Ask François Grosjean: Is just a little bit of language exposure with a bilingual child worth it?

by Corey · 1 comment

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 seventh 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 our 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.

Is it worth it for a spouse to speak a language with his/her bilingual child even if it can only take place a little bit of the time?

Throughout my career and in all my writings, I have defended the acquisition and use of several languages. If the exposure to one language is not as great as to the other, then the child will probably not know the language very well, but at least he or she will have had some exposure to it. In addition, it is important for the spouse who sees the child less to know that the latter is being exposed to his or her language.

Of course, expectations should not be very high if the language input is not sufficiently important. However, life reserves many changes and the weaker language may suddenly take on a more important role, so I would not exclude it from the child’s life.

Past Ask François Grosjean Q&A in the series:

  1. The first in the series is Ask François Grosjean: Are My Bilingual Children Getting Enough Exposure?
  2. The second in the series is Ask François Grosjean: What is the best method for helping children become bilingual?
  3. The third in the series is Ask François Grosjean: Can I Change From One Language Or Method To Another?
  4. The fourth in the series is Ask François Grosjean: What Does Research Say About the Benefits of Multilingualism?
  5. The fifth in the series is Ask François Grosjean: Is It OK for Parents to Raise Bilingual Children in a Non-Native Language?
  6. The sixth in the series is Ask François Grosjean: What are the golden rules that bilingual families should follow?

François Grosjean, the author of Bilingual: Life and Reality, received his degrees up to the Doctorat d'Etat from the University of Paris, France. He started his academic career at the University of Paris 8 and then left for the United-States in 1974 where he taught and did research in psycholinguistics at Northeastern University, Boston. While at Northeastern he was also a Research Affiliate at the Speech Communication Laboratory at MIT. In 1987, he was appointed professor at Neuchâtel University, Switzerland, where he founded the Language and Speech Processing Laboratory. He has lectured occasionally at the Universities of Basel, Zurich and Oxford. In 1998, he cofounded Bilingualism: Language and Cognition (Cambridge University Press). Visit his website at: and his Psychology Today blog, Life as a bilingual, at:

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: