Raising Bilingual (or Trilingual) Children
If you have lived outside of your home country or you have a partner of a different nationality, you may have wondered what exactly will be your child’s “first language”. Will your child lose Spanish? Be mediocre with English? Perhaps prefer a different language, say, Chinese or Malay?
Some parents even worry that too many languages spoken around the child will prevent their child from learning any language at all. Although there appears to be a very slight delay (within the normal range of language development) in speaking for bilingual children, ultimately, their language vocabulary grows to be wider in range than monolingual children (source: the Hanen Center).
Dr. Olga Romero, a specialist in language development, goes further:
It's not unusual for parents who speak different languages to worry that their young children will have difficulty sorting out the languages, or that they will not learn them properly. Nothing could be further from the truth. Fortunately for all involved, normally developing children are born with a natural capacity to learn the languages to which they are exposed. Many experts refer to young children as "language-learning machines." In fact, as long as each parent remains consistent in using his/her language when addressing the child, the child will easily learn the languages. As a matter of fact, the child will also learn (if necessary) the language used in school.
The key here is CONSISTENCY. Parents can use whatever language they choose when talking to each other. However, they have to decide the language each of them will use with their child.
Olga Romero, Ph.D.
Language Development Specialist
In conclusion, if you have children and you are living internationally, don't be afraid to expose your children to your unique multicultural environment! In the short term, you might fear tardiness in language acquisition, but in the long-run, bilingual brains are healthier and more adaptable.