Debunking myths about bilingualism

Debunking myths about bilingualism

Debunking myths about bilingualism

By Christina Cunningham

 As with many other topics in the parenting world, people have many opinions on raising bilingual children. Along your bilingual journey, you’ll probably encounter questions and comments from friends, family, and, yes, even complete strangers that stem from common misconceptions about language learning. Luckily, we’re here to help! Let’s do some myth-busting about bilingualism and children’s development. 

Myth #1: Bilingual children frequently have language delays.

  • This research study, Dual Language Development and Disorders, shows that bilingual children don’t have a greater likelihood of having language delays than their monolingual peers. While they may sometimes have a silent period when they’re absorbing rather than speaking the new language, that should only last for a few weeks and is a precursor to future oral language development.

Myth #2: Bilingual children have smaller vocabularies.

  • Research indicates that bilingual children develop vocabulary in each individual language at a slower pace than their monolingual peers. However, when the vocabularies of both languages are considered at once, bilingual children know the same number of words as monolingual children. Eventually, the increased flexibility of bilingual children’s brains will benefit the breadth and depth of their vocabulary. 

Myth #3: Bilingual children won’t socialize easily with others.

  • Bilingual children are expanding their future social circles; they’ll be well-prepared to communicate with people from different countries and backgrounds. Children are innovative and resilient. Children find ways to communicate nonverbally and through play, even if they don’t speak the same language. They also have the opportunity to learn bits and pieces of language from one another. 

Myth #4: Bilingual children will confuse their languages.

  • Bilingual children are very adept at something called code-switching. They quickly learn where and with whom to use one language instead of the other. At times, children may try to converse in the incorrect language with peers. However, research indicates that bilingual children grow to be attuned to conversational partners’ cues, quickly correcting course when needed until this process becomes seamless. 

Myth #5: You have to be bilingual to raise bilingual children.

  • Whether one or none of the parents in the household are bilingual doesn’t necessarily affect their child’s potential to speak two languages. While the process might look different for such families, there are a variety of free community resources for language learning and diverse educational opportunities to help children speak a second language. If this sounds like you, check out our other blog posts for some ideas to explore.