The article has been automatically translated into English by Google Translate from Russian and has not been edited.

What language will the child speak in a bilingual family?

'07.05.2022'

A source: The Village

According to recent studies, bilingual children quickly read and analyze, are less prone to stress and better deal with conflicts. Their brains are more flexible and will even be able to withstand dementia with age.

Photo: Shutterstock

The Village I asked the experts what language the child would speak in a two- or even a trilingual family and what to pay attention to the parents of a small bilingual.

Oksana Buvaltseva, senior teacher of the trilingual children's center P'titCREF Arbat:

- The reasons for the development of bilingualism in a child can be very different: from the interethnic composition of the family and moving to another country to the natural desire of parents in our time to expand the horizons of the child and give him a quality education. Physiologically, the bilingual brain produces more gray matter in the lower parietal cortex, which allows it to process information better. Children who start learning languages ​​before the age of five develop better in the part of the brain responsible for fluency. This does not mean that bilingualism makes someone smarter or more talented, but it does mean that it improves the quality of the brain on some tasks.

In bilingual families, the child hears two languages ​​from birth and immediately begins to learn both because it is spoken by his parents. He usually speaks his first words in his mother's language, simply because mothers usually spend more time with the child. Then he can begin to mix words: for example, he will name objects that his mother often uses in his mother's language, and his father's in his father's. The main thing is that a child can learn both languages ​​quickly and speak them fluently, although, according to statistics, his vocabulary will still be slightly less than that of monolinguals.

The choice of the dominant language in a monolingual family will be influenced by many factors. It is important for parents to remember that a small child associates a language with the personality of the person who speaks it. And he may often use the language of the person with whom he has the strongest emotional connection or with whom he wants to be like. If a child goes to a kindergarten, then the language in which he speaks with peers and teachers may come first. An important factor is the frequency of language use: for example, if parents want to introduce a child to a new environment and even at home try to speak a non-native language, then the non-native language will become dominant for the child.

Elena Mingova, founder of the network of children's bilingual kindergartens "Cosmo Kids":

Both research and our experience show that bilingual children understand and speak two languages ​​at once. Especially if these are children who grow up in bilingual families, and not just in a foreign language (compared to their family. — Approx. Ed.) environment. At the same time, it is better for one parent to speak one language all the time, and the second one to another. So the child will not have confusion, and he can more easily switch from language to language, depending on the interlocutor. Or, if the family is not bilingual (father and mother speak the same language, but foreign), there should be a “country-family” division, that is, in your family you need to communicate in the language of the family, in the environment - in the language of the environment. In addition, it is very important to stop the mixing of language in one sentence in time.

According to our observations, the child speaks two languages ​​at once, and by the age of one and a half years he has formed a vocabulary from each of the languages ​​of the parents - provided that he communicates equally with his father and mother in the family and that each of the parents speaks with the child in his native language . At first, confusion in languages ​​is possible in some everyday words or phrases, and the language that is more in the family will prevail. At the same time, at a slightly older age, at about two or three years, the child will switch from one language to another without any problems, depending on who he is talking to. True, it should be noted that all this is true until the child enters the language environment - society.

Yulia Zhikhareva, speech therapist at the Medsi children's clinic on Pirogovskaya:

- In a family where parents speak different languages, a single language should be chosen for communication. Often this is the language of the country where the family lives. Sometimes it is the language of one of the parents, which is also used by the other. Or even a third language that both parents speak, even though it is not their mother tongue. It is in this language that a child in such a family is most likely to speak - that is, he first of all masters the language in which he is most communicated with.

From the point of view of language development, children with several languages ​​may have some delay, but not pathological, but of tempo nature (if there are no real development problems that the speech therapist reveals). Kids without developmental pathology usually do not need professional help. They master several languages ​​at their own pace, depending on their innate abilities and society.

The difficulty lies in the fact that the development of two language systems requires more time to study grammatical structures and vocabulary. That is why bilinguals are often more likely to fall into the group of children who have a lag in speech development. At the same time, a number of experts argue that due to the need to memorize many details, bilinguals from early childhood have a more trained memory and attention.

In the future, this situation is often observed: when a child goes to school, he speaks the language of the country, and he learns the native language of the parent, reading and writing individually (at home, with tutors or in special groups). Also immersion in the environment of communication when visiting relatives living in another country helps in mastering the language. If this happens often, then these children speak cleanly, without an accent.

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