Before answering this question, perhaps it is good to ask ourselves what does progress in language mean to us? Is it a higher grade in class, praise from an adult relative or from the teacher, or maybe a brilliant performance in a language competition, or just a practical use of the language we want to see?
The criteria by which we measure progress depends entirely on us. We at LuckyKids International Summer Camp have focused our efforts on the practical part or we strive to help children to introduce their knowledge of English into use in their daily lives.
Each child has an individual characteristic. It is important for every parent to understand and know their child, to know what his perceptions of the world are, how he learns new things, how long it takes him to remember new information.
Whether a child will progress faster or slower with their language skills depends on many factors:
- Genetic predisposition – when the child has parents who speak two or more languages very well, the probability that he will cope better with their acquisition is high.
- Language family environment – when two or more languages are used at home for communication, the probability that the child will learn faster is many times higher.
- Communication environment outside the family – when the child studies in multilingual school, attends courses, camps, activities with a multicultural environment, he is more inclined to learn the language faster.
- Emotional and psychosomatic factors – the personal development of children can put in front of them obstacles that affect confidence, the ability to make mistakes, low self-esteem, communication problems – then the child encounters difficulties with language acquisition.
- Individual mental and physical development – the child’s readiness to receive information in a foreign language and the purely physical development of his brain also have an impact. It is different for every child.
What steps can a parent take to help their child progress faster:
- “The earlier – the better” – studies show that bilingual and multilingual children give better indicators of success and adaptability in general. If the child is immersed in a multilingual environment in the period 0-3 years, then he / she manages to learn the language / languages much easier (Kovelman, Baker and Petitto, 2008).
- Communication with parents and relatives in a foreign language – the quantitative and qualitative exposure of the child to quality bilingual and multilingual environment leads to easier language acquisition.
The overall behavior and attitude of the parent towards the language is of particular importance: the language is a means of communication. The use of 2 and 3 languages means that the child will perceive and communicate better (not only in the specific language). Knowledge of a foreign language is not a phenomenon or something new or something extraordinary – in multilingual and multicultural communities, it is something completely natural and normal.
In such a community, language does not matter. It is more important to express yourself as correctly as possible and for others to understand you. If the parents accept the knowledge of a foreign language as something natural, normal and usual, so will the attitude of the children to the language.
Many parents share their concerns about starting to present the child in two languages from an early age. They usually worry that one of the languages may lag behind in their development (usually the concern is for the mother tongue). In fact, there are no good reasons for such concern.
Research shows that when children start learning a language at an early age, the development of the two languages is parallel and equal, as if the child is learning them on their own. Both languages develop at the same rate that a language would develop if the child were monolingual (De Houwer 2009, Hoff et al. 2012).
Still, some children have an affinity for the exact sciences, while others indulge in analysis. Or for some we have a greater attraction to mathematics, and for others to languages. When we have expectations for our child, it is good to know what is given to him more. If we have realistic requirements, we will have greater success in the development of our child as a whole.
The question remains open: if our child is better at learning languages and mathematics is not given to him, which of the two should we pay more attention to? To develop the child in the area in which he wants to develop or to look for a way to compensate for his lag in the other area?
Each parent can choose for themselves what development they are looking for for their child. It is often said that mathematics is also a language and that music is mathematics. A matter of personal vision and views.
Children with two or more languages have greater originality and greater flexibility and the ability to learn due to the fact that they use two perspectives and understandings.
In modern education, the following case is also found: teachers who speak only one language often face the difficulty of not being able to communicate and teach children who have grown up in a multicultural environment / community, no matter how good teachers they are.
Children who speak two, three or more languages often have a much broader worldview (compared to monolingual people), learn quickly, seek more information and more linguistic parallels. This case has been specifically considered in recent years at numerous conferences in international schools. A child who speaks two or more languages will always have a better start than a child who speaks only one.
When talking about language progress, it is important to consider the individual development of the child.
The following examples are observed in practice:
- A child who attends an English kindergarten, and has Bulgarian as his mother tongue, speaks English after the second year. Why: the child learns the language and accumulates passive vocabulary, speaks only after he can compose whole sentences of the language.
While another child learns by trial and error – he tries to speak the language of day 1 – makes mistakes, mixes, uses gestures to communicate in the language. The end result is the same for both children – they speak the language like a mother, regardless of the path and approach. In this case, it is debatable what “faster progress” of the language means.
A child who speaks 3 languages often mixes languages - replaces words that are more convenient for him to pronounce than another language while speaking a third. In this case, again, we cannot say that the child is not progressing or is progressing more in a given language. On the contrary – it often means that for the child it does not matter which of the two / three languages he / she uses.
In conclusion, we can say that determining a child whether or not he / she progresses in a given language is quite subjective. We recommend each parent to concentrate more on creating a favorable environment and building the right attitude, attitude and attitude in the child to language proficiency. Regardless of the path a child chooses and his or her current condition, he or she will certainly make progress, even if it is not as expected.
The article uses quotations from the report “Language lateralization in 7-year-old multilinguals”, presented at the scientific conference “Psychology – traditions and perspectives”, Blagoevgrad by Emilia Pavlova, clinical psychologist, scheme therapist, in recent years specializing in cognitive behavioral therapy, child neuropsychology and addictions.