5 Mitos sobre el Bilinguismo...

Maria Elena - posted on 01/22/2009 ( 3 moms have responded )

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El mito mas "popular" en mi entorno es el numero 3...;)



1. Your child will be confused by learning more than one language.”

This belief is prevalent in monolingual countries and has far more politics than science to back it up. Rest assured that your child's little brain has more than enough neurons firing to cope with two languages (or even more) without frizzing out. On the contrary, decades of research in countless studies actually show significant cognitive advantages to being multilingual. And what about the experience of millions of families around the world where multilingualism is the norm, not the exception? Just look at Canada, Belgium, Switzerland, and Finland -- to mention a few.



2. “I can see two languages, maybe, but more than that is too much.”

Considering how much babies have to learn in their first years of life, another language really doesn't add much to the load. As long the child is getting regular interactions in the second (or third) language, there won’t be problems. There is a reason why a two-year old child has fifty percent more synapses than an adult! Also, even if your child does not end up speaking all the languages, don’t underestimate the value of a passive language, i.e. understanding it but not yet speaking it. If you already understand a language it is magnitudes easier to learn it later in school or as an adult, compared to someone who’d never heard it before. So, even ‘just’ understanding another language is most definitely not a wasted effort.



3. “Your kid is going to get all these languages mixed up.”

It is true that some mixing will occur, but that is both harmless and temporary. As the child builds her vocabulary in each language, this phenomenon automatically disappears. How many monolingual children automatically fix mistakes after correct usage has been learned?



For example, children begin by saying things like “Me want,” when they mean "I want." And how many of them are still saying, “Me want,” at five? Eventually, the multilingual child learns correct usage in the same fashion as any other child. If you don’t mix languages in your own conversation, it’ll make it much simpler for your child to remain consistent as well.



4. “Why start now? Later your kid will pick it up in no time.”

For all those who think it’s a huge intellectual burden on your child to grow up with multiple languages, there’ll be those who will tell you how easy it is. “Just go to a Spanish playgroup once a week. You don’t even have to be so strict about speaking it yourself to her all the time.” This is highly unrealistic. Studies indicate that children need exposure to a different language about one third of their waking hours to become actively bilingual. They’ll likely understand a lot with less interaction, but they probably won’t be able to speak it themselves. Learning a second language is simple for children, relative to adults, but in the beginning they actually need to hear a word thousands of times before it sticks -- unless it’s a bad word, then miraculously you only have to say it once…



5. “Reading and writing in several languages? Some kids can’t even handle that in one language.”

It’s true that many children have difficulties reading and writing well. However, reading and writing is a ‘coding / decoding’ process and is not linked to the number of languages a child speaks, as such -- although it could involve multiple alphabets, and then be a bit more work. Interestingly enough, access to multiple languages actually makes it easier for children to understand the nature of language itself, which, in turn, improves overall literacy skills. Research supports what many parents have long felt: that multilingual children have better-developed linguistic understanding.



Finally, if you are in a hurry or find that politely ignoring the opinions thrown your way doesn’t work, you can always ask if they think Einstein’s intellect suffered growing up with both German and Italian. And, he didn’t start talking until he was three years old either, but he certainly seemed to make up for lost time!



Source: Christina Bosemark is the founder of Multilingual Children’s Association,

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Rosalinda - posted on 02/01/2009

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Thank you so much for your advice. You are right on about this. I have three girls, between the ages of 2 and 6 and I'm doing everything I can to immerse them in Spanish. My oldest daughter who started in kindergarten in September is learning how to read in English. Once I noticed that she was reading easy reader books in English and recognizing words in English I started introducing her to sight words in Spanish and to easy reader books in Spanish. She is now reading some easy reader books for me on her own in Spanish. I'm amazed at how much Spanish she and my other two daughters have absorbed, even though they are not immersed in Spanish every minute of the day. It goes to show that if you work hard at it every day the results will pay off. Teaching your child Spanish is a priceless gift, one that will help them get far in this world we live in. Please visit my blog:



http://momteachmespanish.blogspot.com



It chronicles our experiences trying to raise our daughters to learn Spanish. I hope it helps other parents who are going through the same experience. Please become a part of this network.

Cathy - posted on 01/30/2009

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The information you posted is right on the mark. I've been a Spanish Immersion teacher for over 15 years and I still hear the same misconceptions. I am also the mother of two future Spanish Immersion students. I book I found helpful when talking with potential immersion families is the The Bilingual Edge: Why, When, and How to Teach Your Child a Second Language by Kendall, Ph.D. King and Alison Mackey . It talks about many of the same myths you write about but it also discusses the different educational approaches to language education.

Beth - posted on 01/28/2009

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This is great and so encouraging. Thanks! I have found my kids doing some mixing of languages (mainly because we do the same in our home), but they are remarkably astute in knowing who to speak to in English, and who to speak to in Spanish. And even my two year old has started to ask "What's ____ in Spanish?" about a lot of things (he speaks more English than Spanish), which goes to show that even a little guy can figure these things out.

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