Are you raising a child with more than one language? Congratulations! You are giving your child a gift for life! But you will have probably come across a lot of questions and challenges as well. I bet, you will have been confronted with at least one or more of the below myths! Did you know it was a myth? Let's explore and then bust them.
As soon as you start to talk about raising bilingual children, you will find that everyone around you has a (different) opinion on it. Over time many of these opinions and half-truths have developed into myths which are stubbornly kicking around confusing and upsetting motivated parents time and time again. Knowing what's true and what's false about raising bilingual children is vital to prepare you for any unfounded comments well-meaning friends and family members will pass. Instead of letting those comments make you doubtful about your efforts and let you get off course, you will be able to confidently ignore them or even educate them.
Answer the below questions to see what you currently believe to be true about bilingual children. Just circle the number that most specify how much you agree with each of these statements (1 = don't agree at all, 5 = totally agree) When you raise your child with more than one language.
1. you must keep it to two languages or it will not work (1 – 2-3 – 3-4 – 5)
2. you will only confuse him / her (1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5)
3. your child's brain can get confused (1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5)
4. make sure he / she learns one language properly first (1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5)
5. You don't need to do much; he / she will pick it up in no time (1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5)
6. your child will always mix languages (1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5)
7. your child will do worse in school (1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5)
Myth # 1: You only confuse your child.
Research has proven that your child will in no way be confused by growing up with several languages per se. Our brain is able to handle many languages and stores them in different places. While languages heard consistently in the first year are stored in a pre-designed area in the left hemisphere of the brain, all later languages are stored in the right hemisphere.
Having said that, it is absolutely possible that YOU confuse your child by changing languages and language strategies (see Step 7) or by mixing languages. With the right knowledge and a consistent strategy you never need to worry about confusing your child.
Myth # 2: "More than 2 languages" does not work.
When you consider that we only ever use 5% of our brain, you immediately realize that our brain has ample space and capacity for language learning. While bilingual children are the most common, research has proven up to 4 languages to work without any problem. 4 languages typically occur in a family with parents with different native languages, an environment / country that provides a third and a school that provides a fourth languages. Among my parent network members I have parents who are successfully managing 6 languages for their children. This requires the child to spend time in that language on a regular basis and you can imagine the organization it requires on the part of the parents, so the effort is very high. Such a commitment to languages naturally requires trade-offs in other areas of life (eg sports, arts, school work etc) which most families I met are not willing to make. In a nutshell, you can bring your child up with many languages but you need to commit to the effort it takes to keep them up over a long period of time.
Myth # 3: Learn one language properly first.
The earlier you expose your child to all the languages you want him / her to grow up with, the better. There are many advantages to early exposure and I will talk about it in detail in Step 3. So waiting until your child speaks the first language "properly", just wastes time and makes it harder for him / her. And what's more, I bet you wouldn't be able to tell me when "properly" has been achieved anyway. How many words, grammar rules are equal to "properly"?
Myth # 4: Your child will only mix languages
Indeed, you can expect your child to temporarily mix languages up to the age of 4, using the vocabulary that is most easily available. This is perfectly normal and nothing to worry about – as long as YOU don't mix languages. You are your child's role model and you need to provide good language input. Have you heard about "garbage in – garbage out", the same applies here. Assuming you don't mix languages and your toddler does, you can help your child and provide the right word (s) by repeating the sentence, eg in form of a question using the same correct vocabulary your child was using – more about this technique later.
Myth # 5: You don't need to do anything; your child will pick the language up in no time.
While it is true that kids generally pick up languages fast, successful bilingualism doesn't just happen. You probably wouldn't have started reading this book if you believed otherwise. There are circumstances which facilitate your children's bilingualism more than others and in the right environment it might feel like you aren't doing anything to contribute to your children's language journey. To understand those circumstances you will still at least need to inform yourself (by reading Step 2 of this book). Doing nothing leaves your children's bilingualism up to chance.
Myth # 6: Stop bilingualism if your pediatrician tells you to.
Sometimes families have stopped raising their children with more than one language because their pediatrician told them it would be better for their child's speech development, stuttering problem, dyslexia etc. Most developmental issues are NOT related to bilingualism, numerous studies have proven the point. So, before you drop a language, ask a specialist and get a second opinion.
Myth # 7: Bilingual children do worse in school.
Browsing through the research studies that have been done on the topic you will find that they either conclude that bilingual children do just as well as monolinguals or in fact, they show that bilinguals are doing better in school. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise unless they have data to prove it.
How do you feel now – totally clear about what is myth and what is truth? Would you like to learn more and get your personal success plan for raising your children with more than one language? Visit www.themlnetwork.com/ebook/