August 28, 2006

Children Bilingual The Language Structures Intermix

Also, linguists their children as subjects use.

Children's way with words sparks research [physorg.com via robotwisdom]

6 Comments

Thanks for the link, Greg. This is very interesting to my wife and I. She is French and I am American, and we only speak French at home. We are wondering how this will effect the language development of our new three-month old daughter. We'll keep you posted!

I recently went to a seminar on having a billingual household (for us, German and English) and the professor emphasized that there are NO drawbacks to making the attempt. The big myth is that kids will start to speak later when confronted with two languages. In actuality, she said, they will just make cute linguistic mistakes like the ones this article talks about. I'm fully expecting my kids to throw English endings on German words when they speak to me -- I'll attempt to correct it, but I know I'll just be saying how cute it is.

I'd be interested in hearing from people who are trying this. I'm the only German speaker in our household, and thus the only time they hear adults speaking German is with my friends. With enough books, and eventually DVDs, I think I can make it work...

[i'm expecting to see a lot of cute run-on/compound words -ed.]

thanks for the link, Greg. I love reading stuff like that.

We have our own experiment going on here and I think it's fascinating how our baby goes about processing language. His word for water is "wa-wa", which could be equally due to the English word or the Spanish one, "agua". Light is "lu-ht", and the first sign (ASL) he used for it was the sign for "fire"... Sentence structure is pretty sketchy still, and he's showing a preference for English over Spanish, which I imagine is simply due to more English being spoken around him (and more books and music in English). BTW, I think songs help a LOT when it comes to language acquisition. Maybe even more than reading -- my baby will sometimes take one of the bilingual books out of my hand, saying "no" while he hands it to his dad (to read in English instead of Spanish). But he never protests my singing to him in Spanish. ;-)

thanks for the link, Greg. I love reading stuff like that.

We have our own experiment going on here and I think it's fascinating how our baby goes about processing language. His word for water is "wa-wa", which could be equally due to the English word or the Spanish one, "agua". Light is "lu-ht", and the first sign (ASL) he used for it was the sign for "fire"... Sentence structure is pretty sketchy still, and he's showing a preference for English over Spanish, which I imagine is simply due to more English being spoken around him (and more books and music in English). BTW, I think songs help a LOT when it comes to language acquisition. Maybe even more than reading -- my baby will sometimes take one of the bilingual books out of my hand, saying "no" while he hands it to his dad (to read in English instead of Spanish). But he never protests my singing to him in Spanish. ;-)

Since birth our son (2yrs old as of this past w/e) has been talked to by mother (>10hrs per day) in Spanish, at home my wife speaks to him in Polish and I usually use English and occasionally Spanish. His vocabulary consist of 60% Spanish, 30% Polish and 10% English words but understand all three languages.

I'm a language researcher, though not specifically in bilingualism, and from my knowledge acquisition to help my brother and his wife raise their two Spanish-English bilingual girls:

One-parent-one-language is not necessarily the best way to go. It depends on the language environment around the home.

If you are in a country where the language of one parent is the main language - speak the language of the other parent at home. For example, they live in Spain and schooling and other family members speak Spanish, so they try to speak English at home.

If however you are in a country where most people/school speak a minority language, so children hear both a minority language (at school, from some family members) and a majority language (from other children at school, on TV, from other family members) then families are advised to speak the minority language at home if they can, because children will pick up the majority language just fine. So children who live in Wales come out of primary school speaking English just fine even if their parents speak Welsh and the school is Welsh medium. But if they speak English at home their Welsh is not as good.

In families where one parent speaks a language that the other parent doesn't know, which is not the community language, it's not ideal, but the child will at least learn some of that language from the parent. So a little girl I knew whose father spoke German, but her mother didn't, would speak to her German cousins in English - after all, with everyone else who spoke German understood when you spoke back in English!

Finally in trilingual families (e.g. some friends living in the US who speak Flemish, Spanish at home and then English at preschool) one parent, one language may be the best way to go - then they will at least hear both the parents' languages.

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