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 ninth of the eleven 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.
What will happen to our children’s bilingualism when they start going to school in the community language?
If one of the children’s languages is already the community/school language then it will be given an incredible burst when they start attending school.
Several reasons explain this: it will be used much more than before and its domains of use will expand; it will be used by peers and the teachers (new and important people in the children’s lives); and it will be the language in which the first steps in literacy are undertaken.
Within only a few months, it may well become the children’s dominant language which they will use increasingly and bring home with them (with their home work, friends, etc.). They may even try to use it exclusively with their parents so as not to be different from other children.
It is well known that between ages six and the early teens, many children will give the school or majority language their priority to the detriment of the weaker, home, language. Some may even refuse to speak the latter to their parents and other family members.
Hence, parents will want to develop various stratagems to reinforce the weaker language. If they can find ways of “holding on” until the teenage years, there is every chance that the weaker language will find its niche and the bilingualism of their children will be stabilized, even if they become dominant in the majority language.
Relevant chapter in Bilingual: Life and Reality which addresses this question: chapter 3, 14 & 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?
- The second in the series is Ask François Grosjean: What is the best method for helping children become bilingual?
- The third in the series is Ask François Grosjean: Can I Change From One Language Or Method To Another?
- The fourth in the series is Ask François Grosjean: What Does Research Say About the Benefits of Multilingualism?
- The fifth in the series is Ask François Grosjean: Is It OK for Parents to Raise Bilingual Children in a Non-Native Language?
- The sixth in the series is Ask François Grosjean: What are the golden rules that bilingual families should follow?
- The seventh in the series is Ask François Grosjean: Is just a little bit of language exposure with a bilingual child worth it?
- The eighth in the series is Ask François Grosjean: What About More Than Two Languages in a Multilingual Family?