Ask François Grosjean: How Can I Help My Bilingual Children Become Bicultural?

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 last 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.

Please visit François Grosjean’s website to read all of these questions in one paper.  While there, please check out his other informative and invaluable papers for families like ours raising bilingual and multilingual children!

What about cultural issues such as bilingual children assimilating into the community while also retaining their connection to their parents’ cultures?

If bilingual children are in contact with two or more cultures (for example, one in the home and the other in the larger community), then parents will want to be mindful of what it means to be bicultural and the process of identifying with one’s cultures.

Since becoming bicultural is at times more difficult than becoming bilingual, parents will want to spend time with children, and especially adolescents, helping them come to terms with their biculturalism. Some young people choose to belong to just one culture, either culture A or culture B, but by so doing they are turning away from one of their two cultures; in the long run they may well become dissatisfied with their decision.

Others may reject both cultures. This is not a satisfactory solution either as they will often feel marginal or ambivalent. The optimal solution is to identify with both cultures, A and B, sometimes to varying degrees, and hence to accept fully one’s biculturalism.

This identity decision may take some time to reach and it is critical that the young person be accompanied along the way by his or her parents, family members and friends.

As I state in my book, biculturals who are allowed to be who they are, and who accept their dual heritage, are invaluable members of society who bridge the gap between the cultures they belong to.

Relevant chapter in Bilingual: Life and Reality which addresses this question: chapter 10.

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?
  7. The seventh in the series is Ask François Grosjean: Is just a little bit of language exposure with a bilingual child worth it?
  8. The eighth in the series is Ask François Grosjean: What About More Than Two Languages in a Multilingual Family?
  9. The ninth in the series is Ask François Grosjean: What Happens When Bilingual Children Start Going to School in the Community Language?
  10. The tenth in the series is What Should Parents Do When Their Bilingual Child Has Been Diagnosed With a Language Disorder?

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:

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