Ideas and beliefs of bilingualism

8:53 AM

I like to sometimes go online to read about bilingualism and I find a lot of rather stupid ideas and comments. I think most of them are made by people who either don't have children or still have very small children. Probably because those of us with bigger kids don't have to the time to comment! But I would like to learn a bit more, and so I continue to look. Instead I get frustrated by reading people's plan like:

I am going to speak language A to the baby, my partner is going to speak language B to the baby and the baby will learn language C because that is language spoken in the country where we live.

Awesome, and what is the language that will be the common home language? Half the time the couple's plan is to speak language D to each other. Which leaves the child left out of every single conversation between the adults. Yeah, that isn't going to work.

I have to admit that before Queenie was in school I went along with the idea of throwing kids in a language environment, then sit back, cross your arms and watch magic happen.

Granted, this happens with some kids.

But it doesn't happen with every kid.

And what will definitely happen no matter who the child is this: at some point the child will struggle with the vocabulary, grammar, reading and writing of ONE of his/her languages if not all of his/her languages.

You want them to speak your language fluently you will have to work a bit with them. You have to speak with them, correct them (gently), read to them, teach them to read and write in that language and you have to be patient with the curve that comes with their minds being bombarded with different words and grammar all the time. They will mix grammar patterns ("Today is the party about Martin" my kids say, using possessive structure from French and English) and translate directly ("Look! The flowers are pushing!" French uses the word "push" to describe growth for plants.)

This is all normal and will get sorted in their heads eventually, but it will not be without frustration. And if you add to that a language being spoken between the parents that the kids don't understand at all? I just don't see it working. Firstly they will feel excluded and secondly they will be spending time listening to a language that they aren't technically learning when they should be listening to one of the two or three that they are actively trying to learn.

But, of course, that is just my two cents. Maybe it has worked for someone? Maybe it is just my disillusionment speaking as I awaken to the truth that teaching children three languages is a lot harder and requires a lot more work than anyone ever wanted to tell me. Maybe I shouldn't have listened to people who had opinions but no actual experience in the subject area!

Not to say it is impossible. It is not. My children, in ten years time, will be fluent in three languages, will have an easier time learning new languages and they probably won't even remember how tough it was really to learn all of them.

But I can remind them how tough it was for me! Lol!

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