If you are thinking about raising bilingual children, you’ve probably heard some of the common myths that exist about speaking more than one language. What happens is that while most people worldwide speak more than one language, the U.S. is one of the few countries in the world where being bilingual is not encouraged. In other words, we live in a monolingual country, and therefore we are surrounded by myths about growing up bilingual.
Here are the most common myths you should ignore if you are thinking about raising bilingual children:
- It causes delays in language development:
- If you do not start at birth, it’s too late:
- Instead of being bilingual your child will just mix the two languages:
False. There are no studies to prove this conclusively. The truth is that although some children who grow up with two languages take longer to speak, this does not last long. In general, bilingual children are at the same level or more advanced than those who are monolingual, as far as language development is concerned.
False. It’s never too late. Maybe it’s a bit more difficult if you start later, but it’s not impossible. There’s a common belief that there’s a critical period for learning languages and that it is between birth and 3 years of age. According to some studies, though, this only means that after this age children have to work harder to become bilingual. So don’t waste any more time and start now!
False. Mixing languages is completely normal, healthy and temporary. This trend will disappear as your child’s vocabulary grows in both languages. Keep in mind that if you mix both languages in your household, your child will think this is normal and follow your lead. In other words, don’t expect him not to mix languages, if you do it all the time.
The best advice is to educate yourself so you can ignore all these (and other) baseless comments that abound about growing up bilingual.
Roxana A. Soto is the co-founder of SpanglishBaby, a site for parents raising bilingual and bicultural children. A bilingual journalist, she is also the co-author of Bilingual is Better, which comes out mid-September.