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Top Myths About Second Language Learners: Part 2

11. You should learn one language first, then start teaching another.

Language acquisition is not just about translating from one language to another. Organic language acquisition is best.

12. Bilinguals have equal knowledge and usage of their languages.

There is no one definition of "bilingual" which means that the percentage of use or knowledge of either language can differ. Most bilinguals have a dominant language which tends to be the language they use most of the time. In addition, vocabulary knowledge tends to fluctuate for each langue based on context.

13. Bilinguals have no accent in either language.

Accent should not be a tool to measure how bilingual a person is or isn't. Many factors play a role in the level of accent used when speaking.

14. Bilinguals are bicultural.

Many bilinguals may be bicultural, but its not every case. Bicultural means that they interact with two cultures and can blend these. One is not needed to be the other.

15. Language spoken at home will negatively affect the acquisition of the language spoken at school.

The home language can be used as a base for future language learning. The language spoken at home provides the child with a language to communicate with, the language spoken at school will be acquired much like their first.

16. Speaking two or more languages to a child will cause a speech or language disorder.

If a bilingual child has a speech or language disorder, the disorder will be evident in both languages.

17. Children diagnosed with speech or language disorders should not be exposed to more than one language.

There may be certain steps or approaches taken when working with children with a diagnosed speech or language disorder. It is extremely important for parents to work with a speech pathologist to identify the needs and how to work with the child. Each child and their disorder is different, and therefore should be treated as such.

18. Being bilingual is rare.

The United States has a low rate of bilingualism or multilingualism compared to other countries. With that said, 20% (conservative estimate) of households in the US are! This comes from the belief that one language (usually English) is more useful than others. Rates of bilingualism are growing globally.

19. You must be smart to be bilingual.

There is no way to tell if a pre-verbal child is linguistically talented or gifted. Children are born prepared to learn languages. Pre-verbal infants begin responding to different languages as early as 4 days old.

20. Children just absorb languages.

Children can't just absorb knowledge. If this was the case then teachers would have a much easier job! Listening to language be spoken around them may help them gain vocabulary and help them understand the language. Understanding a language is not the same as speaking it. Children need quality exposure and opportunities to use the language to be able to pronounce and use it correctly. The three components of language (comprehension, spoken, and written) vary depending on how much these are used by the language learner.

This list was gathered from conversations, books, and articles and chosen based on common threads. A few book suggestions that help dispel these myths are:

The Bilingual Edge by Kendall King Ph.D & Alison Mackey Ph.D

Bilingual is Better by Roxana A. Soto & Ana Flores

Raising Bilingual Children: A Practical Guide by Marietere Rodriguez

Maximize Your Child's Bilingual Ability by Adam Beck

7 Steps to Raising a Bilingual Child by Naomi Steiner MD & Susan L. Hayes

Step by Step Guide for Raising a Bilingual Child by Dr. Barbara Zurer Pearson

Book reviews and notes can be found here


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