Bilingual sibling language use is described as being an uncharted area in the field of applied linguistics. I have a particular interest in this area of research and for my doctoral study looked at the emergence of biliteracy in Portuguese-English bilingual children being raised in Portugal and the role of siblings in the development of literacy within bilingual family practices. The bilingual children were all of school age (6 – 17 years old). I completed the research and presented a paper at the Second International Symposium on Bilingualism in Vigo ‘Sibling relationships in the development of biliteracy and emergence of a bicultural identity’ (October 2002.)
As a result of presenting a paper at this international conference, I was commissioned to write an article for the Linguist ‘Siblings: help or hindrance?’ The Linguist, Vol. 43, No. 2, April-May 2004: http://linguistonline.co.uk/
The research opened up new ground on exactly how siblings shift the language balance in the home and build bridges or barriers to language acquisition. In an article for the international journal of bilingual education and bilingualism, I presented further aspects of the study. I looked at whether parents are able to promote both languages due to cross-cultural experiences of siblings in the home and community and if there are additional issues where there is a single parent with the minority language. The article is entitled ‘How do siblings shape the language environment in bilingual families?’ International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, Vol. 12, Issue 6, 2009’ and details can be accessed at this website.
An exciting new book has just been published in this area of research. It raises many questions about bilingual siblings’ language usage and draws on data from over 100 international families. In the reviews of the book it is described as a ‘must-read for anyone interested in bilingual and multilingual families’ and praised for its significance in ‘highlighting an under-researched area of bilingualism research’. The book Bilingual Siblings (2011) is written by Suzanne Barron-Hauwaert who independently researches bilingual families and their language patterns. I first met Suzanne at the symposium on bilingualism in Vigo (2002) after giving my paper on bilingual siblings and so it is great to see that she has written this insightful and informative book on the subject. Details of her book can be found here.