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Raising children bilingually is not as self-evident as we would like to think. Language holds the images, myths, jokes and tone that convey to children into what group they have been born. Language may even hold the key to navigating globalisation. Yet the actual transference of language is emotionally loaded.  Its practical importance might be addressed, but its emotional importance is usually underestimated.  For the family that is raising children abroad, the negotiations about language can be a touchpoint to a profound alienation that causes mental distress and cuts off the parent's ability to translate the surrounding social world for their child.  

Given that we assume bilingualism is a good thing, a few things seem clear. One, it is not a given that younger children who are bilingual will continue to develop their languages. readmore logo


Top 3 challenges faced by bilingual families in Europe

by onraisingbilingualchildren

"1) A positive language attitude regarding both languages, 2) Finding adequate education for children, 3) Enough information/materials to provide a language-rich environment for children." go to onraisingbilingualchildren

For example, in an interesting online poll within the Indian blogging community, Under the Banyan Tree found that of 141 respondents (43.9% were living in India and 56.02% outside India), 92.19% felt strongly (7 or higher on a scale of 1 – 10) that their children must know at least one Indian language. Yet in spite of 89.36% having at least one common language with their spouse, and this 92.19% feeling strongly about their child speaking an Indian language, only 29.07% reported actually speaking to their children in an Indian language. [View source]

Armenian school keeps culture alive

"With the advent of English, their grasp of Armenian started to fade. By age five, they were very uncomfortable speaking Armenian and would often refuse to even speak it when we asked. I felt that I failed as a mother in this specific department—my children were refusing to speak their native tongue. What was I to do? Could I have forced my kids to go to Armenian school? Yes, I could have, but I wanted them to want to go. As a busy parent juggling a home, a business, extracurricular activities and other family obligations, I didn’t want to make the commitment unless they willingly wanted to attend. I believe when a child freely engages in something, without negative feelings, they will achieve and accelerate with a positive mind. So every school year, I asked the girls if they were ready for Armenian school. To my disappointment they declined each year. But this past summer, my eldest daughter had an epiphany that resulted in agreeing to attend Armenian school." go to incultureparent

Berkeley students on bilingualism

"The question “Are you another person when you speak another language?” has been answered in various ways by neurophysiologists, psycho- and sociolinguists and by cognitive scientists. They show how cognition and emotion go hand in hand, how the acquisition of a second language can give you a different sense of self, how bilinguals have different bodily rhythms, coordinate words and gestures differently, think different thoughts in one or the other of their languages. ..." read more online

Finding words for 'number 2'

by Avery Fischer Udagawa

"When toilet training our older daughter, I briefly internalized the Set Moniker Directive: refer to your child's Number Ones as you will, but employ your term of choice consistently. I resolved to use the Japanese kidspeak o-shikko even in English- and Thai-language situations. It came easily to my husband and seemed novel to me, and I suppose promised some privacy -- as if no one could decipher "Hey, time to go o-shikko!!"" go to Literary Mama


Beng babies understand every world language

"Beng newborns have full comprehension not only of Beng but of every language spoken on this earth. … Beng infants are said to begin gradually to leave their previous existence behind. This includes gradually giving up their knowledge of languages other than the one spoken around and to them daily." get abstract

In sum, Beng infants are believed to do the opposite of what most people suppose. Rather than being born 'pre-lingual' and gradually learning languages, Beng babies understand all languages and gradually lose these until they can finally only understand the languages necessary for daily life around them. Intriguing worldview, as anyone working in multilingual settings knows, we can speak to a small baby in a particular tone in any language at all and it will respond as if it understands.

How bilingual brains switch between tongues

by Roxanne Khamsi

"The research team recruited 35 bilingual people - 25 spoke German and English, 10 spoke Japanese and English. The participants viewed pairs of words while undergoing brain scans using either positron emission tomography (PET) or functional magnetic resonance (fMRI) imaging.

When volunteers read two words with the same meaning but in different languages, or two words in the same language with unrelated meanings, the left caudate region in their brains became more active than when they read two words from the same language with a similar theme. This held true across both language groups.

"Our results suggest that the left caudate monitors the language in use and increases its activation when there is a switch between languages. This shows that the area is signalling a change in language," Price claims. see new scientist

Mandarin and English bilingualism

by Hao Mama

"Early on, I bought and downloaded as many Chinese songs as I could, as I was (and still am) convinced that music is one of the surest and fastest ways for children to learn language. Now that my two children are comfortably fluent in Mandarin, I have tried to wean them off the CDs, which has worked without effort for my seven-year-old but not so well for my three-year-old." go to Hao Mama

Interested in more? Here are other articles:
translating toddlers
Thailand language
Japan expatriate life
Armenian Africa

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