We are now living in a very diversified culture and society. It is natural to find people speaking at least two languages, and these people are bilingual. But some parents are afraid that teaching their children two languages would make them confused. Is learning two languages beneficial to our kids?
Most of the time, these children who have learned two languages find it as a necessity in their environment and community (Houwer, 1999). There are some cases that children would grow up in communities where most of the people speak in two languages every day. This would have an impact on how children would acquire, and later on, speak these languages.
Not all parents are happy with their children learning to speak two languages. There are speech therapists who believe that learning two languages could cause language delays. They would say that children would end up confused. In some cases, they would even suggest that parents make way for the dominant language and drop speaking secondary languages. They believe that acquiring the main language of the environment will be better if there are no other languages to compete with. On the contrary, these claims by speech therapists remain to be unproven and without any supporting scientific evidence. Many children have grown up in bilingual, even multilingual families and communities, and they did not develop any language disorders or delays.
Some linguists and child development experts would even recommend children to be taught with foreign language between birth and age 7. Studies show that children can say about 50 words, whether monolingual or bilingual, by the time they reach 18 months. According to Italian researches, a baby or child that learns how to speak two languages could make the brain more flexible. Experts also discovered that the ability of children to acquire language easily would decline when they reach puberty. If you are a parent who wants to have a bilingual child, then there is something that you can do.
• You can make your children exposed as much as possible to the language you would like them to hear. But make sure that they would be given time to hear both languages. You could start reading the books. Tapes and CDs will also help in language learning. Children can be very enthusiastic about music, so try singing too. Watching television, videotapes and DVDs are also great ways to introduce them to the language. Some parents would even enroll or encourage their children to be a part of language programs like language camps.
• Remember that languages are closely linked to emotions and identity. Some children develop a sort of trauma whenever their parents would stop responding to them just because they use a different language. So be conscious when talking to your children too. Do not use language exclusive with just one child, as others may feel excluded, and later on, develop problems with their behavior.
• Some parents tend to be too strict when teaching their children to learn other languages. Do not punish, humiliate and rebuke your children just for using a different language when talking to you or other people. If you feel that your kid is not catching up with the speech milestones, do not hesitate to consult professionals. Sometimes it could be a hearing-related issue.