Mind your languages

14th June 1996 at 01:00
A PARENTS' AND TEACHERS' GUIDE TO BILINGUALISM By Colin Baker Multilingual Matters Pounds 9.95.

This book provides an indication of how little parents and social policy professionals, including teachers, know about language learning.

The guide, written in question and answer form, provides basic information on bilingualism and raises practical issues. It is written both for monolingual speakers who want to consider bilingualism, and bilingual speakers who want to become better informed. It addresses a broad range of questions clearly and concisely.

The father of three Welsh-English bilingual children, Professor Colin Baker writes as a concerned parent as well as an academic and educationist.The well informed bilingual publisher of the book designed some of the questions for the author. The topics dealt with include family questions, teaching and learning languages, and the listening, speaking, reading and writing skills entailed in acquiring greater levels of proficiency.

The author has knowledge of a range of languages and so the guide covers not only regional languages but also immigrant languages, prestige languages such as English and French and the importance of languages as they pertain to employment in another language area. The replacement of the minority language by the majority one and how it turns bilingual speakers into monolinguals is also discussed.

The book is accessible to general readers and avoids academic terminology.There is a useful glossary of terms and a bibliography. The book also advances the notion of a network for bilingual parents.

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