Oct-08 10:59:53

This one. Also translated into German and Spanish (and maybe other languages by now).

mammya Mon 13-Oct-08 11:27:21

Hi Macao, I suggest you also have a look at this website
as it has a list of recommended books.

Shitemum Mon 13-Oct-08 20:42:10

macaco - i just liked the style and enthusiasm of the author. It's a while since I read the books i have but as far as i can remember the last one included all the info and ideas of the other two and more. It's the one i always end up lending to friends who say they only have time to read one book on the subject...

Thanks for the links Anna8888 and mammya.

vesela Wed 15-Oct-08 09:47:51

Which are the best books for home/community language bilinguals (with a delayed start in acquisition of the community language)?

What I'm specifically looking for is a book with something on how best to help children who are being educated in a different language from that spoken at home. There's some useful stuff on the net written by and for teachers, but something aimed at parents would be good.

The Andersens' book is very interesting. The main thing I picked up from it (and also from these threads) is how much things vary from child to child. I think they have 4(?) children and their acquisition/use of English and Swedish has been different for each of them...

Shitemum Wed 15-Oct-08 09:57:26

Vesela - how old is your DC?
My DDs were at home with me for the first 2 years of their lives then straight into 6 hours a day pre-school in the ML, Spanish(majority/community language, 'ml' is the minority or second language).

Obviously they were exposed to Spanish as we live here but we didnt see many Spanish speaking people or get out much so their world was really 99% English-speaking before they started school.
DD1 is 5 now and about as fluent as her peers tho she still makes mistakes. DD2 is 2,just started school last month and is already coming out with spanish words and phrases according to her teacher, she is very talky in English too tho.

I don't know how best you can support the second, community language, it would depend on the age of the child, whether he can read, has ML friends etc.

ManIFeelLikeAWoman Wed 15-Oct-08 11:21:04

There is a school of thought that says the best thing you can do to support the community language is to put plenty of effort into strengthening the home language ... The thinking is that, in children with good language skills, the community language takes care of itself.

vesela Wed 15-Oct-08 13:03:55

Shitemum, she's only 18 months but it's something I think about a lot (probably too much...). Like yours, she'll probably start daycare/pre-school at 2 or 2 1/2 (depends which one she goes to). I'm glad your DDs are doing so well.

vesela Wed 15-Oct-08 13:13:13

MIFLAW, I think I read something like that too. To do well at school they need concepts/words over and above the vocab they've learnt in the playground, but if they've already learnt those concepts/words in the home language they can pick them up more easily in the school language - is that right?

vesela Wed 15-Oct-08 13:21:19

and thanks for reminding me of that theory - I'd forgotten it. It's a very reassuring one, and that's half the thing. I don't want her to feel any anxiety from me as to how well she's learning Czech.

Shitemum Wed 15-Oct-08 21:11:45

Are you from the Czech republic or your DP? Are you living there? {nosy}

vesela Wed 15-Oct-08 22:05:45

We live here (in Prague). I first lived here from 1990-98 and then came back in 2005 with DH, whose father is Czech. So we both speak Czech, but we're native English speakers. (DH didn't grow up speaking Czech - he learned it as an adult).

Shitemum Thu 16-Oct-08 12:24:55

vesela -I'm sure she'll be fine! You may worry a bit for her when she starts nursery but within a year or two she'll have caught up with her peers. Remember that there may even be children in her class who havent even started speaking much in Czech.
DD1s teacher said from day one, although DD1 didnt speak more than 2 words of Spanish, there was never any problem communicating. There is more than one way of doing this and children of that age interact in so many ways. I thought she'd be more frustrated at not being understood/understanding as she was talking well in English but they don't experience it the way we do, for example if we suddenly found ourselves in a country whose language we didnt speak - they just accept it and get on with it.

ManIFeelLikeAWoman Thu 16-Oct-08 16:29:45

Sounds about right to me, yes. The basic thrust is that (and this picks up on later comments too) a good communicator becomes a good linguist rather than vice versa (I'm putting this in my own words). If a child "understands what's going on" (in any language) he or she can express it more readily in another of his/her languages. The actual linguistic competence comes from that security, rather than the security depending on the competence.

Does that make sense and does it sound familiar? I'm no expert.

MmeTussaudsChmberOfChocHobnobs Thu 16-Oct-08 16:42:15

I enjoyed these books

Available in Spanish

I read the German version, and found it very good. Lots of practical information.

I also read this one which had a lot of reallife stories, was a wee bit repetitive though.

I must dig them out and read them again, in regard to 3 languages as we are now adding French to our German/English mix.

Funny, that you mentioned how everyone is saying that it must be hard work, we had the opposite. I get frustrated by comments like, "Oh, that is great, it is so easy for the DCs to pick up 2 languages" and I find it hardgoing sometimes. I have to force myself to speak English with the DCs sometimes as I am almost more comfortable speaking German.

vesela Fri 17-Oct-08 17:53:19

Thanks, shitemum. I think I'm more concerned about when she starts school than preschool. As you say, 3-year-olds interact in different ways, and I'm sure she'll speak enough to be fine there, but at school the vocab. that is useful for things like contributing in class might be the sort of stuff that native speakers hear at home when talking to their parents, but which a non-native speaker would be less likely to have picked up from other children/their preschool teacher.

I'm just thinking about the sort of conversations my 6-year-old niece and nephew have with their parents. If my DD isn't having those sorts of conversations in her school language, is she going to find it harder at school?

noramum Sat 18-Oct-08 10:20:46

Hi there,

we have the problem that we are both Germans but live in the UK. So OPOL doesn't really apply to us.

Our DD (15 months) goes 4 days full time to a nursery and at home it is German only.

Are there any books covering this type of situation?

macaco Sun 19-Oct-08 08:33:57

I bought Living with 2 languages and have just finished it and found it excellent. it also talks about your kind of situation noramum.

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