Bilingualism Matters

CeLM @ Univerwww.bilingualism-matters-reading.comsity of Reading is the host of a new branch of Bilingualism Matters. Bilingualism Matters provides advice and information on child bilingualism to anyone interested or involved with raising, educating and caring for bilingual and multilingual children. It also bridges the gap between researchers and society by presenting recent findings on the advantages of bilingualism on the cognitive and social abilities of the child.

What we offer:

  • Information sessions and workshops in schools or community centres
  • Face to face consultancy on a weekly basis at University of Reading
  • Consultancy for policy makers and companies
  • Consultancy through e-mail (bilingualism.matters@reading.ac.uk)

 About us

We are a group of researchers at the Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism who work on language and literacy development in multilingual children and adults. Our research includes bilingual or multilingual children with language and communication impairments.

 Click on the logo to visit the website of Bilingualism Matters @ Reading

Bilingualism Matters for parents

Raising bilingual children

As researchers we know that bilingualism brings severalclm-bilingualism-matters-children-scaled advantages to the social, cognitive and linguistic abilities of the child. We are also aware, however, that parents worry and wonder about the best way to raise children with more than one language: they often ask about how to use the different languages, how the child may react to bilingualism, how friends and teachers may perceive the bilingualism of the child, what the prospects are as the child grows up, and many more other questions.

Here you will find some frequently asked questions. Feel free to email or come to see us if you would like more information on these issues or if you have other concerns about bilingualism or multilingualism in children and adults.

Why should we raise our child speaking two languages?

Children who can speak two or more languages can communicate with a wider number of people and understand different cultures. If your children know your home language, they will find it easier to understand your cultural heritage and to communicate with the extended family. Bilingualism gives children more than just communication skills: research has shown that bilingual children have good reading skills, they can learn other languages easily and they think creatively. In addition, knowing two languages will give them more job opportunities in the future.

Should my child be equally fluent in both languages?

Sometimes parents notice that their children are using one language less than the other. It is important to keep in mind that bilinguals tend to use their languages for different purposes (for example English at school, Punjabi at home). Therefore, an English-Punjabi bilingual child may know more school-related words in English than in Punjabi. You can help your child to develop a rich vocabulary by sharing books and using your home language frequently to talk about a wide range of topics. You should not expect your child to be equally fluent in both languages.

How and when should I start speaking my home language to my child?

The best way to introduce your child to your home language is to speak it naturally and to start from birth. Children need to regularly hear and use a language in order to develop it, and the earlier they start the more chances they will have of developing good pronunciation and grammar skills.

Why should we raise our child speaking two languages?

Children who can speak two or more languages can communicate with a wider number of people and understand different cultures. If your children know your home language, they will find it easier to understand your cultural heritage and to communicate with the extended family. Bilingualism gives children more than just communication skills: research has shown that bilingual children have good reading skills, they can learn other languages easily and they think creatively. In addition, knowing two languages will give them more job opportunities in the future.

Should my child be equally fluent in both languages?

Sometimes parents notice that their children are using one language less than the other. It is important to keep in mind that bilinguals tend to use their languages for different purposes (for example English at school, Punjabi at home). Therefore, an English-Punjabi bilingual child may know more school-related words in English than in Punjabi. You can help your child to develop a rich vocabulary by sharing books and using your home language frequently to talk about a wide range of topics. You should not expect your child to be equally fluent in both languages.

How and when should I start speaking my home language to my child?

The best way to introduce your child to your home language is to speak it naturally and to start from birth. Children need to regularly hear and use a language in order to develop it, and the earlier they start the more chances they will have of developing good pronunciation and grammar skills.

Bilingualism Matters for teachers and educators

Educating bilingual children

classroomAs researchers we know that bilingualism brings several advantages to the social, cognitive and linguistic abilities of the child. We are also aware, however, that primary school teachers sometimes worry and wonder about the best way to educate and deal with children with more than one language.

Some teachers may want to find out more about how to foster the first language in the classroom, how to improve the bilingual child’s comprehension and production of English especially if English is an additional language, and how to promote the integration of the bilingual child into the diversity of languages and cultures at school.

Some of the frequently asked questions are: Should I allow or encourage mixing of languages in classroom interactions? How should I maintain literacy development in English and at the same time encourage multilingualism and literacy development in other languages? How can I deal with the variety of languages in the classroom when I don’t speak most of them myself?

Reading is a multicultural town. Recent Census statistics have shown that 28% of pupils in Reading schools are bilingual and the number of bilingual pupils has more than doubled in the past 10 years. The latest data collection indicates that 30% of primary pupils and 25% of secondary pupils have a first language which is other than English. The January 2012 school census showed that Urdu is the second most common language background, Panjabi/Panjabi variants the third, Polish the fourth and Nepali the fifth. There has been a marked increase in the number of school aged speakers of Polish, Nepali, Hindi, Tamil, Lithuanian and Akan/Akan variants.

Teachers value multilingualism because their experience has taught them that multilingualism enhances tolerance and respect for diversity. A positive attitude towards multilingualism is the first step towards children’s successful integration in the classroom.

As researchers, we are aware the bilingualism and, in particular, second language learning may be challenging for the teacher, especially during the early stages of linguistic development of English as an additional language. There are no hard and fast rules which would apply to all classroom contexts in every school. We are happy to discuss alternative ways of dealing with multilingualism and literacy in the classroom, observe and help throughout the different stages of implementing the strategy adopted.