Archive for Bilingualism

Bilingualism and Politics

Dear Virginie,
This summer I have become “a research junkie” on raising children bilingually and I just love your book most of all : ). You have a wonderful writing voice that transmits the informative/research side while complementing it with a very loving motherly voice, sensitive to the varying linguistic complexities present.
I have a question and seek your expert advice (on my linguistic complexity!)
I am a native English speaker, with near-native French. I am a French teacher here in the U.S. I adore French and feel it comes natural to me, enough
that I am comfortable speaking it at home about the everyday things with my children (I spent over a year in France where I lived with a French family with kids (babies and older plus years of exposure/study/practice/teaching etc)
My husband is a native Farsi speaker, but he has not transmitted that language fully to the children (he did not do the bilingual thing–did not have the energy or time to fulfill the commitment and as English is the language at home…). I am a conversant Farsi speaker, and our immediate community is largely Farsi speaking. While obviously valuable for us (!), this language is not as close to my heart as French! The kids have a solid passive knowledge of Farsi, but are not thrilled about attending classes and the like. That is at a standstill right now (they are just passively learning).
I have chosen to focus my efforts in French/English….however there is one other complication, as we are practicing Muslims I do not necessarily feel welcome in France, due to the politics and islamaphobia there. Does it make sense for me to devote my time and energy to teaching my children a language which although close to my heart as a mother & teacher, may not offer them anything in their future? Am I being super negative here? What is your take on this situation?
Thanks for reading my long letter and your attention on my linguistic problem!
Valerie
p.s. I have 5 children, ages: 14, 11, 8, 6, 3. We are numerous enough that for me it is worth taking a solid stand and committing myself to this for their childhoods and beyond…

Hello Valerie,

Hope you had a nice summer with your family – Having just returned from France, I have to agree with you that the current administration there has a lot to learn about diversity and acceptance. I think because of the current islamophobia, (here and there actually!) it seems even more important for you to teach your children how to speak French! With their language skills they have a chance to be a part of the solution when they grow up. They will be able to bridge cultures and have the communication skills to solve cross-cultural problems – We need more globally-minded youngsters and you’re on your way with your 5 children! So, yes, I definitely encourage you with French, English and Farsi. What a gift!
Thank you by the way for the kind comments about Bilingual By Choice. I’m now working on my second book but this time it’s a travel guide on French and Spanish Catalonia, following in the footsteps of 20th century artists. The research has been fun!

Have a great back-to-school –

Take care,
Virginie

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Francois Grosjean

Hello, Thank you for citing Life with Two Languages. You may be interested in my new book, Bilingual, which is coming out currently in North America. Here is the publisher’s description of it: http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog/GROBIL.html?show=catalogcopy

Good luck with your blog and my very best wishes to you.

François Grosjean

Dear Professor Grosjean,

It’s great to hear from you. I’ve just ordered your new book, Bilingual, and I look forward to reading it! Your research has greatly inspired my work. Hope your health is good. Take care,

Virginie

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Bonjour!

Maybe I should start with Hola! since we’ve just returned from Mexico – and Spanish has now taken over. Basic Spanish, I’ll admit, but nevertheless it’s all very exciting. Our 4-year old twins, Natasha and Sofiya, quickly learned “la playa” and “ahora!” (It seems the attitude is the same in any language for them!) 

As for me, I just love to pack and I love to get on an airplane. Probably why I married a pilot. I’ve relocated 20 times in 39 years – some exotic, some not-so-much – but since relocation is the 2nd most stressful experience you can have, after losing a loved one, I probably should take up yoga or meditation, just in case. In our family we like to call ourselves global nomads and trips are always on our minds. Whether it’s taking our VW bus to the White Mountains of NH or flying to Guayabitos, Mexico, to play on the beach. Naturally, I wonder what will happen to all that when our girls start preschool in September. I’m curious to see how we handle the school years, after all that freedom… Is homeschooling in our future??

For now – here’s what I’m working on. Finding ways to keep our children bilingual while living in the US. I started researching the topic 4 years ago, both for personal reasons and for my Master’s (in Intercultural Relations). I also interviewed other parents who successfully raised happy, bilingual children. I eventually wrote a book on the topic that just came out – it’s titled Bilingual By Choice: Raising Kids in Two (or more!) Languages – published by Nicholas Brealey Publishing. You can check out their website at nicholasbrealey.com or bilingualbychoice.com for more information.

In the book I talk about both sides of the growing-up-bilingual journey, as a child and as a parent. I’m considered a “late” bilingual. I moved with my family to the US from France when I was 12 years old. I remember standing in the principal’s office trying to put a complete sentence together, but all I could muster – with my head up high – was “I…France!” That’s how limited my English was. But my sisters and I eventually learned it the way many children do when they need it to survive!

One common obstacle we face when trying to keep our children bilingual is to stay motivated and find fun and creative activities to keep our language relevant. To help parents, I list 100 activities in the book, to use both at home and in the community to expand our children’s vocabulary and their cultural knowledge. I’ll discuss them here so stay tuned!

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