One evening, my husband and I were taking turns reading a book to our 2-year old son. I should say, he was reading a page, and then I was translating the English-only text. Halfway through the book however, our son began pointing at the bugs and animals on the page, and began asking, “What’s that daddy?” Then he turned to me with the same question. Clearly, even at such a young age, he understood that my husband and I had different words for the same things—words that didn’t sound the same at all.
Many parents worry that introducing a second language (or a third or fourth language for that matter) too soon will cause their children to mix languages, and interpret this to mean confusion or some type of deficiency in the child’s language acquisition. Linguistic experts, however, are very positive about their view on “code-switching”, which is how this language mixing is referred to. Rather than demonstrating confusion, research confirms that this is a natural behavior among bilinguals and often shows a high level of linguistic understanding. In addition, it’s important to consider that if you are raising your child in a code-switching environment, then it is likely that the child is learning that this is the language norm. Some cultures and groups do engage in code-switching as part of their natural discourse, employing it to add linguistic emphasis or to convey a meaning that is not quite translatable in the other language.
I, along with other parents, have noticed that ...
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