I knew since before I ever became a parent, I would want to raise my child multilingual. And like with anything parenting or motherhood related, there were always a few judgmental comments - usually related to speech delay or confusion. We experienced neither of these, but instead have only witnessed the incredible machine that is a toddler's brain. Here are a few fascinating things I've observed (of course, every child is different so this is just our experience).
Ability to understand all languages from early on.
I noticed early on, even before our son really spoke much, that he understood both languages I was speaking with him. I could say "put your shoes on" in Spanish or Mandarin, and he would put on his shoes, even though couldn't even say shoes in either.
Saying the word that's easier to say first.
When he started saying more and more words, it would be a mix of different languages, but often it was in the language that was easier to say the word. For example, "xie xie" for shoes in Mandarin is easier to say than "zapatos" in Spanish, so he started saying "xie xie" first, though he clearly understood zapatos meant the same thing. Sometimes he'd surprise us though and say a word that seemed way complicated, but I guess if it was really important to him he would find a way to say. For example, he started saying "estrellas" early on even though it came sounding like "gallas."
Going to school turned on the fountain of language.
Our son never had a speech delay, though I noticed the few other kids we knew who were his same age tended to speak in more complete sentences before he did. He's now speaking more complete sentences, but I feel like he still sounds more like a baby than his peers who speak one language at home. Part of this though, is that I noticed early on our son is very observant. And often, he wouldn't say a word unless he felt confident in saying it. For example, there was a period when he would ask me to say "mama" and then he'd repeat "mama." Then he'd point as his dad and I'd say "dada," which he'd repeat. When he pointed at himself, I'd say his name, and I could see him observing my lips, but he wouldn't say it. To help him out, so that he could have an easier way to refer to himself when needed, I said "bebe," which he immediately repeated.
But as soon as he started preschool, his language skills blossomed like a field of wild flowers in ALL languages. He goes to school in Spanish, but his Mandarin also exploded, and even his English. At one point I was getting mad at my mom because I thought she was speaking English with him. However, I realized he was just picking it up from other kids and from whenever we're around other English speakers. And probably when he hears his dad and I talking to each other. The funny part now is that he often asks me to translate for him if someone doesn't understand him...even his dad!
Being able to switch between languages.
Now he is actually able to switch between languages. For example, he may say something to his dad in Mandarin, but if his dad doesn't understand him, he switches to English if he can - otherwise he asks me to translate. But I've also caught him starting a sentence in Mandarin while speaking to his dad, and then remembering that his dad doesn't speak Mandarin so switching to English. I've been so impressed seeing him able to switch languages depending on who he is speaking to.
Being able to adapt quickly in new environments.
And when he's with other kids who speak English, omg his English language skills grow exponentially within the hour. It's amazing to witness!
So for anyone concerned about any potential down sides to having your toddlers and young children learn multiple languages at once...as far as I can tell, there are none. And studies have shown the benefits, especially for brain health, that speaking multiple languages have.
2/1/2023 07:47:40 pm
Haha same here! Russian has the most complex words sometimes so I don’t blame Daniel for preferring to use the English word!
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