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Common Misconceptions Concerning Raising A Bilingual Child

By: Donna Chaffins | Date: July 16, 2013 | Categories: Children, Education, Guest Posts, Parenting

Guest Post

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Whether you are a couple from different countries, or an immigrant family who speak one language at home and English out and about, when you have a baby it is important to decide whether you will speak to them in two languages or just one. Bilingual children tend to be the only truly bilingual people in the world, as no matter how hard you study a second language you can never get the same level of affinity with it as someone who learned it during their early stages of development.

This can give them a lot of advantages in later life, so to most people a bilingual upbringing would be considered a blessing. However, there are three common misconceptions about the negative impacts of using two languages around your new baby that put off some parents who could give their child this opportunity:

The Child Won’t Be Able to Tell Which Language is Which

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The way people learn languages from birth is highly complex, and is based very much on sound. The cadences and accents used in different languages are distinguishable even to newborns who have no understanding of language, just as if you had never heard jazz or dubstep before you would know they were different on first listen.

Languages that are very different, like English and Chinese, are easy for babies to tell apart, but by the age of six months studies have shown they can even differentiate between more similar languages like Spanish and Italian.

The Child Will End Up Speaking a Weird Mixture of the Two Languages

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This one isn’t exactly a myth, because it will happen, but it isn’t a problem. Generally the child will be stronger in one of the two languages you are teaching them than the other, and if they are speaking in their weaker language may use words from the stronger one to make themselves understood.

This is something everyone does when trying to speak a foreign language they are studying – in conversation you may know all of the words in a sentence except one noun and simply use the English noun. In adults it is called ‘code shifting’. As the child’s language skills develop in both of their new languages they will stop mixing them up, unless they want to – some people just like certain words better in one language than another and will always use them!

Their Speech Development Will Be Delayed

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Some reports suggest that children raised with two languages begin to speak later and develop speech more slowly than others. While some speech delay has been noticed in some cases, it is not typical, and also usually ends up being harmless – the children catch up and are speaking as well as their peers in both languages by the time they are school age.

There are similar delays noted in some children who are raised with one language and they typically also catch up unless there is another underlying cause.

Your bilingual child’s vocabulary in one language may not be as broad as a single language child because they are learning twice as many words, but again, this is nothing to worry about and they will catch up.

Keith Fernandes, the author of this post is an enthusiastic blogger. Photography and traveling to places are some of his favorite things to do.

16 Responses to Common Misconceptions Concerning Raising A Bilingual Child

  1. I had wanted to teach my son Spanish at an early age, but never got around to it.

  2. LyndaS says:

    In this day and age, I think it would be a good thing for more people to be bilingual.

  3. Colleen says:

    I think it would be a HUGE benefit to speak more then one language.

  4. I think it’s so crazy how young kids can speak multiple languages but here I am struggling to learn a 2nd language. I think it’s so beneficial to teach kids at an early age since they will absorb everything easier.

  5. These are all actually concerns that I myself had, raising my kids to speak two languages

  6. Corina Ramos says:

    I think it’s great for a kid or adult for that matter to speak a second language.

  7. Jenn says:

    I wish I spoke two languages so I could raise bilingual kids. What a gift to give them!

  8. Sheri says:

    Very interesting. I had only heard the one about mixing the two languages. I wish I could have taught my kids to be bilingual.

  9. Shell Feis says:

    I only speak one language myself, but I wish I knew Spanish so I could teach it to my son! Maybe we’ll learn it together when he’s a bit older.

  10. Jai says:

    The friends that I have that grew up bilingually always impress me. If anything, it seems to me that their language skills are improved in general. Their ability to transition from one accent to another is amazing too.

  11. stefanie says:

    I always wanted to learn a second language but I never took the time to learn.

  12. HilLesha says:

    I wanted my son to be bilingual because of his Mexican heritage, but I haven’t had a chance for us to both learn together.

  13. Mellisa says:

    I really hope my kids pick up a second language.

  14. I know a lot of bilingual kids and would of loved if my children were able to learn a second language early on

  15. I wish I was bilingual. I hope my children take a second language in school.

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