This week, we are thrilled to publish a guest blog written for us by Barbara Bleiman. Barbara was formerly Co-Director of the English and Media Centre, in London, and now works there as an Education Consultant and joint editor of emagazine. She has also written two books, links to which are included below. Here is her extremely helpful article including links and ideas on resources for raising bilingual children.
About me, Barbara
I work for a teachers’ centre for English teachers in the UK – not teachers of English as a foreign language but rather English for pupils within the mainstream secondary school system. (This does in fact include a large number of students whose mother tongue is not English. The UK is a hugely multilingual environment!) One of my main roles is editing a magazine for students of English A Level, including English Language A Level. Students on this course study a wide range of topics in the field of linguistics, including two that may be of special interest to readers of this blog – global English and Child Language Acquisition.
I’m in regular contact with linguists working in these fields to commission articles, and as part this work, I also avidly trawl the internet looking at news articles, linguists’ blogs and twitterfeeds in search of interesting items and developments in research.
How can this help you?
You might be asking: “What has this got to do with me, if I’m not a language specialist or a student of linguistics but rather a parent wanting to bring up my child as bilingual?” Well, it’s surprisingly easy to find fascinating, readable write-ups of research by linguists, psychologists and scientists about both bilingualism and child language acquisition. You may be worrying about whether your child will really benefit in the long run, or asking yourself whether all your efforts are worth it. Perhaps you are worried about noticing short-term delays in your child acquiring either or both languages? Maybe you’re encountering some resistance or scepticism from family, friends or schools? Having a bit of sound evidence to turn to, can both answer your questions and give you ammunition to argue with.
You might also be asking yourself whether Brexit will diminish the importance of English as a language in Europe, and wondering whether this should change your thinking? There are linguists who specialize in English in Europe, as the language of native speakers, as a foreign language and as a lingua franca. They have been analyzing the impact (or lack of it) of the UK’s decision to leave the EU.
I did a trawl through the twitterfeeds of a few well-respected linguists, as well as a more general internet search, and came up with six articles that seemed to me to be specially interesting for parents wanting to bring up bilingual children and also informative about the role of English in Europe. The twitterfeed MultilingingualMatters @Multi_Ling_Mat is always a good starting-point for me, on my search, and it may be worth you following too.
Useful information and resources
1 Discovering Child Language and Cognitive Growth
Cornell University’s Human Development department have produced a really helpful fact sheet that focuses mainly on multilingualism in children. It is rooted in research, busts many myths and offers a very helpful set of tips for parents. Click here: Cornell
2 Speaking in Tongues: The Many Benefits of Bilingualism
This is a general piece by Teresa Parodi, Lecturer in Theoretical and Applied Linguistics at the University of Cambridge, giving an overview of the benefits of being bilingual. Click here: Tongues
3 Being bilingual makes people’s brains more efficient and could combat cognitive ageing, study finds
A short newsy piece on new research looking at older people which suggests that bilingualism may have a positive impact on the brain over the long term. Click here: The Independent
4 Why being bilingual works wonders for your brain
A more substantial article, on the benefits of multilingualism, focusing particularly on current research on the positive effects on the brain. Click here: The Guardian.
5 Bilingual children are better at problem-solving, according to new Study
A new study suggesting that bilingual toddlers may be better at problem-solving than children who only speak one language. Click here: The Independent.
6 Britain may be Leaving the EU, but English is going nowhere
Professor Andrew Linn is an expert in global English and, in particular, English in Europe. Here he argues that English is going to maintain its role as the ‘lingua franca’ in Europe, regardless of Brexit. Click here: The Independent.
Final bit of fun…
Finally, in the course of writing this blog, I came across this lovely cartoon on Twitter. Not research this time but maybe something you might want to share with your child, as a fun way of discovering that it’s not just words that vary in different languages but the sounds for noises too, whether it be cats, dogs, cows or the ring of a telephone!
More on Barbara…
For more information on Barbara, follow her on Twitter @BarbaraBleiman.
Here are links to her novels: