Greening the information desert
Supporting emergent bilinguals with research-informed workshops
Parents and prospective parents who speak a language other than English in New Zealand are in something of an information desert when it comes to how and why they might go about raising their children bilingually. While the official languages, Te Reo Māori and New Zealand Sign Language, have special status among the languages of New Zealand, other languages are viewed very much as the responsibility of ethnolinguistic communities. To support the intergenerational transmission of minority languages in New Zealand, research-informed material has been created for dissemination in a website, an associated Facebook page and a series of lecture-workshops for parents and professionals which have been made available in digital form in this website. Workshops continue to be offered to professionals such as speech-language therapists, early childhood educators, midwives, doctors, and nurses who work with families with young children. Questions asked during these workshops help to select the myths about multilingualism we need to address in this outreach to irrigate and green the information desert. Already, a bilingual French class and a Swedish playgroup have been set up as direct results of the parents’ workshop events. Individual parents have reported feeling empowered to persevere in their efforts to raise their children as speakers of their language. Invitations to contribute to education programs for the professionals who work close to young children are beginning to arrive.