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Bilingual Kids Do Not Get Confused Speaking Two Languages

bilingual-kids-language-confusion

Bilingual Kids Do Not get Confused

Bilingual kids get confused learning two languages at once. It is impossible for children to learn a second language while trying to master their first.

There is also the possibility of a speech delay because of language confusion, and bilingual kids may not end up not talking at all.

Parents should speak one language to their child, and it should be the community language so that eventually when their kids go to school they won’t get confused.

Any of this sound familiar?

If you are raising a bilingual child, I am sure you have heard a few of these statements, either from friends, teachers, or even strangers. There is this huge misconception that bilingual kids get confused learning two languages at once. Many parents become scared off and some even consider dropping a language because of it.

Let’s get one thing straight though. While bilingual kids develop their language abilities differently, bilingualism does not cause confusion. Learning two or even three languages at once, does not cause confusion.

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But my partner and I speak different languages with our kids, won’t there be some confusion?

If each parent speaks a different language to your child, it will not confuse them. The OPOL approach is very popular because children learn to differentiate between the two languages , and who they should speak them with very early on.

But we speak a third language between ourselves

Many multicultural families speak a third language. Perhaps you speak Italian to your child, your partner speaks French, however between you the language is English. This might seem like it could confuse your child, but it isn’t the case. Your child may not become fluent in all three, however at the least, they may develop a passive understand of English hearing it between you constantly.

But my child mixes languages, he must be confused

Mixing languages is common with bilingual kids. Children who are learning more than one language at once are taking in double the vocabulary. Sometimes if they don’t have what they need in one language, they compensate by using the other. In one way they are lucky. Monolingual children don’t have this advantage. If a monolingual child doesn’t know a word, they may not be able to express themselves at all.

Recommended: Bilingual Kids Mix Languages

But my child goes to nursery/school and the teacher says my child is confused

Many teachers in monolingual nurseries and schools are uneducated on bilingualism and may think your child is confused because of they are unable to communicate as well as the other students.

If your child is starting at a school where the language is different to the one you speak at home, there may be a period where your child may stop talking. But don’t mistake this for confusion. Language immersion is one of the easiest and quickest ways to learn a language. Children initially listen and take everything in. They will eventually start to speak, and will catch up quite quickly.

But my child has a speech delay, could this be due to language confusion?

Bilingualism does not cause a speech delay. If a child has a speech delay, it will usually occur in both languages. Language development is different in all children. Some bilingual children will start talking later than others, but this is also the case with some monolingual children. If your bilingual child has a speech delay it doesn’t mean they are confused. If you are worried, seek medical advice from a speech therapist who specialises in bilingualism.

Recommended: Bilingual Kids and Language Development

But learning to read and write in two languages seems confusing

Just as children can learn to speak in two languages at once, they can also learn to read and write in two languages at once. While there may be different alphabets, or different sounds of some letters, children are able to distinguish between the languages quitequickly. Some language combinations may take longer than others, but most children are able to learn with no issues and become biliterate.

Recommended: Biliteracy: Learning to read and write in two languages

Bilingualism and language confusion

If you are raising a child in more than one language, you are likely to hear various myths and misconceptions about bilingualism. Make sure to do your own research, and don’t believe just anything you hear from others. Children have been raised to be bilingual and multilingual in many parts of the world for centuries. In fact more than half of the world’s population is bilingual. It can’t be that half of the world is confused.

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3 Comments

  1. Another great post!

  2. Ned Oshiro

    I am a Japanese teaching English to a group of Japanese children and adults in Japan. One of the most asked questions from young Japanese parents who have babies or toddlers is that teaching Japanese and English to these young children at the same time might confuse them mainly because the origins of Japanese and English are completely different, compared with young children in the U.S. and Europe learning two or three languages at the same time. They said the languages they are learning originally derived from the same Romance language group. What do you make of this?

    • Hi Ned,
      No matter which languages children are learning, there is no confusion. Children are able to distinguish any languages from birth whether they be similar or different.
      There are pro’s and con’s of both. For example with similar languages such as Italian and Spanish, many words are similar, so children have to learn when to use different words and when to use the same. While with languages such as English and Japanese, they are completely different, so it may seem easier to some, because there is a clear difference. It really depends.
      Reading and writing may be a bit more complex on the other hand. When languages are similar, it makes it easier to sound out and pronounce words. When languages have a different alphabet or use symbols, children have to learn two different systems. It doesn’t mean it is harder, it just means there is more to learn.
      I think you can reassure these parents that their children will not get confused learning Japanese and English. However they will need to put in effort in order for them to become bilingual and bi-literate.

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