There are many short and long-term benefits of raising multilingual children: learning another language in early childhood is mind-expanding, it allows their brains to develop many capabilities, including the listening skills, critical thinking, information processing and problem solving skills. Many parents, however, are concerned about the consequences such a process may have on their children’s development.

But which are real facts and which are just myths to be debunked?

  1. Does multilingualism cause language delay?
    Raising children bilingually is sometimes believed to cause language delay, but expert argue that it’s only a misconception based on discredited hypothesis. Many studies on bilingualism and multilingualism, in fact, shows that there’s no relationship between bilingualism and language delay and that bilingual children reach the same language milestones at the same time as monolingual children. So, no, teaching a second language to your children won’t cause any confusion in their minds, kids learn very quickly the difference between formal and informal, polite and impolite and.. native language and second language. They also learn to process different sounds easily so they don’t usually struggle with pronounciation by simply imitating the sounds of the language they hear.

  2. Is it going to be easier for my child to learn other languages as an adult?
    Yes. Children who speak two languages fluently often have also an easier time learning new vocabulary and categorizing words and they will use this same innate language learning strategy later on when learning other languages in the future, thus making the process way easier.

  3. There’s no point in teaching toddlers that cannot yet speak.
    A child who is not speaking may be actively listening and may simply need time to process what they are hearing before saying anything and they shouldn’t be forced to speak. Non verbal responses from young children are perfectly acceptable, they show that the child has understood the message. Use mime and gesture to communicate and encourage them to join in. The more English children hear, the more they will be able to produce in the future.

  4. Me and my partner speak different languages at home, isn’t our child going to be confused?
    Not at all, in facts many experts recommend the “one-parent-one-language” method for a bilingual home, where Mommy always speaks her own language and Daddy always speaks his own language with the kids, and as long as they get enough exposure for both languages, they’re going to develop both naturally.

  5. Is it too early for introducing one or more languages?
    It’s never too early (or too late!) to introduce a second language but according to science, the most prolific synaptic activity occurs during the first five years of life and this enables the young child to acquire huge quantity of information. The plasticity of the brain is at its most rapid during those first years and this means that the brain is at its most sensitive to environmental experiences.
    Bearing in mind what mentioned in this article about every child learning at his or her own rate, according to Early Years Foundation Stage frame work, children tipically develop specific aspects within different age ranges:
    16-26 months > Copy familiar expressions and explore using senses and the whole body
    22-36 months > Listen with interest to noises adults make when reading a story and repeat words and phrases from those familiar stories, recite numbers or names in sequence, are aware of actions that may harm others and are interested in others’ play, run safely on whole foot and experiment with colours and marks.
    30-50 months > Respond to simple instructions, can hold books correctly and turn pages, can play in a group and imitate spontaneously what they observe in adults.
    40-60 months > Hold and use a pencil, write own name, extend vocabulary and construct with a purpose.

In conclusion, what strategies are effective for promoting language development?
Read aloud everyday, cook together, play music or sing songs.. but most importantly don’t force anything on them, follow your kids interests and let them lead the way: the well-being of children is more important than just about anything else.

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