lundi 16 mai 2016

Maximize Your Child's Bilingual Ability



Adam Beck asked me to review his new book and I was delighted to do so. It is a great book which I would highly recommend to any parent wishing to raise their children with more than two languages.
The founder of the website Bilingual Monkeys and of the forum Bilingual Zoo, is now sharing his ideas on Bilingual Education in a book, Maximize your Child's Bilingual Ability.

In Adam Beck's own terms, this book is not an academic work and he addresses himself to every family wishing to bring up their children with two or more languages. This is a very easy book to read, a great guide to bilingual education and parenting the bilingual child. He acknowledges that every family is different, every child is unique. He also underlines that his book is "geared for minority language parents" whom the "majority language parent should support actively" (page 24). Being himself the minority language parent, he knows how actively you have to work on it if you wish you child to be bilingual. With 30 "Perspectives" or ways of thinking and 30 "Principles" or ways of acting as he likes to call them, Adam Beck gives us a kind of program with language goals for the family. This guide is informative, methodical and realistic about the challenges. Taken from his own experiences as teacher to bilingual kids as he calls them and as father to bilingual children, he offers many practical tips and ideas. 

The question he asks at the beginning of his book is: "what actions can a busy parent take to optimize the growth of a child's bilingual ability? At the same time, how can this be done in a fun, child-friendly way?" (page xi). If you follow Adam Beck on his journey through bilingualism via Bilingual Monkey, you know that he is full of ideas. He is also very realistic in saying that bilingualism is "bigger a challenge than many believe" (page 15), and that the efforts put into it must not be a burden. 

Adam Beck enjoys metaphor and comparisons. After starting with a comparison between the work of the rice farmers and the parents of bilingual children, both takes time and daily effort to get the best. He calls his book "a buffet of food for thought" in which you can "dip in" and "read in smaller chunks" (page 22). Just like in a buffet, you may not wish to eat from every single dish, so he warns the reader that nor every idea will necessarily suit their aims or situation. "Raising a bilingual child is a marathon, not a sprint"(page 31), this metaphor is also very clear is saying that it does take time to arrive where you want to go. You need desire and determination to finish a marathon, it is the same with the bilingualism of your children. 

He sees many advantages in raising your children with more than one language. One being that you have to spend time with your children, so that they speak the language. No small minor actions is useless. Reading is one thing, but not everything. Children will always remember what they did with their parents. They will remember what you did together. So use this time together to work on the language. You do not wish to hear your child that he or she regrets not having been raised bilingual, so act today. Be pro-active. It is the family heirloom. Adam Beck also quotes a number of people and I will underline two of the quotes he chose: "The future depends on what you do today" (Mahatma Gandhi). This is very true The seeds of today are important for the future of your child. "I do not teach children, I give them joy" (Isadora Duncan). It is so true, if the children enjoy what they do, they will learn. Enthusiasm is very important. If you enjoy and are motivated, you progress.
He is also quite realistic about the circumstances of life: Adam Beck underlines the fact that there is no failure, that you should always stress the achievements reached. Be positive. Inspire you children. Be creative, so it does not get boring for your children. However discipline is a key which will help make progress.

In the second part of his book, the "Principles" are presenting ways of acting which will lead to success. Adam Beck tells us to talk, read and play with our children. More importantly, he gives us other tips such as making the bilingual journey of our children a priority, having a daily routine, understanding the value of the minority language and the impact the schooling in the majority language may have on the children. Getting informed via websites, blogs, getting connected and  getting suitable resources are also some of the keys for success. He recalls what Ana Paula calls the NERC (Narration, Expansion, Recast, Choices) which a another great key for the bilingual development of our children. 

At the end of his book, with a small list of his choice of books and websites, Adam Beck offers the reader a "Reader's Guide" which allows the latter to jump on the "chunks" he likes so that he can dip into them. 
I would highly recommend the reading of Adam Beck "Maximize your Child's Bilingual Ability". Different and easy to read, linked to his own personal experience, this book offers another view on the experience and "marathon" of parenting the bilingual child. I am very grateful he asked me to read it and review it. 

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