Bilingual is Better

This giveaway is now closed. You can still enter for another chance every day this week. Congratulations to our winner: INES!

Photo by przemko.stachowski

Photo by przemko.stachowski

As we mentioned in yesterday’s post, we are dedicating this whole week to looking more closely at the OPOL method, after realizing that the majority of our readers are using it to raise their children bilingual.

Today we are honored to present you with the expertise of pediatrician and author of 7 Steps to Raising a Bilingual Child, Dr. Naomi Steiner, who has been interested in teaching and discussing bilingualism and multiculturalism for a very long time. In fact, her book – written with Susan L. Hayes – came about after more than 10 years of working closely around these issues with many families. Dr. Steiner is herself multilingual, she speaks English, French, German and Italian, and is continuing the trend with her own children by raising them multilingual, too.

A developmental-behavioral pediatrician and clinical researcher at the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts, Dr. Steiner is also an assistant professor in pediatrics. She is interested in how children develop awareness to cope with their emotions, behavior and learning.

In addition, she is co-director of an early developmental assessment clinic for children between zero and three years of age at the Center for Children with Special Needs, at the Floating Hospital for Children, Tufts Medical Center. This clinic evaluates primarily children on the autism spectrum and with developmental delays. Yoga training in schools to help children cope with stress is a special interest to Dr. Steiner, and another on-going project that she has.

Why did you write a book about raising bilingual children?

Dr. Naomi Steiner

Dr. Naomi Steiner

When I was pregnant, because my husband and I are both multilingual, we had to think about which languages we were going to speak to our child in. So as a pediatrician specialized in child development and in behavior, I went around the office asking colleagues, speech and language therapists, linguists, teachers, education specialists, what they thought. I got so many different answers, that I was quite confused. In the end I did extensive research myself, and have continued since then to be interested in this field. I wrote this book because it is clear that parents are asking very thoughtful questions, yet they are not getting answers that are based on research that is explained in a lay way.

  • Dr. Steiner’s tip for parents: as you gather information regarding raising your child – even in general – ask yourself: “does this advice make sense to me? Will it work for me and my family?

What you have found continues to be the biggest misconception about raising bilingual children?

What really fuels my engine to talk about bilingualism to parents is not only the myths themselves, but they way that they negatively affect parents, who then give up on transmitting their heritage to their children. This continues to keep me going. That is why “speaking” on blogs like this is so important.

  • Dr. Steiner’s tip: you are not alone! Keep communicating with other parents, support each other, exchange ideas and energy to raise healthy bilingual children.

What would you say is the number one concern you hear from parents thinking about or in the middle of raising their children bilingual?

I have interviewed hundreds of parents about raising children bilingual. What comes back over and over again, is that parents know in their guts raising their child bilingual is the way to go – and they are right – however they hesitate and this stalls them. Often important people in their child’s lives (from teachers, speech and language specialists, even their own family) send conflicting messages. So parents’ number one concern is: am I doing it right? Is this o.k.?
And parents have to understand that the answer is: “yes, you are doing great”. Even if your child does not speak perfect Spanish – yet- , whichever steps your are taking are moving her and your family along.

  • Dr. Steiner’s tip for hesitating parents: Persevere and you will get there!

FIVE REASONS WHY OPOL IS THE WAY TO GO:

“I love the One Parent-One Language method because it is the most successful,” Dr. Naomi Steiner says. “And here is why I encourage OPOL:”

  1. It supports consistency: what I mean here is that this is the easiest way for you to be speaking with your child Spanish consistently because you are doing it all the time. Period. I also recommend speaking to your child in Spanish when in public. But I know that a lot of parents switch to English. Each family has to make this personal decision for themselves.
  2. It is simple: that’s because you are speaking Spanish, and that’s it. There is not room for “oh we are taking a bath so let’s switch languages now. Simple parenting strategies are important in our busy lives. A certain amount of steps just become automatic. For instance, if you are at the library you look for the Spanish book section.
  3. It is effortless: you don’t need to be handling and dealing with your child that “now is Spanish time,” because it is always Spanish time with you. And if you child does tell you at one point “no more Spanish,” then you sit down with your child and explain why Spanish is important to you and your family and that this is part of you that you are giving to him.
  4. It naturally encourages your child to respond to you in Spanish: as a young infant, your child will literally automatically answer you back in your language. And will continue to do so as long as it remains your house rule.
  5. It enables a child to receive a maximum language input in two different languages: This is very important. So for instance if you are speaking Spanish and your child is hearing English at day care, your child will also be learning to speak Spanish fluently because when you are with her you are always speaking in Spanish. If you speak to your child half the time in English, that decreases the exposure to Spanish in half, which in turn will slow down your child’s pace of learning Spanish.

You can find a lot more information about the OPOL method and more of Dr. Steiner’s helpful recommendations and tips in her book, 7 Steps to Raising a Bilingual Child, which – lucky for you – we are giving away once again today and every day this week.

To win a copy of Dr. Naomi Steiner’s book:

Tell us why you would like to win this book? How and why do you think it will be helpful in your family’s situation? Pretty simple, huh?

Remember we’ll be giving away one copy per day and you can enter once per day. Today’s giveaway will end tonight at midnight EST. Make sure you’re subscribed either by RSS or email so you don’t miss out on this highly informative and useful OPOL week.

Giveaway rules.

We hope you are enjoying and learning from our OPOL week! If you missed yesterday’s introductory post, you can read it by going here. And, don’t forget to come back for more tomorrow, when we bring you our weekly Ask an Expert series with an OPOL-specific question answered by Suzanne Barron-Hauwaert, author of Language Strategies for Bilingual Families – The One Parent-One Language Approach and the blog: Notes from the OPOL Family. Plus, remember we’ll be giving away yet another copy of Dr. Naomi Steiner’s book.

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