5 myths about raising a multilingual child
Did you know that more than half of the world population actually grows up speaking more than one language? However, this doesn’t mean that raising a multilingual child is an easy task!
When considering giving your child the opportunity to learn 2 or more languages, whether you’re bilingual or not, you may wonder:
- Am I doing the right thing for my child?
- Is all this really worth it?
- Will this have an impact on his/her well-being?
- Am I asking too much from him/her?
Here are the Top 5 Myths you should know before launching into the fantastic adventure of multilingualism!
Myth 1 : Leave the kids alone, they will learn when they grow up.
You wish. Unfortunately it does not work that way. True, adults can progress much quicker at the beginning thanks to their advanced analytical skills and their life-long acquired knowledge.
But very soon they hit a wall. And just how far that wall stretches varies greatly from one individual to another. Conversely, children might start slowly, but they – and only they – will eventually overcome pronunciation and proficiency issues.
So keep this general rule in mind: age of acquisition is a very good predictor of ultimate nativelikeness. The younger, the better. Childhood is indeed a sensitive period when it comes to languages. Oh and by the way, learning can also be great fun for them.
Myth 2 : My kid is already learning another language at school, so why bother ?
Well, your child is on the right track, but this may not be enough! In fact, exposure is one of the key drivers for learning a language.
Therefore, if your child is exposed to a language only at school, it will take a lot of time before he or she becomes really bilingual!
In order to succeed, a child should hear and speak a language as much as possible every day. Here are some tips for you to encourage him and incentive him to practice on a regular basis:
- have many conversations, or with little babies- lots of monologues, talking about and describing every single thing you do
- read books
- play games
- listen to songs and lullabies
- watch cartoons and movies
- send your child to a country where the language is spoken for an immersion journey
- enrol you child into a one-to-one or very small group class to practice more
Myth 3 : Multilingual kids are late in their language development.
Wrong. Children growing with two or more languages have by and large no delay in language development.
Of course, their vocabulary knowledge in any of the two languages may often be smaller than that of a monolingual child; but when taken together, the lexicons in both languages are at least of the same size as a monolingual child’s.
There are also positive interferences; for instance, metalinguistic knowledge acquired through one language can often be transferred to another.
Myth 4 : Multilingual kids confuse their different languages
No they don’t. In fact, right from birth, infants can discriminate between different languages. What does indeed happen is that children speaking different languages may often mix them in a conversation (as in combine them or use them concurrently) – but it is no confusion.
This is called code-switching. Why would they do so ? Usually because the right word comes first to their mind in the other language (and maybe they do not even know it in the first language).
This happens only when they are aware that the person they are talking to also understands that language. In conversations with monolinguals or when required not to code-switch, multilingual children will stick to one language.
Myth 5 : There are no worthwhile advantages to learning other languages
Really ? If you look at many successful business leaders around the world (Mark Zuckerberg, Michael Bloomberg, Paul Buckle, just to name a few), you will see that most of them are bilingual.
And this is no coincidence as many studies show that knowing a second language improves the brain’s executive function.
Being bilingual - or more - gives you a heightened ability to monitor your environment, which can help you stay focused and quickly switch between tasks.
It also helps you:
- Be truly successful at school or at work, grasping the most subtle details.
- Open-up to other people and cultures, and speak to their heart rather than to their brain.
- Reap non-linguistic cognitive benefits, for instance, a higher ability to process conflicting information.
- Delay the onset of old-age related diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
- Learning other languages is a long and sometimes difficult journey. But it is definitely worth it! It is one of the most precious gifts you can give to your child. So keep it up! And contact VivaLing for any advice you may need on language learning strategies!