Bilingual parenting in the early years

As a parent you know how complicated it is to find a childcare centre for your children: you have a mental list of must-haves and no-goes; you browse the web; you check out centres; you put your name on several waiting lists – only to find out that your plan won’t work. Either because you didn’t get a spot or because the spot does not measure up to your requirements.

Now imagine that, on top of all that, you want to raise your child bilingually. If ‘bilingualism’ is one of your considerations, you are left with a minuscule number of facilities … in many countries anyways and most definitely in Australia.

Or maybe ‘bilingualism’ wasn’t on your list at all but, as luck would have it, a bilingual childcare centre round the corner from where you live just happened to offer you a spot? What would you think about that? How do other parents in the centre feel about the bilingual programme? What are their reasons for sending their children there? And what are the odds that your child will really become bilingual in a bilingual preschool?

My book Bilingual childcare: hitches, hurdles and hopes provides answers to these questions through the voices of parents who enrolled their children in a bilingual German-English childcare centre in Sydney. I examine their expectations for the language learning of their children, the importance they place on bilingualism (or not), and also their hopes for their children’s bilingualism beyond the early years.

Any childcare centre is a dynamic hub, where people from different backgrounds (economic, educational, attitudinal, linguistic, you name it) and with different expectations come together. Catering to these diverse backgrounds and expectations is a difficult job. To understand educators’ perspectives, Bilingual childcare: hitches, hurdles and hopes also highlights the voices of educators working in bilingual childcare – voices that often remain unheard. Readers will find out about the ways in which they implement the bilingual programme, how they are trained, prepared or qualified for their job, their attitudes towards early language learning and how they perceive parental attitudes about this very topic (and how this affects their work).

All of this is framed by and explained through Australia’s monolingual mindset and the hegemony of English. It is alarming to see how heavy these weigh on the implementation of the bilingual programme – from the inside and from the outside. The outside refers to issues on a larger socio-political scale, for instance to the hostile policy environment towards bilingual daycare. Issues from the inside refer to educators, directors, and internal structures as well as the centre’s clientele, the parents. The dynamics between the factors parents, centre and language policies is what creates major hitches and hurdles, but also enormous potential for future development: hope.

An example of policies that are hostile – or, at best, indifferent – to languages other than English comes from the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF), the early childhood curriculum which governs the provision of early childhood education in Australia. Language-related learning outcomes in the EYLF are very vague: while educators are expected to ‘respect’ and ‘support’ home languages, no implementation guidelines are provided.

By contrast, the requirements for starting primary school are very explicit – explicitly monolingual: the NSW primary school entrance test ‘Best Start’ is focussed on testing literacy in English only.

For early childhood educators, monolingual English measurements of school readiness and vague EYLF references to home languages create a conflict of interest: it’s either bilingual development or English literacy. This conflict obviously creates a barrier to the use of any language other than English, even in a ‘bilingual’ childcare centre. As long as English is tacitly equated with ‘literacy’, educators will always struggle to implement bilingual programmes.

Bilingual childcare: hitches, hurdles and hopes shows how bilingual early childhood education ‘works’ (or doesn’t work) in practice in an environment that is notorious for the barriers it puts up against bilingual learning. The multiple perspectives on bilingual early childhood education it features also show potential pathways to solutions that will help improve the bilingual education experience for parents, educators, policy-makers and, above all, for the young learners who are at the heart of this enterprise.

Author Victoria Benz

Dr. Victoria Benz received her PhD in Linguistics from Macquarie University, where she is now an Honorary Postdoctoral Fellow. Her sociolinguistic research focuses on language attitudes, ideologies and practices in institutions of bilingual early childhood education. Victoria has a background in the teaching of German as a second language to all age groups from the pre-primary to the tertiary sector in Germany, Turkey and Australia.

More posts by Victoria Benz
  • MB24

    Bilingualism or multilingualism is a gift, especially to young children. It is such a shame that the gift of bilingualism or multilingualism has not found prominence in the EYLF. I suspect the EYLF suffers from its politicisation. The vague language is itself a product of a dominant ideology looking to exert its influence. As a parent of young children, I am looking outside the reach of such frameworks to offer them at least the gift of bilingualism.

  • Thi Lam Tra DINH

    This situation is quite opposite to my context in which beside L1, English is a prescribed subject at primary school. A range of governmental policies to improve English teaching and learning practices have been paid much attention. In addition, parents invest a lot of time and money to prepare for their children’s language background in order to study abroad. Of course they hope English will fortify the next generations’ future prosperity and foster the country’s strength. It is obvious that this perspective on bilingual education has beneficially changed the national economy as well as globally educational exchange.
    I also agree with MB24 that bilingual and multilingual education would streamline young learners. My friend is Vietnamese, and her husband is Japanese Indonesian. The couple are Australian citizens and can speak English and German and their own native languages. They are going to send their child to a German-English childcare. When being asked for the reasons, they said they studied in Germany for several years and wanted to prepare for their child’s future education abroad. This could be seen as a gift for the child and Australian diversity.

  • ROSE GARRY

    Papua New Guinea (PNG) has more than 800 languages. Since 1960 to 1990, PNG has had shifts in language policies. It started with English and then included Tok Ples (pronounced as Talk place) the language of a place. Mother tongue was used in Tok Ples Skuls (village vernacular skuls). In 1990 there was an education reform. The structural reform includes 3 years in Elementary (1 preparatory and E1 and E2). The 3 initial years at Elementary are taught in L1 and Tok Pisin. L1 is used in local village schools while Tok Pisin is used in Elementary schools that had a mixture of L1s. For example, an Elementary school in a provincial capital (urban city) would have learners from diverse language backgrounds and so Tok Pisin is used as medium of instruction. Teaching in L1 in the early stages of learning was to sustain cultural practices and identity. However, debates based on learning in L1 and Tok Pisin were due to misconceptions and motivation for education. Parents saw education as an investment. They preferred white collar jobs for their children. For them, teaching in L1 and Tok Pisin lowered English proficiency level. To date, Elementary schools used L1 and Tok Pisin. As learners move into primary school at grades 3-5, the bilingual education continues and at grade 6-8, English is used as the medium of instruction. The higher students ascend the grades from primary to secondary the percentages of bilingualism drops. By then, students have mastered fluency in L1 or Tok Pisin. Tok Pisin is not learnt in school. It is learnt mostly in semi-urban and urban cities. Tok Pisin is the lingua franca and English is an official language. Many Papua New Guineans are multi linguists.

  • Tricia

    Congratulations on this new book! It tackles such an interesting topic that is rarely discussed but is nonetheless important. I think there’s great potential in bilingual or multilingual childcare centres. But an important challenge is finding teachers, who are fluent in the target languages of the clientele. This is my observation in the implementation of the Mother tongue-based multilingual education policy in the Philippines. Often, the MTBMLE classes in the early elementary grade levels focus only on the predominantly spoken languages, thereby marginalising the other languages because fewer children in class speak it and/or the teacher is not fluent in it. Does your book offer suggestions on how to address these internal issues?

  • Jo.

    As I observed my 2-year-old cousin singing along English songs about colours and animals, I wondered how this early exposure to a second language may direct his perception of “being literate”. Unlike the Australian context above, in a society where bilingualism, especially English, is highly encouraged, my cousin’s parents can find a bilingual pre-school for him quite easily. In fact, a large part of pre-school educational business revolves around English teaching quality. The common conversation between parents nowadays would likely include questions like “Oh your kids can answer ‘How are you?’ so confidently, which school do you send them to?” In other words, the school that has kids who could sing and talk in English as “fluent” as in their native language has a better competitive edge.

    Such enthusiasm for bilingualism or even multilingualism, however, may reflect a sense that the native language is “less important” than the languages from other “more developed” societies. And since not every school and teacher is equally qualified, my cousin’s ability to use two languages may or may not be as fluent as his parents (and probably teachers) would expect. I am curious to see how a fusion of 2 languages can lead to new way of thinking about literacy. Will my cousin feel more confident talking to foreigner with his linguistic knowledge? Will that knowledge bring him any socioeconomical values? Will that lead him to more opportunities, or prompt him to rethink the value of his native language? Will he ever question the reason for learning another language, or just accept that it is a natural thing to do? And most importantly, will the answers to these questions have any impact on the way educators and parents think about exposing their kids to another language.

  • salmat

    Thankyou for your research into this area, as I believe a lot of parents have hopes in relation to bilingualism, but don’t receive much guidance as to how to support their children in achieving it. I live in Singapore, where bilingual early education is highly valued – particularly in relation to exposure to both English and Mandarin. Many expat families I know (particularly those who speak a European language at home) seek out local childcare and preschool centres, which often have both a Mandarin and English speaking teacher in each room. The Chinese teacher speaks to the students only in Mandarin, and the other teacher speaks only English. Obviously, the parents ‘hope’ is to be able to take their children home from their time in Asia with two extra languages under their belt. Many express concerns, however, regarding their inability to help their children with their homework (particularly with Mandarin) and how they are going to continue their language education in their home countries. I think ‘hope’ is therefore a good way of summing up their feelings towards bilingualism. It’s a gift they would love to give their children, but they aren’t confident in their ability to provide it.

  • Eleonora Beolchi

    Bilingualism is a topic that has always fascinated me. Although I don’t have kids, I’ve always been interested in how my (non)Italian friends raised their kids in Italy and now that I live in Australia how my (non)Italian friends raise their kids here and consequently the choices they make for them.

    The way this post starts is something that I lived with many friends of mine, desperate moms seeking a spot in a childcare, at times bilingual childcare. Some of them ended up in more rustic and homey contexts like small private childcare businesses, where usually one or two people take care of a small number of kids at their home or in community centres,

    A point that I also want to raise is not only the challenge of creating an ad hoc curriculum, including all the possible relevant aspects of educational approaches for the kids, but the hurdle of including (or not) the culture of a language in the another country. Some students of mine, for example, have come to Australia and took up Childcare studies following their career started in Italy. Most of the time, as much as they are happy to learn and integrate in the Australian values, I hear them talk about the differences of approaches towards the kids, some sort of rules and approaches that are in line with Australia and its culture but not much with the Italian culture.

    I guess this could be a great topic to investigate further as there are so many components of it.

    Elly

  • Brendan Kavanagh

    My 4-year-old daughter has learned both English and Mandarin naturally through interaction with family. It is interesting to view the creative processes that she undergoes to translate information between her grandparents.

    While I agree that there should be a stronger push for multilingualism in early childhood, I also agree that language is a social tool with no “final state” Lemke (2002). If the child will not use the language beyond
    early childhood, then I don’t think that the language will be overly valuable. A child doesn’t just “acquire” the language then move on, like a computer storing information.

    The term “monolingual” is thrown at Australians a lot, and I can understand the reasoning behind it. However, I would also agree with Lemke’s suggestion that our categorisation of “different languages” is a fairly modern
    concept, propelled by such modern phenomena as nationalism, public schooling and media. Go back far enough and the boundary between “different languages” starts to blur very quickly. You can still see this in many Central Australian Indigenous communities where I live.

    You could argue that we all speak different languages. Even within “English” we shift our register and lexicon to cater for different audiences. For example, “texting language” is very different from the language used to write a funding application. When we study specialised fields, we enter ‘discourse communities’ (Swales, 1990) that can be mutually unintelligible to outsiders. Here, the line between monolingual or bilingual starts to blur.

  • Nhung Nguyen

    The book sounds interesting since the hegemony of English and its constraint on bilingualism seem to be a common issue in the English speaking countries like Australia. Personally, I believe that implementing bilingual programme at the early childhood education stage is an effective innovation. By the early exposure to another language, the children are inspired to be bilingual before they are overwhelmed by many difficult subjects at school and influenced by the monolingual mindset in the society. Especially, in the childcare centre, L2 acquisition process might take place more implicitly in a naturalistic way in which the students are immersed in the joy of doing something “cool” instead of formally learning.

  • Ha Pham

    in many developing countries, bilingual programs, centres for early children have been mushrooming everywhere, especially in modern cities. However, there is a truth that “bilingual” here does not refer to its true defintion. rather, it should be called monoligual policy :English language. This can be explained by the fact that childhood educators prefer providing English literacy to home language literacy. it is clear that English is now a powerful language because of its crucial roles in different social areas, nevetheless, English will threaten the existence of other home languages if educators’ education policies remained unchanged. For example, many kids I met had really fast reponses to English questions and answers. by contrast, when being asked in their home language , they reacted more slowly and even could not give their answers. therfore, the prejudice in English and home language can be seen more clearly than ever, which migh become one of potential consituents declining language diversity in the entire world.

  • Gloria Christabel

    This write up is one that I can relate to, as growing up, I spoke the English Language the most in comparison to the other languages I know (i.e. Tamil & Malayalam-my mother tongues and Malay-my second language) and it became my first language, so much so that my mother tongues took a backseat due to lack of formal education and practice. There wasn’t much importance that was given to my mother tongues and this took a toll on my proficiency of those languages.

    I only came to realize the weight of this later on in my teenage years as I regretted not paying them any heed. I have come to be proud of my mother tongues and am saddened that I am not able to speak in them proficiently much less read or write in them. I do believe that a support system is crucial in ensuring proficiency in our parent languages. I hope to instill this in my children in the future so that they don’t miss out on such a great opportunity.

  • DIEU PHUONG THAO NGO

    I find it interesting that even though my country, Vietnam, has a bilingual mindset, the increasingly importance of English in getting educational and employment opportunities makes English even more important than the Vietnamese language. In fact, a Vietnamese person who can speak English fluently with basic knowledge of the mother tongue can easily find a job compared to a Vietnamese-fluent person with no English proficiency. Is Vietnam becoming “monolingual” in this funny sense? I think the reason is because of the English as a lingua franca, which makes it also hard for people from English-speaking countries to implement national bilingual programmes.

  • DIEU PHUONG THAO NGO

    Hi Ngan,

    It is sad that our country is experiencing an English frenzy and the young generations are somehow ‘suffering’ from their parents’ desire. However, I believe in the benefits of learning a foreign language at a young age, as learning another language is not simply ‘1+1=2’; some research has suggested positive differences of a bilingual brain. The Vietnamese Government have also made an attempt to decrease the age of children who start to learn English by passing a law that integrates English into the Grade 3 curriculum (previously we started to learn English at Grade 6). I think this is a competitive advantage of countries like Vietnam compared to monolingual countries 😉

  • Khalid

    My friend has two sons who were brought up in Australia. They are around 5 and 7 years and they can speak both English and Arabic fluently. Actually bilingualism in the early age is usually something great. It is not all about languages, rather it means learning two different language and cultures. The childcare was beneficial for him, the children were learning English there and coming back home to hear and use Arabic. Also, they traveled home and came back so that they had the chance to engage in both cultures. However, I haven’t thought about a bilingual childcare before, but generally I believe that learning two languages in childhood is always advantageous.

  • Tricia

    This reminded me of Dr. Ingrid Piller’s book “Bilingual Couples Talk.” How exciting to see how your vision for the language formation of your future kids will unfold! 😊

  • Thi Lam Tra DINH

    Hi Laily again,
    It is really interesting when I read about submersion education written by Prof. Piller in the week 6’s reading. She addresses one of the problems of submersion education which is learning a second language could entails the loss of the first language. This phenomenon negates children’s linguistic, cognitive, academic, and behavioural development and economic opportunities as well. As a result, bilingual or multilingual education is necessarily considered rather than ignored its benefits.

  • Long leg

    Under the integration period in my country, Vietnam, fluency in a kind of foreign language becomes a prominent advantage which could open more opportunities for Vietnamese’s further education or future career. Thus, many parents expect their children in their early age could learn one or even more than one foreign language, mostly English, that could be beneficial for their future success. These young language learners normally acquire English implicitly through various fun activities so that they could immerse in enjoying English without any pressure of formal instruction. These very young language learners can get a thousand of advantageous from their bilingual.

  • THI THU NGAN DONG

    Hi Thảo,
    Yes I also think it is a good sign as the policy makers have started to encourage bilingualism in education. The policy that you mentioned is part of Vietnam National Foreign Languages 2020 Project, which envisions that, by 2020, “most Vietnamese students graduating from secondary, vocational schools, colleges and universities will be able to use a foreign language confidently in their daily communication, their study and work in an integrated, multi-cultural and multi-lingual environment, making foreign languages a comparative advantage of development for Vietnamese people” (read more at https://e.vnexpress.net/news/news/vietnam-s-costly-foreign-language-program-declared-a-failure-but-to-little-surprise-3500085.html). However, even after 2008, when the policy was implemented, many primary schools still struggle due to the lack of qualified EFL teachers (read more at https://www.theguardian.com/education/2011/nov/08/vietnam-unrealistic-english-teaching-goals).
    The way I see it, Vietnamese EFL learning context consists of a sharply bipolar division of children from well-off families who are given the opportunity to learn English at a very young age; and many others, mostly from rural and remote areas, who are not as lucky as they don’t have the chance to learn English properly.

  • EM

    As someone who was born and raised in Australia, I am only fluent in English, as the two languages I have tried to learn (Japanese and French) I learnt through primary and tertiary education respectively with poor results. This saddens me because reading many accounts in these comments, other countries believe it very important to learn more than one language from a very young age. At times I feel a little jealous that I don’t know any other languages, however it has made me much more attuned to and interested in learning a language by going overseas and learning in an immersion program, much like students who come to Australia to learn English. I hope to attempt this very soon!
    In terms of bilingualism as a child, two of my young cousins are half Vietnamese (their mother was born in Vietnam), and she is adamant on them learning her mother tongue, encouraging them to talk in both languages at home – it is a lovely way to learn both another language as well as another culture, as also mentioned in these comments beforehand.

  • Deepak Bhandari

    I am in Australia since 5 months. I was staying with a family from Nepal as I myself belong to Nepal. They have two kids who go to the Kindergarten and have other friends from different nationalities. Their parents and grandparents use Nepali language at home but most of the time in school they are in touch with others in Australian English. When I observe these kids and try to speak to them in Nepali they seem confused. And, while interacting with others these children feel very discomfort and confusing which language to speak. They are very good at English both in oral and written but after some years they are going to forget Nepali and will not be able to read and write Nepali. Therefore, in my opinion children can learn academically not only two language but more than two because their brain has the capacity to adopt new things quickly bilingual school will be very vital for these kids to learn their mother tongue as well as other languages.

  • lokendra khadka

    Its a worth-reading article which encompasses some useful information about bilingualism. although there are some hurdles to be a bilingual for a child, it has more useful outcomes in the child’s entire life. Language is not just the tool of sharing ideas and thoughts but knowledge of culture is embedded within the language. As it is believed that children can learn the things very quickly, they can learn another language rapidly. In the context of Nepal, English is the compulsory subject along with Nepali subject in the primary schools where children are expected to read, write, listen and speak in English but they primarily use Nepali language at home. As a result, they can learn both languages effectively that benefit them a lot in their future. they do not only learn the new language, they also learn the new culture.

  • MonyCRole

    I highly favor that the outcome of a child’s bilingual education is affected by the parents, the center and official programs on bilingual/multilingual education in that these three aspects could be considered the provider and supporter of a systematic language education. Moreover, family, learning and social environments help to create a bilingual context, enhancing or affecting children’s language acquisition and usage.

    But I was wondering whether interpersonal recognition of the language(s) that children are learning to use could have influence on the outcomes of bilingual education. I once encountered a case with my boss’s child, Tony. Since his parents are Chinese immigrants and possess strong affection and nostalgia to Chinese language, he was told to take Chinese lessons and made great progress in learning it. However, in my conversations with him, I discovered that he had the tendency of avoiding using Chinese. When I raised my confusion about it, he told me that almost all of his classmates or friends did not understand Chinese and might isolate him for his special ability of speaking the language. Therefore, he needed to resist his urge to use Chinese.

    Personally speaking, this is a serious problem. The environment for children to learn and use a language includes family, school and society, as well as the interpersonal contexts. Furthermore, the interpersonal contexts require psychological and behavioral theories to analyze, examine and investigate. If possible, it is recommended to take wider contexts of language acquisition into consideration when it comes to further development of bilingual education.

  • GlobalMikeW

    This is an interesting read and I’d be very curious to check out the book. Although I have no direct experience with child care in Australia, as the parent of a bilingual daughter, I can certainly empathise with the frustration at limited multi-lingual centres. That being said, I still think the primary responsibility for a child becoming bilingual lies with the parents. In regard to my own daughter, despite her outside environment being dominated by Japanese, all of my interactions with her were in English. This included (and continues to include) both conversation and more structured learning activities. Had our situation been reversed and she was brought up in Australia, then the responsibility for her learning Japanese would have fallen more heavily on her mother. Which is not to say a bilingual child care would not aid the process enormously, but I do not see it as an insurmountable barrier.

    I do wonder, and perhaps this is covered in the book, but how does a bilingual child centre cater for multiple languages? Obviously if it is located in an area with a large, single-nationality migrant group, then it is clear how a centre could offer an environment that caters for their native language. But in a more ethnically diverse suburb, where the is no one dominant group, how would a child centre provide for these multiple languages? I’d be interested to see examples of how this is approached.

  • JZzzz

    This article reminds me of my friends and their 7-year-old son in Sydney who immigrated to Australia 5 years ago. The son is educated bilingually during these years: English only at school and Chinese speaking and reading at home guided by parents. Actually this mode is very common in Chinese immigrant families in Australia and even around the world. It underlines the importance of parents’ effort on bilingual education and also the lack of qualified bilingual educators in the society as mentioned in the article. Personally, I think bilingual education including bilingual childcare, is essential for immigrant family. Studies show that children who taught to read and write in their mother tongue are likely to perform well in learning the majority language later since literacy skills could be transferable.

  • vy ha

    Reading this article reminds me of a few encounters I had with bilingual teenagers who I met in Vietnam. These children have Vietnamese parents who are quite well off to send their kids to international school since a very young age with the expectation that their kids can speak English fluently enough to function in the constantly globalized economy. In some cases, these children are exposed to English as early as 5 or 6 years old. The main curriculum is carried out in English with a few classes in Vietnamese related to history or literature, but the exposure to their native language is not much. The main language for interaction in these school is English and as a result, after many years of being in this kind of environment, these kids do no develop a full capacity in speaking in their mother tongue. They could carry out daily conversations but are incapable of explaining more deep or sophisticated thoughts. Communication with the parents are also hindered as their parents told me that they have problems sharing with their children or doing something simple as helping the children with their homework and this problem creates a rift in their relationships. My thoughts about bilingual school is that in terms of curriculum design is that how educators can help these children develop a deep sense of appreciation toward their own culture, language and values when they are living in the age of English imperialism and how parents can involve in their child’s learning progress and ways to minimize the “rift” parents could feel to their child as they grow older.

  • Mustaqim Haniru

    Hi Khalid,

    I agree with your viewpoint that learning two languages at early age could be beneficial. As you mention earlier, children could develop not only the knowledge about other culture while they learn foreign language, it could also prepare them for their further education and career in which foreign-language competence was highly encouraged, and at some extent could boost their confidence. Nevertheless, putting too much emphasis toward the necessity to learn foreign language at early age could be counterproductive. As having foreign language skill has been increasingly required at schools, college, or workplace, most of parents have enormously enroll their children to bilingual schools, private language institute, or foreign language center even at the very early age and to the point which might against children’s will. Hence, the expected outcome might not be achieved as it against intrinsic interest of children and it possibly disrupts children’s awareness and competence towards their mother-tongue language. The latter consequence could be hugely crucial, particularly in the case where children are not only expected to be proficient in national language(mainly used in school), but also local language (widely used in social environment) as it is just like in my hometown in Indonesia.

  • Reem

    Due to the monopoly of English nowadays, it would be worth to consider the benefits of bilingualism from a tender age if the idea of language literacy is to be ingrained in the structure of a community. Structures that support the learning of children such as day cares could be used as great tools in establishing language literacy form the early years of children. This is a concept that can be adopted in certain countries such as Saudi Arabia to gain knowledge and proficiency of language form the early years of children.
    Thank you.

  • Thi Lam Tra DINH

    Hi Jo,
    When migrant children learn a second language, there would be some possibilities. First, when they learn a new one, they lose their native language or they are influent in both languages. These cases are subtractive bilingualism which entails cost more than gain. Second, they could fluently speak two languages. This additive bilingualism would benefit children in different ways. However, many migrant parents have no choice for their children’s school and how language will be taught because these issues might be beyond their affordances. In fact, there could be linguistic gaps among old generations and young generations within a family when the young generations are born in the host country and speak its language while their parents have low competence in English. It is really difficult to have a thorough answer that satisfies all the questions above. I think it is necessary to have a teacher-parent relationship so that they can find appropriate measures for their children’s literacy development.

  • Yeji LEE

    Thank you for this interesting article. It reminds me of my country’s situation of early-childhood English education. Actually, as a global common language, English proficiency is considered as a significant ability. In this reason, in Korea, children begin learning English from the third grade of priamary school. However, besides the public school learning, most of children start to learn English when they are in kindergarten or even earlier. Nowadays, there are a lot of so-called ‘international kindergarten’, in which teaches children in English, and many parents are eager to send their child to those institutions. I think learning English in early ages definitely helps children to acquire proficiency in any ways, for example, lowering their anxiety to English. But it should be accompanied by appropriate succeeding learning and assessment in the second and higher level education.

  • Nancy

    As English is the dominant language in the world, it is understandable that parents want their children to learn and excel that language so that they can be successful in the future, getting a well-paying job for example. According to critical period hypothesis, there is a close correlation between learners’ age and second language acquisition. Personally, it is better to get children exposed to second language at an early age as early exposure, up to a point, is beneficial to the acquisition of the children in terms of pronunciation and accent. Parents play a vital role in facilitating the progress of second language acquisition and maintaining HL at the same time.

  • Roxxan

    Thanks for the deep discover post. By the influence of globalisation, more and more opportunities for bilinguals, it seems that a person who can speak two or more languages has a better job. In this case, parents especially Chinese parents desire to send their children into a bilingual schools even most of them ask for a high price. What they think is that it will be better for children studying in a bilingual surroundings; however, these parents failed to realise that the purpose of most bilingual education institutions is only for profit instead paying attention to the teaching quality. As a consequence, even there are some bilinguals, the aim of language curriculum is fuzzy. Moreover, even if students learn some ‘foreign language’, they have nearly no chance to use it as they live in a full Chinese surrounding. There may be no point to learn a language if it will not be used frequently.

  • Meera Panthee

    As far as bilingual parenting is concerned, the best example is school and home of children in Nepal.Children are sent to Private English Boarding school with a high expectation that children learn English and speak in English fluently but they undergo a difficult stages initially but it is wonderful hearing them speak in English.On the other hand, parents cannot help their children with English and they remain confused.What I believe in this regard is, providing children with an opportunity to immerse into bilingual programme at the early childhood stage is in innovative step because it is a platform for learning something naturally before becoming actually aware of monolingualism or bilingualism. Parenting bilingually in the early years is a good step as acquiring knowledge in the early years is rapid as I have seen my 3 years cousin in Canada speaking in Nepali with his grandmother whereas he uses English with his friends.

  • Xi Yang

    Thank you for sharing your comment and I find it very interesting! China is pretty much the same case, most parents now are pushing their children to learn a second language (English is the dominant second language) at a early stage. Parents start to compare with each others that how long they send their kids to study English. The even worst case is that those centers which have native English speakers as teachers seem to attract more parents, however based on my own observation, some of these native speakers are not even teachers or have none teaching experience before. This makes me wonder the quality of their teaching skills, are they really better than the Chinese teachers (as a lot of Chinese possess a very high level of proficiency of English now)?

  • YUYANG SHE

    It reminds me of what we have learnt about some theories related to language acquisition. According to critical period hypothesis, there is an ideal time window to acquire language in a linguistically rich environment. Though there are still some debates about what the time frame exactly is, the hypothesis points out that the first few years of life is crucial for an individual to acquire a language fully. The launch of bilingual program is actually an application of the theory, which is believed to be of great benefit to language learning as the children are put in to an immersion or submersion education context. The fact that bilingual programs manage to offer sufficient comprehensible to the children helps the children acquire both languages. As is said in the essay, the programs` intention is great but needs to take all the dynamic factors that may influence the implement of the programs into consideration.

  • Luc Belliveau

    As a less and less young adult in a long term relationship, this article brings about all kinds of anxiety. I really want my children to be able to communicate in French as a baseline, and because my girlfriend is from Taiwan, she wants them to be able to speak Mandarin and Taiwanese (a variety of Southern Min). We both take the English language for granted.

    If you add onto that the Acadian dialect that is spoken at my paternal family reunions (along with occasional Cajun), and the fact that our careers are taking us both to Okinawa (where Japanese and the Ryukyu language are both spoken!) I feel like we are expecting too much of our children. At the same time, I marvel at European children, who apparently successfully communicate in upward of three languages at a young age. I will definitely be taking a look at “Bilingual Childcare”!