Today, with the development of global international culture, more and more parents want to give their young children as many language skills as possible - not only one native tongue but also other languages that can be used for the better in the future; for those who aren’t native English speakers, English is, of course, usually at the top of the list, but also Spanish, Russian, Italian and French can be on the list of languages you’d want to teach your child.
Our desire as parents is to help our children become bi or even a multi-lingual, as early as possible, however, the fears in doing this often outweigh the desire - a lot of myths revolve around the issue of bilingual and multi-lingual child rearing which bother many parents who ultimately decide to abandon this worthy goal. In order to debunk these myths and show that there is no truth behind them, we will present you with the main ones and explain why they are wrong and why it’s worthwhile and recommended to overcome these fears and begin the process of teaching your child more languages at an early age.
Many of those who argue against the introduction of an additional language cling to the myth that the extra language can confuse a child leading to them using both languages in one sentence. But it is important that you know that although this may happen, it isn’t really harmful; On the contrary, it is an act of ingenuity on the part of the child, and an intelligent use of all the tools at their disposal in order to convey an idea and to convey a certain message in a clearer and understandable way.
Experts agree that the mixing of languages is temporary, and eventually, as the vocabulary of the child in the two languages learned will increase, and the more exposed they are to both languages, the habit will disappear. We, as adults, also tend to mix languages unintentionally when we don’t know how to say a particular term in a single language or when a word in another language sounds better or more accurate in describing a situation. If you occasionally mix English and Spanish, for example, when you talk to each other at home or around your child, you can’t expect your child not to do so - and as mentioned, it doesn’t indicate any shortcoming or problem.
Following the previous myth, there are those who argue that not only will confusion be the plight of those who try to teach their child two languages at the same time, but also a general delay in the development of speech and communication. This concern is based on a number of incidents that have occurred, but the delay has always been temporary, and this isn’t true for everyone. Unfortunately, many parents who are concerned about language development difficulties stop the learning process and return to teaching their child only one language.
Dr. Ellen Stubbe Kester, founder and president of an institute which provides speech therapy for bilingual children, says that scientific research indicates that bilingualism does not delay speech development or language acquisition, even if your child has been diagnosed with speech delay at some level or another, Kester adds that studies have shown that children with delayed development of bilingual language were eventually able to acquire languages with the same level of competence as language-delayed children raised as single-language speakers.
With there being those who think that learning a second language may harm the process of acquiring language - a myth that, as we see isn’t true, there are those who believe that learning a second language is a very simple process for the child. They believe that all that is needed is to talk to the child in the language they want to teach, or to just place them in front of different sources of that language, for example, T.V shows and music and they will absorb it on their own and wish to speak it without any significant educational intervention.
This is an unrealistic idea that is likely to lead to insignificant results; The process of teaching a new language should not be a heavy burden on your shoulders, However, it is important to present the child with the correct language and structure, as well as to persist in proper and consistent learning, whether in everyday conversations with the same language or traditional means of study. The idea is that in the end, you must expose your child to the language in a way that is meaningful to them, this includes interesting learning methods that relate to their daily life and routine.
Many parents believe that there is a certain stage in childhood after which it is too late to try to raise their child bilingual. Therefore, if their child has crossed that age, they will not try to teach them a second language. But you should know that this is a mistake because all professionals and experts indicate that in most cases there are three optimal times for teaching a child a second language.
It is true that the best stage to impart to the child the knowledge of the additional language is from the moment of birth until the age of 3 - since this is the period when they acquire their first language and their mind is still open and able to be molded - but the 4-7 age range is also suitable for this purpose, as at this age they can still process multiple languages, that is to build a second language system next to the first language and learn how to speak both languages well. The third window of opportunity is between the age of 8 and puberty. After puberty, studies show that new languages are stored in a separate area of the brain thus making language acquisition at this age much more difficult, yet still possible.
In a house where two parents speak only one language, or only one of them speaks the other language they want to impart to a child, it is questionable whether it is even possible to raise a bilingual child. The obvious question of parents who don’t know a second language is: "If we speak one language among ourselves, how is it possible for a child to develop a second language?" But know that this is definitely something that can be done - today there are many professional aids that can help you teach your child a second language.
Of course you should take into consideration that if you decide to teach your child a second language without being able to speak it yourself, you may also have to learn some parts of it to help your child absorb it better - but you don’t need to speak it fluently; Movies, books, and of course, classes and professionals who specialize in language learning for children can be of great help to you and contribute to the development of the additional language in your child even without you mastering it as a second language yourself.
This is a myth that needs to be refuted right away: every child can be bilingual, regardless of their IQ or intelligence. When you teach your child a second language you should not be concerned about whether they are "smart enough" to go through the process, but only whether you are willing to make some lifestyle changes to make it happen.
It might be helpful to know that children are actually born ready to learn languages, and don’t need any special intellect or gift to do so; As we have already explained to you, a young brain has an advantage in learning languages more than any other tendency. It is clear that in later stages, some will have higher language learning abilities than others, but this is a skill most children have at young ages.