FAQ: Isn’t there a danger to bilingualism?

One of the common misconceptions surrounding bilingualism, is that infants who learn two languages simultaneously will become confused children that have a very loose grasp of language concepts.

However, it is quite the opposite.

Infants that learn two languages simultaneously are essentially going through the same processes as their peers, instead just creating two language systems instead of one. There is also a large group of people who believe that bilingual children will be later to start talking than monolingual children, and will have significant delays in all language concepts. Yet studies show that although some bilingual children start talking slightly later than monolingual children, it is still within a normal monolingual age range.

There is a stage in bilingual development known as ‘code-switching’, which often leads parents to believe that their children are confused and resorts to parents putting bilingualism on the back burner. Code-switching is a term that explains the situation where a child will comfortably swap back and forth in different languages in a single speech. This may be because they lack the vocabulary in the primary language, the environment and people within it evoke a different language or the thought processes change mid-sentence. Whatever the case, code-switching is normal, and nothing to worry about with your children! This is a phase children grow out of naturally, just give it time.

For children that learn another language after their first is already near fluency (successive acquisition), learning languages is a breeze. Children have remarkable neuro-plasticity, meaning that their brain easily adapts and soaks up new information, just like a sponge. It is great to make use of this time linguistically, as learning language will never be as simple again. I’d love to be able to pick up a language as quick as some of your children!

There is no proof of any danger relating to bilingualism in children, in fact quite the opposite. Improved cognitive abilities, deeper thinking, and greater concentration are a few of the abilities generally associated with bilingualism – not to mention that it opens up a whole lot of opportunities worldwide in the future!

Bilingualism is a real treasure in life, it is up to us as a community to make sure it is treated as such.

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