Trilingual Parenting

A Few Books on Bi/multi-lingualism

These are a few books I’ve read/found so far. Will continue to update the list as and when I found more. Some are directly linked to bi/multi-lingual subject, some are indrectly so.

The list below is in no particular order.

A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism. by Colin Baker.

This book is easy to read and can be used as some sort of practical guide book, as it’s structed in a Question and Answer format. All questions (there are hundreds of them!) are categorized into 6 groups:

A: Family questions (such as: ‘My childern can speak town languages. How can I help them to belong to two cultures?’)

B: Language Development questions (such as: Will my child become equally fluent in two languages?’, or ‘Will learning a second language interfere with development in the first language?’ or even more relevant to me ‘Is it sensible to raise my child in three languages?’)

C: Questions about problems (such as ‘Will bilingualism have any adverse effect on my child’s friendships and social development’, or ‘My child mixes the two languages. What should I do?’)

D: Reading and Writing questions (such as ‘Should my child learn to read in one language first?’, or ‘How should I help my child to read and write in both languages?’)

E: Education questions (such as ‘Should my child go to a bilingual school?’)

F: Concluding questions (such as ‘Are monolinguals more common than bilinguals in the world?’)


7 Steps to Raising a Bilingual Child. by Maomi Steiner, M.D., with Susan L. Hayes

This is a ‘dummy for’ type of book. The author claims there are just 7 steps to follow, although I personally would rather take some useful tips out of all these steps, instead of necessarily actually following the steps. And also, this is a very US-centred book with lots of reference and discussion that is US only, so at times I feel slightly left out.

Anyway, the 7 steps are:

Step 1: building the foundation for your child’s bilingualism

Step 2: making it happen: defining your goals

Step 3: becoming a bilingual coach

Step 4: creating your bilingual action plan

Step 5: leaping over predictable obstacles

Step 6: the ‘Two Rs’: Reading and Writing in two languages

Step 7: adapting to school: the bilingual child goes to school


Le Defi des Enfants Bilingues – Grandir et vivre en parlant plusieurs langues. by Barbara Abdelilah-Bauer.

This is one of the first books that I read on the subject. There is a good balance of academic discussion (such as simultaneous bilingualism and consecutive bilingualism) and many case studies. The only downside is that this book is in French only, as far as I’m aware of, so you will have to be able to read in French to start with … The index of the book shows:

1. Les mecanismes du langage

2. devenir bilingue

3. de la naissance a 3 ans, le bilinguisme precoce simultane

4. le bilinguisme precoce consecutif, de 3 a 6 ans

5. le bilinguisme tardif

6. de la difficulte d’etre bilingue

7. l’education d’un enfant bilingue au quotidien


Bilingual – Life and Reality. by Francois Grosjean

I haven’t actually read the book yet, so will reserve my comments to a later time.


How Language Works. by David Crystal

This book is not necessarily a book on bilingualism, but as a general tour through the world of language. On its cover it says ‘It ranges over everything from how children learn to read to what makes words rude or polite, from eyebrow flashes to whistling languages. Unlocking the secrets of communication in an accessible, entertaining way, this exhilarating book sheds light on the endless mysteries of the language we speak, write and read every day. ‘

So it’s an interesting read on languages itself.

It does have a chapter on ‘Multilingualism’ that discusses how multilingualism works and how we cope with many languages. It also makes you reflect on how any human being – not just a child but as an adult – cope with more than one languages, as we do often these days.


to be continued …

A piece of reading …

As i was browsing through SMH (Sydney Morning Herald) this morning, this article caught my eyes … This is basically along the same line as stated in a book that I bought for Nicolas’ last birthday ‘Becoming Us – the Essential Relationship Guide for Parents’.

I cannot help but wondering, so why are people (including me!!) making babies if they often make us less happy? And why is every parent telling me that it’s all worth it? 



And baby makes … trouble 

"The secret to parental happiness lies in the spirit of generosity towards one's partner."
The secret to parental happiness lies in the spirit of generosity towards one’s partner.

MOST couples assume having children will make them happier. But time and again researchers find parents are no happier than childless couples. More often children seem to bring unhappiness.

Whether measuring life satisfaction, marital satisfaction, mental health or happiness levels, parents often rate worse than non-parents. New research shows it does not have to be that way. The secret to parental happiness lies in a spirit of generosity towards one’s partner, according to a study from the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, called When Baby Makes Three.

How often partners express affection for each other, their willingness to forgive each other’s faults, the small acts of service, such as making a cup of tea or giving a back rub, appear crucial in sustaining a couple through the shoals of parenthood.

Based on a representative sample of 1400 married couples, the latest research again found parenthood was typically associated with lower levels of marital happiness. But a significant minority of the couples – 35 per cent – were bucking the odds. What was their secret?

Husbands and wives both ”benefit when they embrace an ethic of marital generosity that puts the welfare of their spouse first,” write the researchers Elizabeth Marquardt and W. Bradford Wilcox in the Atlantic magazine. Those couples that scored highest on the generosity scale and made a regular effort to serve their spouse in small ways were more likely to report being “very happy”.

Other elements, such as good sex, shared housework and religious faith and commitment, also seemed to boost chances of successfully combining marriage and parenting, according to the report. But making the effort to be affectionate and generous to each other was a crucial ingredient.

Eric Hudson, vice-president of the Australian Association of Relationship Counsellors and a counsellor for 25 years, said the birth of the first child often brought a massive change in a couple’s relationship and lifestyle and sometimes less satisfaction. “Couples might not be having as much sex and the attention is focused on the child and then the children,” he said.

“Parents living busy lives can overlook the importance of kindness to each other.”

He said women were still expected to play the role in the marriage of the giving, generous one. And men often felt constrained about showing their softer and loving natures.

“The bunch of flowers sounds cliched but it’s really powerful.”

Robert Cummins, professor of psychology at Deakin University, said money and social support affected couples’ happiness.

Ten years of tracking wellbeing through the Australian Unity Wellbeing Index showed that, whether or not they had children, the happiest couples were secure financially and felt emotionally supported by their partners and a wider network of friends and family.

“What’s tragic is the low wellbeing of many sole parents,” he said. “They rate well below the normal range and that’s very much tied to low income. As soon as income is up to $60,000, their wellbeing is the same as other parents.”

Is happiness the right word to describe what children bring to their parents? The American researchers found married parents, especially women, were more likely to report that their “life had an important purpose” compared to peers who did not have children.


To Shower or Not to Shower

To shower or not to shower, that is the question.

Ok, this is not about my shower during 坐月子 as I have discussed in a previous entry, but about baby shower.

Chinese don’t have baby shower, so I’m quite oblivious to how it works. So I asked Nicolas, and to my surprise he said it’s not such a common thing to do in France either (indeed when i think of it, I’ve never been to any babyshower during my 4-year stay in France). I thought it’s a ‘western’ thing everywhere in western countries… So you see, ‘Western’ is not all the same – just another example of it.

So I turned to my trusted source, wikipedia. According to wikipedia, baby shower is a way to celebrate the pending or recent birth of a child by presenting gifts to the parents at a party. The term “shower” is often assumed to mean that the expectant mother is “showered” with gifts. And I didn’t know that often it’s hosted by a close friend.

I’m quite reluctant to have a baby shower (maybe simply a reflection of the fact that I’m not used to the idea yet) –  I feel like it’s almost like asking for gifts, esp if you have a ‘baby shower list’ (much like the ‘wedding list’) … (i hope i haven’t offended anyone … so far) … 

But then Tina, a good friend of mine with whom I was talking about it recently, made a point that the list would only do a favor to those who are going to bring you a gift anyway sooner or later, and it also does a favor to ourselves because then we’re sure to get gifts that we need … fair enough, point taken.

And when I come to think of it, I guess baby shower is perhaps the equivalent of other forms of baby related celebration. Much like ‘one-month’ party 满月酒 (like the name suggests, that happens at one month birthday of the baby) and ‘100-day’ banquet 百日酒 in China, or baptism in Christian families. People around the world celebrate the arrival of baby in one way or another. Families and friends share and celebrate the joy by coming along and offering something nice to the latest addition of the family.

mmm … so, to shower or not to shower? That remains as a question …

Have You Chosen a Name Yet?

This is a post dedicted to many eager family members and friends who asked the question 🙂

The short answer is: no.

The long answer is: we’ve established the criteria and given some thoughts. We’ve shortlisted a few names and we have been giving ourselves some time to make a final decision. The name will be revealed at the birth.

The criteria we have is: it has to be a name that sounds ‘normal’ in French, in Chinese, and in English. (a note to Paola – so yes totally in line with your comments)

There are a few things I need to explain first perhaps, so that you may understand why it’s becoming such a task!

First, the name will have two written versions, one in alphabet letters and another in Chinese characters. Instead of giving a French/English name AND a stand-alone Chinese name (for example Bob and 小明/XiaoMing), ,which is not uncommon, we want the two versions to sound at least similar if not same.

Secondly, Chinese ‘first name’ is always either one character or two characters, and since each Chinese character is always strictly just one syllable, that means that any given Chinese firm name will correspond to maximum two syllables. So this poses a limitation to the French/English version of the name if we want them to sounds close. Names like Elizabeth/Margarate are out of the game …

Thirdly, we do not want a name that is too difficult to pronounce in any of these languages. That basically put the names starting with ‘j’ (totally different pronunciation in French & Chinese & English) / ‘h’ (french doesn’t pronounce it usually) out of job.

Lastly, we want a name that is not too common, yet not too ‘strange’ either.

So … yes we’re scratching our heads …

Nicolas has a Chinese name 庞(family name) 念恺 (‘Pang NianKai’ in pinyin, the mainland chinese pronunciation system), a loose phonetic translation from Binse (family name) Nicolas, his ‘real’ name. It can pass as an authentic Chinese name however it needs some explanation before one recognises its similarity with the origional name.

I have been using the phonetic version of my Chinese name 茵 – Yin – as given name in non-Chinese speaking environment, which sounds immediately non-English.

While I like both of our names, we’d like to find a name that meets our criteria as much as possible, which hopefully will make our child’s life a bit easier – or at least not more complicated than it is already. After all, she will already spend fair amount of time answering simple questions such as ‘where are you from’!

Working Mother

I’ve decided to take 6+ months of maternity leave to start with.

I know it is shockingly long for some.

I also know it is shockingly short for others.

One of the things that any working expecting mother has to deal with is how to balance a young baby/child and the career. For many who work in the corporate, it comes down to one single question: how long the maternity leave will/can be.

Australian law supports up to one year of unpaid leave, which may be extended to two years with the agreement from the employer. This is unheard of in many countries incluidng China where I come from. One statistics I read the other day says that Australian women take about 7 months of mat leave in average.

I have very mixed feeling about taking long mat leave.

On the one hand, I don’t know how I will feel dealing with a crying baby 24*7 without being able to have adult converstaion most of time (yes I will read to her in Chinese from early on, but that’s rather monologue for a while at least, isn’t it?). I’ve never imagined myself a motherly type, and I’m not known for being patient with children. Mature and spiritual conversation has always been my type of tea and in fact crucial for my wellbeing. So, am I going to go nuts after 6 months of nappy changing and ‘yi yi ya ya’?

On the other hand, I truly believe what I have been reading about the early education: the more attention and love you can give to the baby and the more communication and bond you can establish with her in the very early part of her life, the more secure she will feel thus the more ‘ready’ she will be for growing up healthily (mentally). Time is probably the best gift a parent can give to a child. So 6 months is definitely not long. After all, child is child only once. You miss it, and you miss it forever.

Then I started to venture into the child care options for post-mat-leave arrangement (after all, regardless of the eventual duration of mat leave, I’ve never thought of not going back to workforce). What an adventure! Do you know that most of the child care centers around Sydney have more than one year of waiting list, and some more than two? Do you know that it costs a fortunue (we are talking about 100-120 australian dollar A DAY!!) to put your child into one of these, if you are lucky enough to get a place? Do you know that you have to start to put your name down in multiple centers AS SOON AS you know you are pregnant, and even that doens’t guarantee you a place by the time  you are back to work?

By simple mathmatics, I start to understand why some women (or men) choose not to return work. After all, if most of what you earn goes to the child care anyway, why bother? Despite the fact that work/career often means much more than just payslip (sense of achievement, social networking, self esteem, etc etc. Oh that’s a whole different topic on its own), it’s not a surprising choice out of financial reasons to choose child caring over career.

It’s a very different story in many Asian countries. Young parents with new born babies in China are better supported in terms of having grandparents or nannies (live in helpers) to look after the child when the mother goes back to work after three months or so. It’s not unheard of to have 2 helpers at home – one takes care of the child and another takes care of house chores. You like it or not, nannies are affordable for financially-better-off couples in many cities. Alternatively some would simply let the grandparents take over the responsibility of raising the child. One might very well debate if it’s a good thing to leave the care of your child to another person (grandgarent or nanny) – I am on the ‘against’ camp – but choices are there.

Sometimes I feel fortunate that I am under no pressure to have to choose work over child raising (at least for the first year). Sometimes I have this strong anxiety of not being able to do it all by my own. Sometimes I ask myself what I would become.  

Time will tell.

A few days later, there is this piece of news that caught my eyes that is sort of related to this blog:

Lack of affordable childcare keeps 70,000 mothers at home