If you are planning on raising bilingual children, you will hear it from friends and find it on the pages of books: bilingual children start speaking later than monolingual children. But it turns out this is a myth with no basis in scientific fact.
When we decided to raise my daughter bilingually (German-English), I did a lot of research on the subject, and I saw this myth being passed around both in books and on the Internet. I believed it, but it didn’t bother me. So what if my daughter started talking a few months later than her peers? This potential disadvantage seemed tiny in light of the advantages that being bilingual would bring her throughout her entire life. Unfortunately, the idea that their children might start speaking later than other children their age can be confusing and frightening for parents, and some may decide not to pursue a bilingual upbringing because of it. Well parents, worry no more!
Colin Baker, a researcher in childhood bilingualism has this to say in his book The Care and Education of Young Bilinguals: An Introduction for Professionals (2000):
Raising children bilingually is sometimes believed to cause language delay, though evidence does not support this position. Raising children bilingually neither increases nor reduces the chance of language disorder or delay.
A 2006 report from the Center for Applied Linguistics confirms this finding:
Although many parents believe that bilingualism results in language delay, research suggests that monolingual and bilingual children meet major language developmental milestones at similar times.
And if that information is not current enough to convince you, listen to what the Cornell Language Acquisition Lab had to say on the subject in 2009:
Although some parents and educators may have concerns about the potential for confusion, bilingual children do not suffer language confusion, language delay, or cognitive deficit.
So, for all the parents out there considering raising their children bilingually: don’t worry! Your child’s language acquisition is unique as he is. Some bilingual children will be “early” and some “late,” and they are all normal. I for one am glad to know that whenever my daughter begins to speak, the time will be just right.
Are you raising bilingual children? Have you heard this myth before? Leave us a comment below or drop by our facebook page to tell us about your experiences!