Early Bilingual Language Development: Facts and Fictions

In an effort to inform our readers on Bilingual Education and how it affects our English Language Learners, we are constantly seeking out expert research for you to read. Below is a prime example of aspects of language development influencing parents today. The below excerpt is from a guest blogger over at Multilingual Parenting, founded by Rita Rosenback.

Source: MultilingualParenting.com

By Dr. Mary-Pat O’Malley-Keighran

Bilingual parents often worry that raising a bilingual child will cause a language delay. It seems lots of people have opinions about this, many of them based on faulty information (fiction)! So no matter what other well-meaning people may tell you (professionals included), please be reassured by the fact that more than half of the world’s population speak more than one language (fact). Bilingual language development is what happens for most of the world. Bilingualism definitely does not cause language delay – ever (fact)!

If children need to speak more than one language because of the context they live in (their family, community, religion, education etc.), then they need to be bilingual in order to have a chance at participating meaningfully in society(fact). So you should never believe anyone who tells you to drop a language. The fact is that dropping a language does more harm than good and that suggestion is not supported in the research.

Factors affecting language development

Many factors come into play in bilingual language development making it very diverse. Things like the age at which the child is exposed to consistent input in the languages: both languages from birth or one language from birth and a second language at 3, or 5 or 9 years of age for example. The contexts where language experiences happen also vary: at home, in school, what they watch on television or YouTube, with their friends. The prestige associated with the languages also varies as do the types of languages being learned. So there are Romance languages like Spanish, Italian, French that share a similar writing system. Then there are languages such as Japanese which does not have the same writing system as English for example.

The purposes of the languages vary, too, from needing them for interacting with family members to school teachers and peers. It is also important to remember that the timing or age of acquisition of two different languages does not in and of itself determine the eventual language skill of the child (fact). Other factors that affect all children acquiring language: maternal level of education, family income levels, and levels of literacy at home.

To continue reading, please visit MultilingualParenting.com

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