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Extra info for A Parents' and Teachers' Guide to Bilingualism, 2nd ed (Parents' and Teachers' Guides, 1)

Sample text

There will be periods of darkness in the valley. For example, an adolescent child may stop using their minority language at home. At other times, there will be top-of-the-mountain experiences. For instance, when a child translates or interprets to help a monolingual listener, there is that sparkle of pride in the eye of the child and the parents. The factors that are likely to affect the ability of a family to produce bilingual children include: geographical stability and mobility, changing relationships within the nuclear and extended family, the father's and mother's employment conditions, the language situation and attitudes of the local community, being a recent or established in-migrant, changing priorities in the family (how important is language development compared with other developmental issues in the family), the attitudes and motivations of the child itself, the influence of brothers and sisters, friends and 'significant others' outside in the community and the effects of the child's school.

Generally, young children pick up a new language with some degree of ease. Since the vocabulary and complexity of language structure required in children's conversation is much less than adults, and since young children acquire language almost accidentally and painlessly, children are often more adept at adjusting to a new language than most adults. The specific advice is that children (when infants and quite young) do not need parents to speak the host country's language in the home. They will usually pick up that language easily outside the home.

Continuity in minority language experience from early childhood through the teenage years is important if that minority language is to survive through to early adulthood. Therefore, the answer to the question is that both parents are very important in the child's language development. Both parents need to be aware of the importance of the language that the child hears and uses with each parent. There is a need for engineering of the language environment in the home. Just as the dietary balance of meals is increasingly of interest and debate in families, so it is important that the diet of language in the home is also open to discussion.

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