Will bilingual children get confused if?

If they learn more than two languages while growing up?

NO. Children have an amazing ability to pick up several languages while growing up – providing they get enough exposure to them and have the chance and need to interact in them. Millions of children worldwide grow up in truly multilingual environments, learning them as they grow up, and they are no more confused than monolingual children. Bilingual children often mix their languages to start with, but this is just a part of the learning process and does not mean they are confused about their languages.

If they start nursery in a language they do not know?

NO. When immersed in a language, children learn a language quickly. They will of course go through a phase where they are only listening and taking it all in, but sooner than parents think, they learn to understand and also to speak.

If they learn to read and write in two languages simultaneously?

NO. Just like learning to speak two different languages at the same time, children can learn to read and write two languages (and scripts). The important thing is to take the cue from the child and start teaching when they show interest for it. Reading books in all the languages a child is learning is a good foundation for learning to read and write.

If the parents speak different languages to them?

NO. Children very quickly learn to distinguish between different languages, according to some research already in the womb. Kids understand that there is a mummy’s language and a daddy’s language (or grandma’s or nanny’s etc). Children do not question the fact that people in their environment speak different languages, and it certainly does not confuse them.

If the parents speak a different language between them?

NO. In many families, parents do not speak each other’s mother tongues and use a third language as their common language, while speaking their respective native languages with the children. This also does not confuse a child – however, the kids do quickly learn to understand a fair deal of it, so don’t think you can keep a secret language forever!

If a parent switches the language spoken with them?

NO. There are different scenarios in which a parent might want to switch the language they speak with a child. From my own experience, it is not a straight-forward thing to do, but by working with the child and carefully adapting the process it can be done. A child’s natural instinct is to generally resist change, but making a gradual transition from one language to another does not confuse your child.

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