Please tell me a little about teaching two languages to one child. I was born in Paris and lived in France my whole life. I met my husband here in Arizona. He was born and raised in Tempe and knows no French. I think you can see my predicament. I so much wanted to speak to our newborn in French right from the start, but I promised my husband I would not. Now my child is seven-years-old, and I still want to talk to him in French and expose him to all the beauty of my first language. However, he is more adamant than ever about my not doing that. Here are all my questions:
- Is there any harm to talking to a child in two languages?
- If not, when is the best time to start?
- If the child in question has special needs or any kind of language delay do the same rules apply.
~ Confused Mom
Hi Confused Mom,
I would be confused too if I were you. However, I hope it will make you feel better to know that mixed culture marriages are very common today and that there is much research and literature about your very questions. Here are the answers as straight-forward and simply put as possible.
- There is absolutely no harm in talking to a child in two languages. As a matter of fact, the more languages the better. However, there is a special way to do this. It takes one person to take over the consistency of that language with the child. That means, using your case as an example, it is best for you to talk to your child only, or as much as possible, in French; and it is best for your husband to talk to him only, or as much as possible, in English. If there was a third person around who knew and spoke a different language, that would be fine for your son too.
- You probably already suspect the answer to this one, as early as possible. The best time to start is as soon as your baby is born. However, there is another wonderful parenting tenet that can help you with your seven-year-old son. That is that “the sooner the better” always applies to positive interventions for children. It is never too late to start helping your child in any way.
- Absolutely yes. A child with special needs or a language delay will benefit from this kind of exposure just like any other child, maybe even more. Learning a second language is beneficial brain stimulation. All learning is brain stimulation. The more anyone learns the better off they will be intellectually. About learning, it is all good; and the more anyone does of it the better it is for that person.
~ Dr. Sally
July! The Month of the Parents
All month long we will be giving advice on helping parents to work better together. Parents actually hold the magic for children. The more of a united front that they present to their children, the more secure and better functioning their children will be. Each relationship is different, and there is no “one size fits all” way to do this. However, here on Parenting Tips with Dr. Sally we will be presenting ideas all month long. The idea is for each parent to have the tip information and then have the freedom and joy of being able to apply it in his or her own creative and individual ways.
Tomorrow on Wednesday Evening Wine you will learn more about playing with your child in positive ways all focused on fostering growth and development. Play is very important, and knowing about it can help you set it up in the best ways possible.