Thursday, April 3, 2014

Bilingual Child-Rearing Myths

I'd been a fan of the idea of raising mija bilingually for quite a while before she was born, so I'd already familiarized myself with a lot of the truths and myths about bilingualism online. However, there are still lots of people contemplating this idea who might come across naysayers, whether online or in real life, and worry that raising their hija or hijo in Spanish or any other language besides English might harm them in some way. As a result, I figure it's worth reviewing some articles that deal with this topic.

I recently came across this article from BabyCenter that targets some of the more common myths about bilingual child-rearing. I thought it was a good one, and wanted to share some of my thoughts on a few of the points.

1. Growing up with more than one language confuses children.

As noted in the article, this isn't true. It's an interesting myth, though, since in most other countries beyond the US, the experience of being raised in multiple languages is a common one. I remember an article in a class I took on language a year or two ago that stated that about half of the world's children were raised bilingually (or at least multilingually). That's pretty rad.

3. Bilingual children end up mixing the two languages.

I also liked the article's take on this. Yes, mixing happens, but it's natural, normal, and not a big deal. I've overheard or been part of many conversations with adults fluent in Spanish and English who frequently dropped in English words here and there in the middle of predominantly Spanish conversations. It's actually something I've been working to become more comfortable with since mija arrived; it's better to substitute "diaper ointment" in English when explaining to her why I'm rubbing it on her skin than it is to stop in the middle of a sentence and fumble around endlessly for the term (which, by the way, from a Google search, appears to be something like crema de pañal). Code-switching is normal, both in kids and in grownups!

4. It's too late to raise your child bilingual.

Definitely untrue. But as I wrote earlier in the theory section, the sooner you start the process, the better. 

5. Children are like sponges, and they'll become bilingual without effort and in no time.

I like this one. Llevo 2 meses speaking to my daughter in Spanish, and she hasn't said a word back in either language. Then again, she's just 2 months old. It takes time. I'm tired from work a lot, and often just want to crash when returning home. But bit by bit, it adds up.

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