New book outlines bilingualism benefits, guides parents who want to raise bilingual children
Posted by Elena del Valle on May 30, 2008
Raising a Bilingual Child book cover
Photos: Living Language
Linguistics expert Barbara Zurer Pearson, Ph.D. believes it’s healthy to raise children speaking two or more languages. She explains why in her recently published book, Raising a Bilingual Child: A Step-by-Step Guide for Parents (Living Language, $14.95). Pearson, a research associate at the University of Massachusetts, first became bilingual as a university exchange student in Paris, France. She has dedicated 20 years to studying bilingualism and linguistics and believes parents don’t have to be bilingual themselves to raise bilingual children.
The 346-page soft cover book is divided into eight chapters: The Benefits of Childhood Bilingualism; Learning a First Language; Learning Two (or More) Languages; Establishing a Bilingual Environment; How-To Testimonials; Are There Any Children Who Cannot Learn Two Languages?; Research Comparing Monolinguals and Bilinguals; and About Bilingual Identity. Each chapter begins with an outline of the content and what the reader will find. There are 11 tables and 11 figures spread across the book.
Author Barbara Zurer Pearson, Ph.D.
In her book, Pearson strives to shows parents how to raise a bilingual child and realize the intellectual and cultural benefits knowing more than one language may bring; while exploring the fascinating process by which children acquire language. She dedicates part of her book to dispelling myths about childhood bilingualism and explains how being bilingual can enhance a child’s overall intellectual and emotional development.
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Pearson highlights some of the reasons why monolingual and bilingual parents choose to raise their children bilingually: to take advantage of a broader job market that may offer greater opportunities and a competitive edge to bilingual or multilingual applicants; to improve relationships with extended family members that link them to their parent’s culture and their heritage; and as part of an international adoption some new parents believe learning the language of their home country may help adopted children remain in touch with their heritage.
She also outlines ways parents can provide the right home environment to encourage and support bilingualism. She suggests they start young whenever possible; encourage the child to learn a second language by making it a fun experience; repeatedly praise the benefits of bilingualism; include the second language in the child’s routine; and make sure there are group activities that involve the second language.
Pearson is an adjunct professor in the Department of Communication Disorders at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She received her graduate degree in Applied Linguistics and conducted her early research on bilingualism at the University of Miami. Those studies were published in the book Language and Literacy in Bilingual Children.
Click here to buy Raising a Bilingual Child
Dear Dr. Zurer Pearson
Having raised three bilingual children, I would be happy to spread the word about this book.
I see the beauty and aplication of their abilities in different countries, their high self esteem, their respect and love for their latinidad, their understanding of a multicultural world.
It was a team efort with a clear goal…
Martha E. Galindo
Thanks Elena for bringing up this information in your daily podcast/newsletter.
As a journalist and writer for a family oriented Hispanic magazine I have made it a point to search for subjects that help and enlighten our readers. In SWFL there are few Hispanic newspapers and mostly address hard news.
At HispanicMPR, subjects brought up have been an important source of tips to pass on to our Hispanic readers and which I have taken advantage of. I am sure Dr. Zurer´s new book will be a great source, not only for more of my tips to our readers but for the young parents.
St. Agnes church in Naples gathers over 800 Hispanics on Sunday. The priest, Rev. Lorenzo J. González, who has a great “don del verbo”, gives his homily in Spanish; however, when talking to children has to “drop” in words in English here and there for the young ones.
Like Martha Galindo, my two sons are fully bilingual, one good reason for their high esteem and a feeling of being citizens of the world. Now, am back on track with my grandsons. Bilingualism was not difficult, I was even able to squeeze in a little bit of French and Italian. In Spain, we spoke English at home, in the United States we speak Spanish at home and try not to go “half-and-half” nor Spanglish. When we visit our Island of Enchantment, we switch back and forth. In between, when living abroad I made it a point to show them the greatness of wherever we were; at home we discussed the greatness and importance of our roots.
I am sure that I will thoroughly enjoy and learn much from Dr. Zurer Pearson´s Raising a Bilingual Child: A Step-by-Step Guide for Parents and that I will be able to pass it on to my bilingual readers. We started a column for the SOMOS magazine June edition in English and Spanish -“In the Mix”- so this may be the right time to talk about the importance of speaking two languages without mixing nor “killing” either.
Thank you for this tip and will try to get Dr. Barbara Zurer Pearson´s Raising a Bilingual Child soon.
And, this question is for Martha Galindo, I know you are an expert translator…how would you say “don del verbo”(linguistically gifted?) in English.
Thanks again Elena for insight brought to our Hispanic world.
Luisa M. Fournier-Padró