Well, parents of monolingual and bilingual children are eager for their little ones to utter the first words. It’s an exciting time to learn more about what the baby is thinking. However, a common concern, especially for bilingual parents, is that their child is not learning fast enough.
Vocabulary size of bilingual children, when combined across both languages, have been found to be equal to or greater than those of monolingual children.
Unlike monolingual children, bilingual children have another language. This is from where they can easily borrow if they can’t quickly retrieve the appropriate word in one language. Even two-year-olds modulate their language to match the language used by their interlocutor.
Another common concern is that bilingualism causes confusion. Part of this concern arises due to “code-switching,” a speaking behaviour in which bilinguals combine both languages. Researchers have shown code-switching to be part of a bilingual child’s normal language development. And it could even be the beginning of what gives them the extra cognitive prowess, known as the “bilingual advantage.”
There are some key differences between infants raised in monolingual versus bilingual homes.
1. Babies from monolingual English households are specialized to process the sounds of English, and not the unfamiliar language.
2. Babies from bilingual households are specialized to process the sounds of both languages.
Research shows that babies’ brains become tuned to whatever language or languages they hear from their caregivers.
A monolingual brain becomes tuned to the sounds of one language, and a bilingual brain becomes tuned to the sounds of the two languages.