Дідик Олена Олександрівна

Харківський національний педагогічний університет ім.Г.С.Сковороди

Викладач кафедри Практики англійського усного та писемного мовлення

Україна, Харків


  Анотація: Розглянуті відомі міфи щодо розвитку дитячого білінгвізму. Скасовані та поясненні міфи, що заважають ранньому опануванню іноземною мовою та знижують ефективність.

   Ключові слова: bilingual, children, early stages, common myth.

  Language acquisition is very similar for monolingual and bilingual children, although some experts view bilingualism as a specialized case of language development. Children growing up in homes where two different languages are spoken usually acquire both languages simultaneously. Although their acquisition of each language may be somewhat slower than that of children who are acquiring a single language, their development in the two languages combined is equivalent to that of monolingual children. 

  There are two major patterns of bilingual language development, both occurring before the age of three. Simultaneous bilingualism occurs when a child learns both languages at the same time. In the early stages of simultaneous bilingual language development, a child may mix words, parts of words, and inflections from both languages in a single sentence. Sometimes this occurs because a child knows a word in one language but not in the other. Some bilingual children initially resist learning words for the same thing in two languages. Children also may experiment with their two languages for effect. During the second stage of bilingual language development, at age four or older, children gradually begin to distinguish between the two languages and use them separately, sometimes depending on where they are. One language may be used less formally to talk about home and family, whereas the other language may be used more formally, perhaps for relating events that took place outside the home. Often children find it easier to express a specific idea in one language rather than the other. Bilingual children also go through periods when one language is used more than the other. Some children may begin to prefer one language over the other, particularly if that language is spoken more frequently in their home or school. Bilingual children usually are not equally skilled in both languages. Often they understand more in one language but speak more in the other.

  Sequential bilingualism occurs when children use their knowledge of and experience with a first language to rapidly acquire a second language. The first language may influence the way in which they learn and use their second language. Learning the second language is easier for children if the sounds, words, and vocabulary of the languages are similar.

  Bilingual language development usually proceeds more smoothly when both languages are introduced early and simultaneously. When the parents each use a different language with their child, the child is less likely to experience language confusion.

  Research indicates that there are numerous advantages to bilingualism. Bilingualism has been reported to improve the following skills:

• verbal and linguistic abilities

• general reasoning

• concept formation

• divergent thinking

• metalinguistic skills, the ability to analyze and talk about language and control language processing

  Despite the benefits of children bilingualism, some common myths appeared that interfere with early language acquisition.

  Bilingualism causes language delay

  While a bilingual child’s vocabulary in each individual language may be smaller than average, his total vocabulary (from both languages) will be at least the same size as a monolingual child [10, 15]. Bilingual children may say their first words slightly later than monolingual children, but still within the normal age range (between 8-15 months) [11]. And when bilingual children start to produce short sentences, they develop grammar along the same patterns and timelines as children learning one language [5]. Bilingualism itself does not cause language delay [10].  A bilingual child who is demonstrating significant delays in language milestones could have a language disorder and should be seen by a speech language pathologist

  When children mix their languages it means that they are confused and having trouble becoming bilingual. 

  When children use both languages within the same sentence or conversation, it is known as “code mixing” or “code switching”. Examples of English-French code-mixing: “big  bobo” (“bruise” or “cut”), or “je veux aller manger tomato” (“I want to go eat..”) [10].

  Parents sometimes worry that this mixing is a sign of language delay or confusion. However, code mixing is a natural part of bilingualism [17]

  Many researchers see code mixing as a sign of bilingual proficiency. For example, bilingual children adjust the amount of code-mixing they use to match that of a new conversational partner (someone they’ve never met before who also code mixes) (5).  It has also been suggested that children code-mix when they know a word in one language but not the other [13] Furthermore, sometimes code-mixing is used to emphasize something, express emotion, or to highlight what someone else said in the other language. For example, “Y luego йl dijo STOP” (Spanish mixed with English: "And then he said STOP!") [10]

  Therefore, code-mixing is natural and should be expected in bilingual children.

   A person is not truly bilingual unless he is equally proficient in both languages.

  It is rare to find an individual who is equally proficient in both languages [16]. Most bilinguals have a “dominant language”, a language of greater proficiency. The dominant language is often influenced by the majority language of the society in which the individual lives [6]. An individual’s dominant language can change with age, circumstance, education, social network, employment, and many other factors [16]. 

  An individual must learn a second language as a young child in order to become bilingual. 

  There is a “Critical Period” theory that suggests that there is a window of time (early childhood) during which a second language is most easily learned. This theory has led many people to believe that it is better to learn a second language as a young child. Young children have been found to achieve better native-like pronunciation than older children or adult second language learners. And they seem to achieve better long-term grammatical skills than older learners [10].  But other findings have called the idea of a critical period into question. For example:

  • Older children (in middle elementary school) have been shown to have advantages when learning “academic” English. “Academic” language refers to the specialized vocabulary, grammar, and conversational ability needed to understand and learn in school [10]. This is likely easier for older children because they learn their second language with more advanced cognitive skills than younger children, and with more experience with schooling and literacy [10]. 
  • Older children and adults seem to be advantaged when initially learning vocabulary and grammar [10, 16, and 18].  

  Therefore, while younger children seem to become more “native-like” in the long-term, older children may pick up vocabulary, grammar, and academic language more easily in the initial stages of language learning.

  Parents should adopt the “one parent-one language” approach when exposing their child to two languages.

  Some parents may choose to adopt the “one parent-one language” approach, where each parent speaks a different language to the child. While this is one option for raising a bilingual child, there is no evidence to suggest that it is the only or best way to raise a child bilingually, or that it reduces code mixing [10].  Parents should not worry if they both speak their native language to the child or if they mix languages with their child [19], as it has been recognized that children will mix their languages regardless of the parents’ approach [10].  Many approaches can lead to bilingualism. Parents should speak to their child in a way that is comfortable and natural to them.

  If you want your child to speak the majority language, you should stop speaking your home language with your child.

 Some parents attempt to speak the majority language to their child because they want their child to learn that language, even if they themselves are not fluent in the majority language. This can mean that conversations and interactions do not feel natural or comfortable between parent and child. There is no evidence that frequent use of the second language in the home is essential for a child to learn a second language [10].  Furthermore, without knowledge of a family’s home language, a child can become isolated from family members who only speak the home language. Research shows that children who have a strong foundation in their home language more easily learn a second language. Children are also at great risk of losing their home language if it is not supported continually at home.

  Taking into account all the research in the area, some factors should be taken into consideration to extend the benefits of bilingualism, but they are not supposed to be the milestones.



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2. De Houwer, A. (2009). Bilingual first language acquisition. Multilingual Matters.

3. King, K. A., & Fogle, L. W. (2013). Family language policy and bilingual parenting. LanguageTeaching, 46(02), 172-194.

4. American Speech Language Hearing Association. The Advantages of Being Bilingual. Available online:http://www.asha.org/about/news/tipsheets/bilingual.htm

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6. Paradis, J. (2010). The interface between bilingual development and specific language impairment. Applied Psycholinguistics, 31, 227-252.

7. Canadian Council on Learning (2008). Parlez-vous franзais? The advantages of bilingualism in Canada. Available online: http://www.ccl-cca.ca/pdfs/LessonsInLearning/Oct-16-08-The-advantages-of-bilingualism.pdf

8. Poulin-Dubois, D., Blaye, A., Coutya, J & Bialystok, E. (2011). The effects of bilingualism on toddlers’ executive functioning. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 108 (3),  567-579

9. Center for Applied Linguistics. Benefits of being bilingual. Available online:http://www.cal.org/earlylang/benefits/marcos.html

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11. Meisel, J. (2004). The Bilingual Child. In T. Bhatia & W. Ritchie (Eds.), The Handbook of Bilingualism. pp 91-113. Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

12. Genesee, F. (2009). Early Childhood Bilingualism: Perils and Possibilities. Journal of Applied Research in Learning, 2 (Special Issue), 2, 1-21.

13. Genesee, F., & Nicoladis, E. (2006). Bilingual acquisition. In E. Hoff & M. Shatz (eds.), Handbook of Language Development. pp. 324-342. Oxford, Eng.: Blackwell.

14. Tabors, P. (1997). One Child, Two Languages. Paul H Brookes Publishing.

15. Pearson, B.Z., Fernandez, S.C., Lewedeg, V., & Oller, D.K. (1997). The relation of input factors to lexical learning by bilingual infants. Applied Psycholinguistics, 18, 41-58.

16. Baker, C. & Prys Jones, S. (1998). The Encyclopedia of Bilingualism and Bilingual Education. Toronto, Ontario: Multilingual Matters Inc.

17. Goldstein, B.  & Kohnert, K. (2005). Speech, language and hearing in developing bilingual children: Current findings and future directions. Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, 36, 264-267.

18. Flege, J.E. (1999). Age of Learning and Second Language Speech. In D. Birdsong (ed.), Second Language Acquisition and the Critical Period Hypothesis. pp. 101-131. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

19. King, K. & Fogle, L. (2006).  Raising Bilingual Children: Common Parental Concerns and Current Research. Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics. Retrieved October 24, 2011 from http://www.cal.org/resources/digest/digest_pdfs/RaiseBilingChildi.pdf