As any parent raising a bilingual child knows, there are several challenges that arise through using multiple languages in the home. For example, deciding when is an appropriate time to use each language and in what context. However, there are several myths surrounding bilingualism, which we would like to debunk, as many of the problems you may fear will happen, will not.
1. It Is Confusing for the Child
There is a common misunderstanding that children who learn multiple languages will get them confused. Of course, mixups will happen, especially if the child is very young. However, as they grow and their brain develops the distinction between the languages becomes more clear, with children as young as 10 to 12 months able to differentiate between phonics.
In addition, it has been proven by research that learning multiple languages does not cause speech delays. Every child learns at their own pace, so regardless of the language, have patience and trust that your child will get there!
2. It Is Easy for the Child
Although children are able to passively learn a lot of information, they will still face difficulties. Therefore, to allow children to reach their full potential, care and support should be offered.
Just as we must learn all the fundamentals of our mother tongue, to acquire knowledge of a second an investment must be made. By attending a bilingual nursery, going on playdates with children that speak the target language and by watching cartoons and listening to rhymes in the target language, an understanding can be developed.
At Hatching Dragons, we have found that consistency and commitment are key for children to develop proficiency in two or more languages and our approach is based on exactly that.
3. The Child Is Too Young or Too Old
There are several misconceptions over when is the most appropriate time to introduce your child to a second language. The importance of starting a child young cannot be understated. Exposure to a language during early years provides children with the ability to acquire a language through assimilation, rather than through intensive learning. However, older children still have the potential to become fluent! It is never too late to start!
Moreover, there is no need to wait until a child has become fluent in one language before beginning another. Children are able to learn both languages at once, therefore they can be introduced simultaneously.
4. One Language Is More Important Than Another
There is the common misunderstanding that a language can be “not useful”. Typically due to a limited number of native speakers in a limited geographical area. Although some languages are more widely adopted, such as English and Mandarin, there are benefits to learning any language.
Learning a language can help foster a deeper understanding and appreciation for another culture, creating a global outlook and developing intercultural communications skills which will be beneficial in both a child’s personal life and for a future career.
Regardless of whether you are fluent in a language or not, if you have a fundamental level and can introduce your child to key vocabulary, it is worth helping them learn the basics. You can also utilise other sources to introduce your child to languages. For example, by joining an online preschool or nursery. The child does not have to speak English or Mandarin at home, what is important is that they gain enough exposure to the language they’re acquiring.
Overall, there are several unfounded and unhelpful misconceptions surrounding bilingualism. Being bilingual provides a wealth of opportunities, which should not be overlooked!
If you are interested in raising your child as bilingual, see here for more information on our English-Mandarin childcare model: