Raising bilingual children

European Mama: Debunking multilingual language delay

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Why are multilingual children expected to have a language delay? Having raised two trilingual daughters, Olga sets out 10 reasons why this multilingual myth persists.

"Your child has a language delay."

"Your child's language development is too slow."

"She/he should talk more."

If you're raising a bilingual or multilingual family, chances are you have heard some variation of the above. But why do doctors/nurses/daycare nannies/family members continue to think this? Having raised two trilingual daughters, I came up with a few reasons of why this multilingual myth persists.

1) Because it is a very persistent myth.

Everybody has heard it at least once, so everybody repeats it, thus becoming a 'truth' – whether it is true or not. It's surprising nobody questions it, even though the theory that multilingualism causes language delay has long been debunked.

2) Because they don't understand all the language


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3 Comments To This Article

  • Lesley Forbes posted:

    on 21st May 2014, 18:56:46 - Reply

    I can think of an additional possible explanation for this negative assessment by doctors and other health professionals: they're jealous. In their closed world, they consider themselves to be superior to their patients, and the thought that your child can do something that their children can't will almost certainly irritate some of them. The frontiers between objective judgement and subjective feelings are frequently not clear cut in these situations.
  • Jeff Berner posted:

    on 21st May 2014, 16:48:35 - Reply

    I have no kids, but I have read often that child psychologists say that bi-or-multi-lingual kids grow up with better mental health because they enter most situations with several perspectives, rathe than just one. They can then adjust their attitudes and behaviours to the various situations they enter!
  • Freya posted:

    on 21st May 2014, 15:34:06 - Reply

    My experience is, that when a child is accustomed to think in two languages, learning any other language is much easier for them. My oldest daughter spoke Dutch when we moved to Spain and there had to learn Spanish immediately, because I sent them to a Spanish school. My youngest daughter didn´t speak Dutch very well, understood everything, but then had to learn Spanish at school (1,5 years old) and only had difficulties to tell me things that I could understand, when she was talking in Spanish, of course couldn´t write them yet, and I didn´t understand what she said, because of my lack of sufficient Spanish. I never noticed any difficulties and both ended up writing and speaking 5 languages (just like me) and finishing higher education without any difficulties. I don´t believe in this language delay, more: they learn to switch quickly in their head from subject to subject which only helps with their studies.