While Prof. Emeritus François Grosjean was working on his wonderful book Bilingual: Life and Reality, he asked me to send him a list of questions that I felt weighed the heaviest on the minds of parents raising multilingual children. It is my honor to present both my questions and Prof. Grosjean’s answers here at Multilingual Living over the course of the next few weeks.
This the second of the 11 Q & A, which originally appeared in The Bilingual Family Newsletter, one of my favorite publications for families raising children in more than one language (in addition to my own Multilingual Living Magazine, of course)! After each of of Prof. Grosjean’s answers you will find a list of the specific chapters from Bilingual: Life and Reality in which he addresses each question.
What is the best method for helping children become bilingual (e.g. one parent one language, the minority language at home, etc.)?
The strategy that I favor, and that I recommend to parents who wish to bring up their children with two languages, is to use one language in the home, usually the minority language, and the other language outside the home (I call this the “home – outside the home” strategy).
This does mean that one of the parents has to speak his or her second (or third) language to the child so that everyone is using just one language at home. In addition, the language will need to be reinforced by people other than the parents (e.g. family members, friends, etc.) so as to give it a strong base.
As for the outside language, usually the majority and hence the school language, it will have no problem finding its place. The strategy has a clear advantage in that the weaker language (the home language) will receive much more input than if only one parent uses it as in the one parent – one language strategy.
In addition, things will be clear in the child’s mind: at home, language X is spoken, and outside the home, it is language Y.
Relevant chapter in Bilingual: Life and Reality which addresses this question: chapter 17.
Past Ask François Grosjean Q&A in the series:
The first in the series is Ask François Grosjean: Are My Bilingual Children Getting Enough Exposure?