Addative or Subtractive bilingualism … which is the best?


I wasnt going to post anymore today but then a conversation within my cross stitch group really made me think. In this blog I have tried to pull together all the positive aspects for bilingual learning on a global scale so that by sharing we can make better judgements as teachers and parents, but I am reminded by this that no amount of research, adult discussion or policy making actually means anything if we do not consider the children at the heart of the changes we would like to see.

The thread of this discussion is by adults from around the globe with an interest in cross stitching, usually just patterns and ideas are shared but occasionally a  discussion starts on something general like the recent hurricane, that leads to a discussion about something else and this one led to the weather and crops around the world. I now know it isn’t just the UK that has had crop failure, all over the world farmers are suffering its not just newspaper and business hype to get more profit.  Even my local garden and craft show has suffered with a  decrease in entries because of our unusual weather conditions this summer.

This discussion then led to language somehow and as many people in this group live in different parts of the world to where were raised, so communication has become an important skill they have needed to develop. Discussion then led to bilingualism as these parents are trying to improve their children’s language diet within their children’s education to improve on the educational experience that they received.

Here is a small bit of genuine conversation.  I will keep the people anonymous because I think this could be any two parents anywhere in the world.

The start of the conversation

Adult 1

I never had roots, and I don’t miss them.  I do consider Texas my home, and we plan to retire there someday twenty years down the road.  The foreign service (diplomatic corps) gives me the opportunity to live in a country and truly learn about it despite the bubble.  As for what I do when not stitching – I teach temari making to locals, I am very involved in a local charity group, and I go out with friends…….  What’s funny is that out in the villages, they have outhouses and high speed wifi internet.  It’s a difference of ease and cost of putting in the infrastructure.We took a three day trip to Odessa, Ukraine last week.  It’s a three hour drive from here, and the one time I saw a village with more than one store and no wells, I remarked that that village had money.  The difference when we crossed the border to the Ukraine was pretty stark. People in the villages grow their own food and mainly live on potatoes and cabbage.  Even here in the city, if you have a yard, it’s covered in a fruit and vegetable garden, not grass.  Canning is not optional; it’s a way of life.  Homemade flour, wine, vodka, and pickled vegetables are the norm.   So are raising chickens and pigs.  When I would go out to the countryside in Uruguay, I thought a lot of it was poor.  It is very rich compared to here.  I am so thankful to have been born American. As for the languages I know – I learned German in high school and college, picked up French while living there, and learned Spanish in Uruguay.  Now, it’s Romanian and Russian.  I didn’t learn Albanian in Kosovo: too many speak English there.> > Anyway, that’s what Moldova’s like

and then it progressed until it reached this…..

adult 1

Much easier for children to learn many languages. They seem to absorb information much better than adults. My mom was teaching us german. When I started school, I knew both english and german. Then my blockhead of a teacher had a conferance with my mom. Told mom she was “confusing” us by using 2 languages. Mom regrets listening to the teacher and wishes she would have kept us with both german and english. I think it would have been interesting to know german. I really don’t have the patience anymore.

Adult 2 response

My grand daughter was told the same when she was trying to teach her daughter two languages.  My grand daughter spent most of her school holidays here in France and as a child just listened to the language.  When she was in senior school and had the option to learn French she took it and gained a very high mark.  She wanted Connie, her daughter to learn French as well as English so she spoke to Connie in French and her partner spoke to her in English. Connie was learning well but was not very talkative for her age so my grand daughter was told that that was because she was confused with the two languages.  I don’t think that is true as there are now many mixed language couples who speak to their children in their native language and the children respond without any difficulty

As you say it is a shame that your Mum was told the same.

and on speaking other languages in the real world

adult 1

I found the little time I was in France, that some of them know English but will not speak it to you to help out or anything.  Not sure why but that’s how it was when I was there.

response from adult 2

that is due to the french government. They want “purity of language”. They are being quite thawarted by computer language as they are trying to come up with french terms/words to use. Taken them several years to come up with just a few words. While many french people can write english, they do not like to speak in public. Canada is also different. While you have french and english speaking Ontario, Quebec is quite the opposite. In Quebec, they will even mix up your restaurant order, just to let you know of their dislike. Have been on the receiving end of that one!

And the debate goes on, but clearly as adults and particularly those brought up around languages they seem to see the benefits much quicker than minolinguans.

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