Bilingual parenting Q&A: Are children confused by two languages?
Posted by Soile Pietikäinen, Bilingual Potential Ltd., on 10 May 2018. Comments: 0
Q: Can children get confused in languages they use or is it a misconception? I get told often or asked whether my son gets confused. I was told I am forcing my child to learn languages and that the parent who said that told me that they let their kids decide whether they want to learn languages and when.
Excellent question! I will answer it in two parts. First I will address the fear that children may become confused by two languages by a broad (very concise) overview of the relevant academic debates. All the academics I mention in this explanation are highly googlable and well worth googling. Then I will address the often emotional topic of different parental choices of language use.Confused by two languages?
This is the age-old debate about confusion. Academically speaking it is an entirely surpassed historical curiosity, but in the popular domain it still keeps surfacing. A persistent popular false-belief is often founded in something that is real, but misunderstood.
Back in the first half of the 20th century it was thought that children would get confused (especially girls and the ordinary poor people, as it was always understood that multiple languages were a great benefit to elite men - sorry- just a little tangent into social history). Early writings of linguists advocated the confusion argument. Then in early 1960s some ground-breaking studies in Canada contrasted the confusion argument with empirical data. We can trace the origins of the modern academic study of bilingualism to those 60s studies.
© Photo Eva Slusarek: Soile Pietikäinen at the European Bookshop in April 2018
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