Thursday, February 20, 2014

Multilingual Children Beyond Myths and Toward Best Practices

This report debunks the myth that multilingualism is harmful to children, and offers guidance to parents (e.g., to speak language or languages in which they are comfortable), teachers (e.g., not to discourage parents from speaking L1), researchers, and policy makers on ways to promote positive language development in children from multilingual families.

Children can become fluent in two languages and reap the benefits of dual-language skills under supportive contexts. Research on language development in monolingual children offers useful lessons for multilingual contexts: children’s language is most supported when adults engage children in responsive, positive, varied, and complex talk about objects of interest to those children, past personal experiences, and books they are reading with them.

Moreover, in order to provide children with such optimally supportive language environments, parents should speak with their children using the language(s) with which they are proficient.

In short, language learning need not be a zero-sum game.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has endorsed this report.

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