There are multilingual children, who can speak more than two languages, they are polyglot . This learning almost always comes because they are from mixed families and also live in another country other than their parents’ language. There are people who throughout their lives have acquired up to the knowledge of 30 languages, some of them as scattered and distinct as German, Mandarin or Thai.
Today we will tell you the advantages, many of them obvious, but also some disadvantages that children have to learn more than one language from young. We will refer to both native multilingualism, and learning, without immersion of more than two languages.
Process of acquisition of the leguaje
According to a study by Georgetown University in Washington, knowledge and use of various languages leads to the development of certain areas of the brain and contributes to the improvement of other cognitive skills, such as attention and short-term memory.
Although we don’t think so, because almost all of us learned the language as little ones, learning and using language is a complex cognitive procedures. Different cognitive processes are involved in the acquisition of language: from declarative memory, for the remembrance of lived activities, vocabulary or grammatical norms, to procedural memory, responsible for programming muscles for correct pronunciation and accent.
Therefore growing with multiple languages will be the easiest and fastest way to learn a foreign language, and it is considered a foreign language that is outside the mother. In other words, if a multilingual girl with Spanish parents lives in Germany, her mother league will be Spanish, and she will acquire German naturally and in parallel with the acquisition of this language, and not the other way around. If one of your parents also speaks to you in Basque, for example, this will also be your mother tongue.
Disadvantages for multilingual children
We will start with the disadvantages of multilingualism, by being more unknown. But they are easy to correct disadvantages that occur to a greater or lesser degree.
- Multilingual children speak later. Although there is no scientific evidence of this, many parents estimate that there is a delay of three to six months compared to monolingual children of the same age. This reality is understandable, since the boy or girl faces a learning situation in which he must double his efforts.
- Mixing languages. Multilingual children exchange words between the different languages they are acquiring. This is a temporary phenomenon and through practice and supervision is solved without any problem.
- Extra effort for parents. When correcting in several languages, including reading and writing skills, it is more effort for parents. In this regard we recommend the book: Multilingual from the cradle, by Anna Solé Mena. It addresses this kind of doubt, from the point of view of the author, who is the mother of children educated in multilingualism.
Advantages of multilingualism
None of us escapes the advantages of multilingualism, acquired or not since childhood. Learning foreign languages contributes to the knowledge of cultural diversity, facilitates social adaptability, and also promotes self-esteem and self-confidence. Multilingual children have more mental flexibility, tend to be more creative, their level of selective attention is higher as well as their memory capacity.
When a child is first incorporated into the learning of a foreign language, the greater the possibility that he or she has a high level of competence in the foreign language. In the long term, it means being able to access better job options and greater access to other cultures.
Knowledge of a foreign language implies advantages in mental health, and that is that speaking two languages can delay the diagnosis of dementia problems, up to 5 years . And if three are spoken, this value reaches an average of 6.4 years. This reality shows that health is an integral question of good, eating, physical, and cognitive habits.