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Misconceptions of Bilingualism



There are common misconceptions people have about teaching their child another language. Many believe it to be harmful or detrimental to their child’s development and or education. In fact many educators not too long ago would have recommended parents only speaking one language at home. However, this recommendation could not be farther from the truth.


Some common misconceptions some people may hear are:


  • Exposing babies and children to more than one language may cause a speech or language delay.

  • Learning two languages will confuse your child.

  • Children who do have a speech or language disorder should only learn one language.

  • Parents/ caregivers who speak a language at home that differs from the one utilized at school will hurt their child’s chances for academic success.

Here is some information debunking these myths listed above:


  • Exposing your baby/children to more than one language will not cause a speech or language delay. Milestones for pre-language development are the same in all languages. Like other children, bilingual children will also speak their first words by the age of one. By the age of two most bilingual children will be using two-word phrases (ex.my juice, I want). A bilingual toddler may mix parts of a word from one language with parts from another language. This may make it more difficult for others to understand the child, BUT it is not a marking of delayed speech or language development. If a child who is bilingual demonstrates with a speech or language problem, the problem will show up in both languages.

  • A normal part of bilingual language development can be characterized by children mixing up grammar rules. They may use words from both languages in the same sentence but this does not mean the child is confused. Typically children can separate different languages but might still blend both languages time to time.

  • Children with speech and language disorders may have trouble learning their second language but there is no research saying that delayed children should only learn one language.

  • Parents/caregivers will not hurt a child's success in academia by speaking another language to their children. Sometimes parents want to expose their children to English because that is the language their child is learning at school, but if their English is not very proficient it will not help the child. This may actually hurt the child’s chance for academic success as the parent is attempting to communicate in a language they do not know well themselves, and are therefore unable to adequately model and teach appropriate grammar and vocabulary. Research tells us, it is best practice for parents to speak the language they are most fluent in to their children.

References:


American Academy of Pediatrics and American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2017, May 19). 7 myths and facts about bilingual children learning language. American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages

stages/gradeschool/school/Pages/7-Myths-Facts-Bilingual-Children-Learning Language.aspx

Hawai’i Council on Language Planning and Policy and Center for Second Language Research, the English as a Second Language Department at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. (n.d.). Myths About Bilingualism in Individuals. Common Myths About Bilingualism. https://www.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/540/bilingtl/myths.html


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