Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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Barbara Zurer Pearson, Ph.D.

Match the myths with what we know about them (from page 300, RBC)

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¡ ¡ ¡ ¡ ¡ ¡ ¡ Raising a Bilingual Child has been translated into Spanish ! ! ! ! ! !
Consigue que tu hijo sea bilingüe

Available now from

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Mira el Flyer for RBC en español.

Also--- a Translation of Chapter 1 into Polish
by Joanna Kowalczyk

Polish speakers, please check it out! (and let me know what you think about it.)



It seems like some languages are easier than others. For example, my child finds English easier than Spanish. What can I do to make Spanish easier for him?
--parent at Books & Books Workshop

See Suggestion


from KERA) When one parent is bilingual and the other isn’t, does that create a problem? Do you have any tips for handling that situation?

See Suggestion



No language is easier or harder than another in the abstract. But as a matter of everyday reality, the language that is easiest for your child is the one she or he hears the most. It's the one where the coolest things are happening and it's the one that people he wants to speak with are talking.

If the minority language isn't attracting your child, stop and think about it as if it weren't specifically a language, but say an instrument you wanted him to play. Where are sources to build the MOTIVATION for the child? What OPPORTUNITIES do you have for more of the language, in more varied places?

Consult the "Bag of Tricks" at the end of Chapter 5.
I also prepared a Motive and Opportunity worksheet, to help guide your thinking. There's also a reminder on the back of the various benefits of being bilingual for your child. Remind yourself of them often, and translate them into things your child will understand.

Click here for a downloadable copy



This is a very common situation. It has the potential to interfere with your bilingual goals, but it need not do so.

Until recently, the most often recommended arrangement for bilingual households was one-parent-one-language, so we know it’s very do-able. That can be two bilingual parents each speaking a different minority language, but most often it’s as you describe, one parent speaking a minority “foreign” language and the other speaking the majority language.

Potential pitfalls:

If one parent doesn’t understand what is going on between the other parent and the child, that person may feel excluded. (Or when we don’t understand what people are saying, we automatically think they are saying bad things about us!)

If the parents are speaking two different languages with the child, they may have a harder time speaking with each other, because their “habitual languages” don’t match.

One father in our Miami infant study felt so uncomfortable when his son was making so much more progress in Spanish than English, he got impatient and insisted they switch.


Tips (to avoid an impatient switch):

  1. Communicate. Talk it over.
  2. Have patience. Focus on non-verbal activities with the child; or continue speaking your language and eventually that language will come to the level of the input.
  3. Make a plan. Analyze the situation: what is the real issue?
    • One couple in the book made a pact. The wife promised never to use the second language to tell secrets. They had several children, and they rotated being the one assigned to keep their father in the loop.
    • His English also got better with time.
  4. As in 2b, that’s great when parents continue their own language improvement. But don’t count on it. (According to Barron-Haewaert’s survey (referenced in the book), fathers were less likely than mothers to come along in the new language.)
  5. You’ll get used to these “non-converging conversations.” They seem difficult to monolinguals, but bilinguals are generally not fazed by them.
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