Growing up Bilingual

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Hello and welcome to Growing Up Bilingual!

We hope that this website gives you the information you are looking for when it comes to raising bilingual children. The website has been created especially to provide a source of support and information for all those concerned with or interested in bilingual children and their upbringing and education. Although the contents of this website are mainly aimed at parents and parents-to-be of bilingual children, we also invite teachers, policymakers, administrators, researchers, speech language therapists and other interested parties to browse through the various pages.
On this website you can find various sources of information. Under Booksyou will find the details of dozens of books on a variety of topics to do with raising bilingual children or with bilingualism more generally. On the Blogs&Sites page we have made a selection of what we consider to be helpful and good quality blogs and sites. We have also collected the details of several Parent Groups from all over the Netherlands so if you’re looking for a local bilingual group to join with your child, here’s a good place to start. On the page called Projects you will find a list of research projects in and outside of Utrecht that are concerned with bilingual children. And you can look for even more information on the Other Resources page, where you will find links to articles, videos, magazines and more. If you are interested in attending one of our workshops, go to the Events page. Here you’ll find information about and sign up for upcoming workshops and we’ve also posted details of other events in this area. If you want to know about who we are and what we do, visit the About Us page. Last, but definitely not least, don’t forget to scroll down this page to view our Feature of the Month.
We hope that you enjoy your stay on this website and if you have any comments or suggestions, we’re always happy to hear them (see Contact on how to get in touch).

Ivana Brasileiro, Manuela Pinto and Sharon Unsworth

Feature: September


  • Dutch education abroad is a concern for us all


    Video: Eveline

    (This film is only available in Dutch.)
    This is Eveline, 8 years old. She speaks Dutch well, doesn’t she? Eveline has lived in Rome all her life. Her father, Joost, is Dutch, and her mother, Annalisa, is Italian, but speaks Dutch well. In addition to regularly speaking Dutch at home, for the past three years Eveline and sister Noemi have been attending Dutch classes. Their progress in the Dutch language is unbelievable, say the parents.

    Plans to cut subsidies to Dutch education abroad could soon put a stop to this, however. Last Spring we placed a call on our website to sign a petition from the Foundation for Dutch Education Worldwide (Stichting Nederlands Onderwijs in het Buitenland, or NOB for short). On July 5, NOB reported that just before the summer recess, a large part of the Dutch parliament had expressed their support for the maintenance of a basic level of Dutch education abroad. The problem is that such a basic level may still have serious consequences for the quantity and quality of this provision.

    But what do we mean when we talk about Dutch education abroad? I talked about this with Joost and Annalisa. They live near Rome and their children go to ‘t Kofschip, the Dutch school in Rome. ‘t Kofschip has more than a hundred pupils, who follow classes in Dutch language and culture for three hours a week. The classes follow the same structure as primary education in the Netherlands and the teachers are well-trained specialists. Joost and Annalisa told me that until now, the Dutch government made about €300 available per child to follow  Dutch language education abroad. To this, the parents have to add approximately € 500 per child. Many of these Dutch parents are not expats with generous benefits, but ordinary employees of Italian companies. Getting rid of this subsidy would substantially increase the costs of Dutch education for these families, especially for those with more than one child. That this will have serious consequences for the provision of Dutch education abroad is quite predictable.

    Rather than discussing the material costs, I want to focus here on the (potential) indirect material benefits for these children. In a bilingual family, two worlds exist and both form part of the identity of the child. As a parent you want your child to get to know your part of the world. And, like Joost and Annalisa say, it is easier to do this in your own language because this makes it easier to convey things with feeling. The Dutch school in Rome contributes to this by familiarizing children with Dutch culture via the Dutch language. Sinterklaas, Queen’s day and other typical Dutch events are extensively discussed in class and incorporated into all kinds of activities. This then makes it easier to talk about them at home. And it also means that stories from family and friends in the Netherlands become much more vivid.
    But in addition to these more personal benefits, knowing the Dutch language and culture allows these children to become flexible global citizens, easily able to switch between two cultures. It’s becoming increasingly common for both students and working adults to spend a period abroad. Companies spend huge sums of money each year organizing ‘in-company’ language courses. Knowledge of language and culture is the magical passepartout. Multilingual employees (especially speakers of the more ‘exotic’ languages,​​ such as Dutch or Italian) are already quite attractive on the labor market. But for Dutch people considering a stay abroad, it’s reassuring to know that their children can continue to learn the Dutch language outside the Netherlands. This makes it much easier to come back to the Netherlands. And who comes back, comes back with the valuable luggage of people and professional skills. Dutch education abroad is not just an expensive hobby for a small elite, but an investment in the education of young people in the interests of us all.

    Of course, when there’s a crisis, everyone has to make sacrifices. But by taking a positive approach, by focusing on the individual and social benefits of maintaining the Dutch language, it might be possible to find new partners/donors so that more children can continue to enjoy the splendor of multilingualism.

    Manuela Pinto


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