Here is an article from NYMetro Parents, published in July 2010. The writer of the article consulted with me for information, and some of my quotes were used! I’ve included scans of the article, but I’ve also included text of my quotes.

“Language is learned in lots of tiny bites,” explains Dr. Barbara Zurer Pearson, author of Raising A Bilingual Child,  (Random House). Pearson, who has more than 20 years of research under her belt,  says that large experiences – like travel retreats – although important – are less effective. Classes, playgroups, DVDs, audio CDs and iPhone apps as well as foreign language channels and online videos.

“It’s not important enough for the parent to want their child to be bilingual; they have to figure out how to motivate the child to want it as well,” explains Zurer Pearson.


The Spanish publisher for my 2008 book, “Raising a Bilingual Child,” has just sent me the translated Chapter 1 for the book! Chapter 2 is on its way. This is really exciting news! I will keep everybody updated on this book as things progress.

A woman named Leslie e-mailed me asking me to write a response to a newspaper in Oregon regarding a Spanish Immersion program. Here is my response, in full, and abridged.

Dear Oregonian,
I just posted to your blog ( a 300-word version of a letter I wrote in support of the West Linn/ Wilsonville School Committee’s decision to maintain the Spanish Immersion program.
I enclose and attach a copy of a 150-word version that I hope you will be able to print.  Would it be possible to have it appear before the school committee meets again on Wednesday meeting?
Thank you.
Barbara Zurer Pearson

Supporting Spanish Immersion for Our Children

Last year West Linn Schools had the wisdom and parental support to start a Spanish Immersion program.  Such programs enrich the educational experience and cultural perspective of the mainstream children who participate and send an important message to speakers of minority languages that their language and culture are valuable.  Such programs are highly successful because they take advantage of the special mental equipment young children have for learning languages.  They are both more effective and more cost-effective than high school language programs. When carefully planned, early immersion programs need not cost more than the programs they replace.

Even for the kindergartener, however, language learning takes effort,—and above all, it takes consistency and continuity. As a linguist and life-long student of language learning in children, I urge the school committee not to abandon its commitment to providing the best education possible for their children and to continue the Spanish Immersion. (150)


Barbara Zurer Pearson, Ph.D.

Research Associate, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Author of Raising a Bilingual Child (Random House, 2008)


Published in The Linguist, April-May 2010, Vol. 49, issue 2.  The Institute’s website:

Give it a read and tell me what you think!

Here is a short description of some recent talks I’ve given in the past months regarding bilingualism.

  • After Amigos School in Cambridge, Ma, February 2010.
  • LEX, a language organization based in, Belmont Ma.
  • Arlington Public Library on March 13. There were over 100 enthusiastic people there, and then they asked me to follow up with some posts on a google list.

Poster – Barbara Pearson March 13 lecture

  • Fort Hill School in Northampton with Jill de Villiers, professor of Psychology at Smith College
  • Brandeis University, in Waltham Mass, April 29 (“Being bilingual in a monolingual culture”)
  • Two-Way Spanish/English Charter School in Hoboken, New Jersey. I toured the new facility and spoke at their parents’ meeting.
  • Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care, June 12th, Springfield. Topic: Emerging Literacy in Two languages.

All of these are really exciting! I can’t wait to update more about it.

I received an email a little while ago. This is what it said.

Dear Dr. Barbara Zurer Pearson,

I am writing to you as a distressed parent of a kindergarten student currently enrolled in a new Spanish Immersion program in my town of West Linn, Oregon. I found your website and research while looking for anything that can help us impart how critical it is to have foreign language and immersion programs for young students.

Our school board decided last year to implement a Spanish Immersion program in two primary schools starting with the kindergarten class of 2009-10. We were beyond thrilled as you can imagine.

However, just last week we were informed via email from the deputy superintendent that it will be recommended to the school board to eliminate this brand new, and yet flourishing, program. We were told from the beginning that this would never be a budget issue, and yet that is what they are using against us now.

The school board will be meeting on Monday, June 7th to discuss, hear public testimony on, and then vote whether our students will be able to continue with their foreign language

I am writing to ask if you would consider writing an email letter to the members of the school board indicating how important foreign language programs are for our country’s children. I would greatly appreciate this show of support. I understand that this is a weekend and only allows two days, but this is my child’s future education at stake.

Thank you for all the work that you do.”

Here is the letter I wrote.

June 7, 2010

To the West Linn / Wilsonville School Committee:

Last year, you embraced a Spanish Immersion program for all the right reasons.  It enriches the educational experience and cultural perspective of the mainstream children who participate and sends an important message to speakers of minority languages that their language and culture are valuable.  It responds to President Obama’s call for every American child to be bilingual.  So, immersion education is in the interest of the nation, the community, and the children fortunate enough to have access to this forward-looking program.

Early immersion is also cost effective.  As you know, young children have special mental equipment for learning languages; high school students do not.  It is much more costly (and less successful) to make students wait till middle or high school for the opportunity to learn languages. On the other hand, language learning takes effort, even for the kindergartener—and above all, it takes consistency and continuity.

As a linguist and life-long student of children learning more than one language, I applaud the school system for establishing the program, but hope you will also have the determination to continue it.

I am alarmed to hear that you would consider cutting it after only one year.  We realize that budgets are tight everywhere.  But Miami’s experience with immersion schools demonstrates that they do not have to cost more than the non-immersion schooling they replace. However, they do take more organizational effort.  They are born of the strong commitment to providing the best education possible for our children.  That is an intangible without a price tag—one simply cannot buy committed parents, teachers, and administrators.  It is important not to squander them when you have them.

I urge you to maintain the current Spanish Immersion programs, and work with the parents and administrators to keep them on a par with other programs offered—not more privileged, but not less.


Barbara Zurer Pearson, Ph.D.

Research Associate, Linguistics and Communication Disorders

Author, Raising a Bilingual Child (Random House, 2008)

Major Contributor, Language and Literacy in Bilingual Children (Multilingual Matters, 2002).”

Leave in the comments your thoughts about this.

Hey everybody – Reply in the comments to these questions! It would be interesting to know how people stand with these questions.

1. What do you think is the most beneficial language to learn?

1a. What would you consider the language to be beneficial for?

2. What do you think is the most widely spoken foreign language in the U.S.?

3. Do you think foreign language acquisition should be more heavily thought about in Elementary, Secondary, and College settings?

4. Do you speak or learn a foreign language?

Thanks guys! Can’t wait to read your answers.

‘Bilingual brain’ effects probed


A project at Bangor University aims to explore the benefit of being bilingual.

Researchers will be recruiting 700 people aged between two and 80 to take part in the £750,000 programme.

Prof Virginia Gathercole said the obvious benefits included being able to converse and to participate in two cultures.

But she said there was also evidence of non-language benefits, such as the ability to protect the brain from ageing.

“The very act of being able to speak, listen, and think in two languages and of using two languages on a daily basis appears to sharpen people’s abilities to pay close attention to a aspects of tasks relevant to good performance,” she added.

“ Running two parallel language systems throughout life has had positive benefits in a number of ways ”
Prof Virginia Gathercole, Bangor University

Research carried out already had also shown having two languages helped protect against the decline in the brain’s abilities when ageing,” she added.

“We already know that language processing is one of the most complex activities that our brains carry out.

“Running two parallel language systems throughout life has had positive benefits in a number of ways,” she added.

One multilingualist, Phillip Hughes, 62, travelled widely with his work as a teacher before his retirement. He said he found having two languages handy, especially when he had to learn another one, German while living in Swizerland.

Case study – Phillip Hughes, 62 I think being able to speak two languages has been of benefit, especially when
I had to learn German when I worked in Switzerland.

I learned it quickly and they said my pronunciation was good.

At home I spoke English as my mother spoke English, but outside I would speak Welsh (and I also spoke Welsh in my
sleep apparently).

I want my children to grow up speaking more than one language, and to understand that it is important to speak more
than English – especially if you go off the beaten track.

He grew up in an English-speaking household, but spoke Welsh to his friends and in the wider community, and was adamant that his children should also have language skills.

Dr Enlli Thomas, who is collaborating on the project, said there was evidence from Canada that being bilingual “may provide some protection against age-related memory loss”.

The Bangor research team are looking for people who are bilingual in Welsh and English and monolinguals – or those who speak only one language – aged over 60 to take part in the research.

Participants take part in a set of simple language tests and then carry out on-screen puzzles and tasks, similar to “brain games” played on hand-held games consoles.

The researchers are looking for people who grew up in homes where only Welsh was spoken, where both Welsh and English were spoken, and where only English was spoken.

The research can be carried out either at the university or a researcher can visit the participant.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2010/01/12 12:03:18 GMT

Hi everybody – Another Spanglish Baby Ask the Expert has been posted!

“Hello, I was born and raised in Norwalk, CT. Both my parents are from Costa Rica. I met my husband in South Florida. He is American-born and raised in California. We got married and had our first baby girl on May 6th, 2009. Now he and I are arguing about what language to speak to her in. I suggested I speak in Spanish, and he in English, but he’s afraid that she will learn Spanish before English, and will not allow me to speak to our little girl in Spanish. I truly want her to be bilingual. Please advise as to what I can do so that this is possible. Desperately awaiting your answer. Thank you – Grettel Golson “Cabrera”.”

Click Here to view my response!

Book Cover

Book Description

"Raising a Bilingual Child" offers both an overview of why parents should raise their children to speak more than one language and details steps parents can take to integrate two languages into their child's daily routine. It also includes inspirational first-hand accounts from parents. Bilingualism expert Barbara Zurer Pearson provides parents with information, encouragement, and practical advice for creating a positive bilingual environment for young children.

Author Picture

My Twitter

Page Views


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 719 other followers