The more languages, the better? Hmmmm maybe...

child development language acquisition linguistics Feb 24, 2021

Yes, Babel Babies is a multilingual programme, but that's not to say that children can learn infinite languages simultaneously, or that a smattering of lots of languages is enough if there isn't at least one language learned to an age-appropriate level.

If you are raising bilingual children away from your community of speakers, say if you move abroad, your child will need to hear lots and lots of the minority language (that's the language that you speak but that isn't the majority language in the environment, such as French in London, or Spanish in New York) from you and as many other speakers as possible.

If you are raising your child with two or more minority languages, careful planning is required to make sure they have enough exposure to AT LEAST ONE of those languages to keep in step with their language development for their age.

A solid foundation can be made in more than one language, but if there is inadequate input in any language at all, your child will not be able to access age-appropriate learning materials and develop critical thinking skills in maths, for example.

They need to have the language they require for thinking at their age and stage. Eowyn Crisfield explains on episode 20 of The Language Revolution podcast that the key thing is to decide what you want your child to be able to do in each language.

Just saying hello and being polite at the local store requires far less input than interacting with family when you visit, and if you'd like them to be able to go to university and study in both languages, a lot more sustained input is required.

So if you are struggling to maintain 2+ minority languages at the appropriate level due to time constraints, focus on the language that matters most to your family to make sure your children are getting lots of input, and find some strategies to bring in more of your language wishlist that will not compromise your child achieving fluency in at least one language.

Remember, language acquisition is a PROCESS not a PRODUCT. Think long-term to where you'd like them to be in their twenties, not just at age three.

Your children will have cycles of dominance over the years depending on how you spend your holidays (maybe visiting 'home' and family, and speaking more Turkish, for example) and other influences like siblings, motivation and attitudes to their various languages.