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Home Journal Index 2021-4

Bilingualism, Education and English: An interview with Hugo Baetens Beardsmore

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Lun Peng (Gloria)
China Daily, China

In this interview, Professor Hugo Baetens Beardsmore first talks about his story of how he became bilingual when he was very young, pointing out that the term “mother tongue” can be sexist and provocative. He then talks about his Ph.D. research on language usage in the Belgian capital (Brussels), the publication of which in the early 1970s immediately provoked much interest in the press in Belgium and France; one major contribution of this earlier research included his socio-linguistic explanations of what made Brussels French distinct from French elsewhere (e.g. Paris in France). In his most influential book Bilingualism: Basic Principles (first edition by Multilingual Matters in 1982), he argues that bilingualism is not a problem but an enrichment and underscores the interdisciplinary nature of work on bilingualism, explaining why this book covered not only purely linguistic aspects but also many other (e.g. sociological and psychological) aspects. He shares his experiences of giving invited lectures in countries including Germany, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland and the US, where he needed to address the four types of worries concerning bilingualism, namely Politico-Ideological Fears, Educational Fears, Parental Fears and Cultural Fears. Finally, after sharing his interesting experience of producing a daily language tip in English on Belgian radio, he offers some study tips to EFL learners in China.

bilingualism, bilingual education, multilingualism, mother tongue, English language teaching, benefits of bilingualism