I won’t bore you with the details, but over the past couple of months, I’ve had continuous troubles with many parts of my digital life, and especially email. In fact, last week my entire email account for Bilingual Monkeys (firstname.lastname@example.org) suddenly disappeared from my computer, with thousands and thousands of messages vanishing in a matter of moments. (Fortunately, I was able to locate a back-up folder and restore most of them, but still, it was a long and distressing day.)
So if you haven’t received a message from me lately—whether a personal reply to an email you sent or one of my regular newsletters—it’s because I’ve been struggling with this problem of unreliable email. At this point, I hope (I pray) that it’s working properly again. I apologize for the inconvenience, but if you sent a message to me recently, and never received a reply, could you please try once more?
Thinking of the bilingual aim
At the same time, it’s also true that some of these troubles are connected to my aging computer. The desktop PC that I’ve been using for over 8 years has been a real workhorse, but I know it’s now wise to consider replacing it and remaking my digital life in new ways.
Here’s the thing: During my research for a new computer (I’m looking at laptops, in particular), I’ve continually come across the expression “You get what you pay for.” And by the fourth or fifth time I heard someone say this, I couldn’t help thinking of the bilingual aim as well.
The level of your “investment”
I’m not really referring to money, though, when I say that “You get what you pay for” can also describe the process of raising a bilingual child. What I mean is that, broadly speaking, the level of your “investment” in your child’s language development during the early years—through the time you give and the efforts you make—will eventually result in a corresponding level of ability in that language. In other words, the greater your “investment,” the greater your child’s progress will be. (Okay, I know the analogy with money isn’t perfect—because a less-expensive thing could still be of good quality—but I’m afraid it’s unlikely that a low “investment” in a child’s language development will produce a high level of proficiency.)
It’s important to stress this idea, I think, because parents of small children, who aren’t yet communicating much in the minority language, can sometimes wonder if the time and efforts they’re expending on their bilingual aim will truly pay off. Recently, in fact, I’ve had this very conversation with a couple of different parents, in different parts of the world, who expressed similar concerns about the “investment” that they’re making:
Will all these efforts really result in success?
And I responded in this way:
Yes, they will. You just have to keep going and continue being as mindful and proactive as you can from day to day. And if you do, you’ll surely generate the kind of steady progress over time, as your child grows and matures, that will gradually result in the satisfying success that you seek.
A reminder for parents
So, you see, “You get what you pay for” not only applies to computers and other sorts of products. It’s also a reminder for parents with a bilingual (or multilingual) aim to make the strongest “investment” possible, from as early as possible, in order to foster the strongest possible outcome through the childhood years.
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