Why do myths about bilingual children having disadvantages persist?

History is one factor. When modern nation states developed and governments needed to forge a common civic identity, they stressed the primacy of one language. In the case of the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, this was English. Sometimes, this newfound patriotic fervor also fed the perception that foreign languages were somehow suspicious or signified disloyalty.

Interestingly, children who speak multiple languages show more empathy for others.

So - if we accept the science that speaking multiple languages is normal and advantageous - what are the best ways of exposing kids to learning languages?

Supporting Bilingual Development for Your Child

How early should language learning begin?

Babies as young as four months old can distinguish faces that are speaking different languages! It is never too early to start exposing your child to multiple languages, but it’s also never too late. Part of the advantage of learning a language early - besides improving the elasticity of a growing brain - is simply that children have lots of time - to absorb words and connect with different speakers. The older a person gets, the more formal obligations intrude. But this simply means an older child or adult needs to be more deliberate about learning a new language.

Do I have to use the ‘one parent, one language’ model?

There’s no consensus on a single method, but we do know that for language acquisition, it is important for a child to hear it spoken regularly. Physical and social interaction is the most powerful medium, but all exposure to language will have an impact.

It’s also a myth that if a child isn’t equally fluent in two languages, they are not bilingual.

“Some bilinguals are dominant in one language, others do not know how to read and write one of their languages, others have only passive knowledge of a language and, finally, a very small minority, have equal and perfect fluency in their languages,” writes Professor François Grosjean who founded the Language and Speech Processing Laboratory at the University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland.

Learn Spanish or Learn English | You can teach your child more than one language with Shoonya Digital.

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