I'm so enjoying reading Adam's book and the reminder to make sure that exposure and effort matches the objective has inspired me to calculate my daughter's minority language exposure hours over the week. This is something I'll do now, and perhaps in a month or two to make sure it has stayed the same, or hopefully improved!
Have you done this recently? Why don't we do it together?
English speaking Canadian Mom, French speaking Dad, happily transitioning to minority language at home (English) with our baby daughter in France.
Joanna, I'm glad you're enjoying my book! For all, here's an excerpt (from pages 110-111) which touches on this tricky, but tremendously-important issue of providing "sufficient" exposure in order to foster active ability in the target language...
In my view, even if a clear-cut “magic number” that applies to every family can’t actually exist, this doesn’t mean there isn’t value in estimating a general benchmark of exposure for successful bilingual acquisition in children, based on expert opinion and the wide-ranging experience of others. After all, even if this exposure can’t be precisely quantified, or calculated, shooting for a broad target that has been successful in many cases would surely be more effective than shooting at no target at all.
Again, I want to emphasize that some families may well achieve their own bilingual aims with a lesser amount of language exposure, but I would be cautious about hoping for the same outcome, for your goal, with a similar lower level of input. I suggest that, since you don’t really know your “magic number” early on—how much input you need to provide to foster active ability in the target language—it’s far better to err on the side of greater exposure, which will not only raise the odds of achieving your basic aim, it will enable you to maximize your child’s bilingual development.
In my experience—and others in the field, like researcher Barbara Zurer Pearson of Raising a Bilingual Child, share similar perceptions—a useful target for exposure in the minority language is about 25 hours per week. That’s roughly 30% of the child’s waking hours, depending on routine. Of course, the greater the number of hours, even beyond this, the more you will likely strengthen the odds of success. At the same time, the reverse could also prove true: Less than 20 hours a week might well be a cause for concern if fostering firm, active ability in the minority language is your goal.
Let me be very clear: This figure is simply a broad estimate that can serve as a practical tool for motivating ample exposure to the target language; it is not a “fact” and should not be taken as such. Although the degree of input needed to foster active bilingual ability is a continuing subject of research, I suspect it will always be difficult to draw a hard and universal conclusion about this central issue because, again, there are so many variables involved when considering families across the world.
With that caveat in mind, I feel that making use of a sensible yardstick for regular exposure to the minority language—rather than leaving vague such a crucial aspect of this whole journey—can indeed support the process of nurturing acquisition. I think it’s helpful, as well, to actually count up these hours of input from time to time, and particularly at key stages like the arrival of a new baby and enrollment in a majority language school. This will inevitably be a rough estimate, and that’s fine, but putting this on paper can be eye-opening: It can help reveal whether the exposure you’re providing to your child is generally sufficient or not as well as whether this exposure is as effective as it could be.
"Maximize Your Child's Bilingual Ability: Ideas and inspiration for even greater success and joy raising bilingual kids", now available at Amazon (http://amzn.to/22XKuCt) and all global Amazon sites
And this early post at Bilingual Monkeys offers a concrete look at our language exposure at the time. (Don't miss my cool pie graph which took forever to make and breaks down the different sources of language input!)
Mayken: My girl and I are going to see her ml grandma in our ml country for the Easter weekend. (And buy more books!)
Apr 13, 2017 4:35:53 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Mayken, I hope you two have a fun, book-happy weekend!
Apr 13, 2017 5:23:08 GMT 9
Mayken: On the train from Paris to Cologne we sat next to another ml mother and daughter from our school! Only noticed when almost in Cologne. It's a small ML-ml world!
Apr 13, 2017 21:40:37 GMT 9
Amy: Got fleeting impression during Skype call with daughter on holiday at grandparents' in ml1 country, that her ml1 pronunciation has improved! She even seemed more confident speaking in ml2!
Apr 14, 2017 23:12:48 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Mayken and Amy, you and your kids are both doing so well! Keep up your wonderful efforts!
Apr 15, 2017 21:26:50 GMT 9
Mayken: During the traditional German Easter fire, my daughter met her friend from her school day in the ml school! So many birds with one stone! (Sorry for the birds ;))
Apr 16, 2017 18:51:11 GMT 9