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blank More than 150 research studies conducted during the past 35 years strongly support what Goethe, the German philosopher, once said:
‘The person who knows only one language does not truly know that language. The research suggests that bilingual children may also develop more flexibility in their thinking as a result of processing information through two different languages.’


Bilingualism has positive effects on children's linguistic and educational development. When children continue to develop their abilities in two or more languages throughout their primary school years, they gain a deeper understanding of language and how to use it effectively. They have more practice in processing language, especially when they develop literacy in both, and they are able to compare and contrast the ways in which their two languages organize reality.

Raising Bilingual Children: Fact or Fiction?

by Christina Bosemark, founder of the Multilingual Children's Association from

"Your child will be confused by learning more than one language."

This belief is prevalent in monolingual countries and has far more politics than science to back it up. Rest assured that your child's little brain has more than enough neurons firing to cope with two languages (or even more) without frizzing out. On the contrary, decades of research in countless studies actually show significant cognitive advantages to being multilingual. And what about the experience of millions of families around the world where multilingualism is the norm, not the exception? Just look at Canada, Belgium, Switzerland, and Finland -- to mention a few.

"Your kid is going to get all these languages mixed up."

It is true that some mixing will occur, but that is both harmless and temporary. As the child builds her vocabulary in each language, this phenomenon automatically disappears. How many monolingual children automatically fix mistakes after correct usage has been learned? For example, children begin by saying things like "Me want," when they mean "I want." And how many of them are still saying "Me want," at five? Eventually, the multilingual child learns correct usage in the same fashion as any other child. If you don't mix languages in your own conversation, it'll make it much simpler for your child to remain consistent as well.

"Why start now? Later your kid will pick it up in no time."

Studies indicate that children need exposure to a different language about one third of their waking hours to become actively bilingual. They'll likely understand a lot with less interaction, but they probably won't be able to speak it themselves. Learning a second language is simple for children, relative to adults, but in the beginning they actually need to hear a word thousands of times before it sticks -- unless it's a bad word, then miraculously you only have to say it once…

Raising Bilingual Children: The Snags

by Christina Bosemark, founder of the Multilingual Children's Association From

1. Delay. Multilingual children tend to speak a little later than their peers. Although there is no solid scientific evidence to suggest a delay in speech, anecdotally there is a real sense among parents that multilinguals start talking three to six month later than monolingual children. If you think about it, it makes sense that a child learning two or more language systems might take more time, since they are actually learning twice as many words. But rest assured, even if your child did not walk at nine months, eventually he ended up walking just as well as those precocious ones. The same thing holds true for language, even when you are talking about more than one. Guaranteed!

2. Mixing. Children learning two languages often slip back and forth between them, mixing up their words. This can disturb the parents, but can be even more alarming to the uninitiated. No worries. This tendency will pass once the child has built a large enough vocabulary -- around the age of four or five. Remember that the monolingual three year old often struggles to find the right word, and, for that matter, adults don't always find it easy to express themselves. In some ways, the multilingual kid has an advantage -- if he can't think of the correct word in Vietnamese, for example, then he can say it in English. While the rest of us are speechless.

3. Effort. Perhaps the most easily overlooked drawback to taking the multilingual path is that it requires more effort on the part of the parents. Raising a multilingual child is a commitment. Much like piano lessons, you can't expect your little one to be a virtuoso overnight. Language learning is a long-term investment in your child and will require that you are able to provide enough language exposure. At times, you'll probably need to boost the second language and offer some extra encouragement. You'll need the persistence required to keep your family language rules as consistent as possible. But, if you can keep faith for the first four or five years while a solid language foundation is put in place, things get easier. Incidentally, the multilingual second child is a breeze, if your first child was raised that way. Your first will end up doing a lot of the work for you by simply being a natural chatterbox.
There's no doubt that multilingual children have more advantages, but it can feel a bit overwhelming to someone already struggling with diapers and feeding schedules; however, I have yet to meet a single parent who regretted the decision. But, the appreciation from your child, as usual, is probably another 20 years out.

Okay, if fore-warned is fore-armed, then what is the best day-to-day method for raising multilingual children? Here's a hint -- since the first five years of your child's language development is so crucial, the key to success is closely tied to his primary environment, the family.

About the author:
Christina Bosemark is the founder of the Multilingual Children's Association, your web-guide to raising bilingual children with expert advice, parent discussions, resource directory and articles. She is also mother of two trilingual daughters and co-founder of the Scandinavian immersion school in San Francisco.


Interesting facts

International Mother Language Day

21st February 2000 saw the first Mother Language Day celebrated internationally. However the importance of this date originated in Bangladesh where in 1952 a handful of students, now known as language martyrs, were killed in demonstrations defending Bangla, their mother language. In 1999 UNESCO decided to take this cause onto an international scale in order to encourage cultural diversity and worldwide tolerance.

The Themes
Each year the celebration is devoted to a different aspect of language. This has ranged from how children learn their literacy skills at school to how to preserve some of the 6000 languages that exist worldwide. One year was about developing the teaching of mother languages and in 2002 the celebration helped raise awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions around the world. This year the International Mother Language Day is dedicated to Braille and Sign Language, two non-verbal languages that are an invaluable source of communication for many people around the world.

A Multilingual Community
It’s essential that we limit alienation throughout the world. By speaking other languages as well as your own, or having two or more mother languages, you can contribute to the creation of a global community. My contribution to this multilingual community is exposing my children to varied cultures and languages, maintaining their mother language, while trying to learn the language of the people around me. Although with my ten or so words of Mandarin I am far from being multilingual!

The greatest polyglot in history is believed to be cardinal Giuseppe Gaspardo Mezzofanti (1774-1849), who is reported to have spoken up to a hundred languages fluently (though about fifty of them were "only" dialects). Source: Wikipedia

Gao Xingjian, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2000, writes as fluently in French as in Chinese. According to Mr. Leo Ou-fan Lee, a professor of Chinese literature at Harvard University, "He's very unusual because most contemporary Chinese writers simply are not capable of writing in two languages. He's probably China's first bilingual writer."
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Bilingualism - Jo Bertrand

joanna dnia lipiec 18 2010 13:45:26
just a thought.. "The guru, if he is gifted, reads the story as any bilingual person might. He does not translate - he understands."
~ Sheldon Kopp
rudolf dnia lipiec 25 2010 09:47:14
being bilingual is a gift .. an immense gift from child's parents smiley
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01/04/2011 21:17
"Dziecko może nauczyć dorosłych trzech rzeczy: cieszyć się bez powodu, być ciągle czymś zajętym i domagać się - ze wszystkich sił - tego, czego pragnie." — Paulo Coelho

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This New Year, may your right hand always be stretched out in friendship, never in want. - Irish Toast

23/12/2010 08:49
'Language is the dress of thought.' Samuel Johnson

08/11/2010 15:33
'Uczenie się to doświadczenie, wszystko inne to tylko informacja' Albert Einstein

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'Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them' Albert Einstein

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