A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism

I’ve been reading a lot of books about bilingual education, and this is the latest. Actually, I’ve read three, and the other two are both recommended in the back of this one, which is quite encouraging. They all have distinctly different approaches, but they also all agree on two points.

First, raising your child bilingual is a very good idea, and very good for the child. Second, it’s a lot of work. You have to think carefully about the language environment, and try to balance it.

I think it’s inevitable that Yudetamago will grow up with stronger Japanese, unless we move out of Japan (no plans for that at the moment), since Yuriko and I will continue speaking to each other in Japanese; I’ll talk to Yudetamago in English.

Anyway, the main difference about this book was that it is more focussed on schools, and on minority languages. This is no doubt due to the author’s background: he lives in Wales, and his children are English/Welsh bilingual. Thus, there is a lot of interesting information on how to set up schools to support bilingual children, and on what to look for in a school. I suspect we won’t get as much choice as we might like, although sending Yudetamago to an English-medium school would be an option, if we had enough money.

Another interesting point was that this book confirmed something I strongly suspected based on personal experience. Older children and adults learn foreign languages faster than young children. The difference is that younger children tend to end up with a better accent, and have more years to study in total. I was convinced that my Japanese was better than a Japanese seven-year-old, and it’s nice to be told that I’m probably right. In another eight years, I might even be able to write grammatically-accurate Japanese.

Overall, I think that this book will be less immediate use than the others, due to its emphasis on schools, but in a few years’ time it will probably be very useful indeed.