Is it harder for a child to acquire two languages at once?

Acquiring two languages at once?

This is a question I have been asked many times. Is it harder for a child to acquire more than one language at the same time?

There is no evidence to suggest that learning two languages at the same time is a hard task for a child! If parents and/or the people in the close environment of the child are regularly speaking with him or her in both languages, the child will have no difficulty learning them both. This is true for every child regardless of his or her intelligence or any special abilities.

Benefits of acquiring more than one language

Some people worry that learning more than one language may be confusing for a child. I think this is absolutely a groundless idea. Nothing can be more beneficial for a child’s future education than acquiring languages. In fact, there are a lot of merits of being a bilingual or even a multilingual. Here are some of these advantages:

  • Many linguists feel that knowing a second language actually benefits a child’s cognitive development.
  • Speaking a foreign language reinforces one’s competence of the mother tongue.
  • Being able to speak the language of the family may be important for the child’s sense of cultural identity and belonging, but speaking a foreign language opens for the child new horizons that he may draw from to enrich his own personality.
  • In an increasingly global marketplace, it’s an advantage for anyone to know more than one language. Bilinguals and multilinguals encounter easily new job opportunities that a monolingual cannot even dream of.
  • Knowing a second language encourages cross-cultural awareness and understanding.

Those are just some of the benefits of bilingualism or multilingualism. If you can think of any other advantages, feel free to add them in your comments.

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1 Response

  1. Since I have raised my family in a non-English speaking environment (Mexico), I have seen many different cases of children learning more than one language at a time. None of them suffered permanent damage. My son is now finishing his PhD in mathematics and I have friends whose children comfortably speak two languages or more. We did note that children started talking a bit later than what the local pediatricians considered normal…but it was all within normal limits. The kids also knew who spoke which languages and used them appropriately. Some rebels refused to cooperate after a certain age. My daughter always said English gave her a headache, but at 8 she was able to explain how Christmas is celebrated in Mexico when asked by a Hungarian who didn’t speak Spanish. It was the first time I had heard her speak English in years.

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