By the age of two, children are typically able to say a few hundred words. My son, Alexander, was able to understand almost everything in both languages – Greek and English – but he could say only six words.
Our concerns grew as we watched younger kids overtake his speaking ability. Like many parents, we questioned if we were doing something wrong (even experts can’t escape the fear and guilt that comes with being a parent).
A number of enduring myths surround bilingualism, such as that it causes language delays and cognitive impairments.
However, research shows that raising a child bilingually does not cause language learning difficulties. Any lag in language development is temporary, so parents shouldn’t worry!
Here are some more common myths debunked:
Raising your child bilingually can cause a delay in development.
Not true. In fact there are numerous advantages, such as improved executive function (mental planning), metalinguistic awareness (the ability to think about language as abstract units), mental flexibility (processing information adaptively) and creative thinking.
Bilingual children will generally meet developmental milestones within the normal range of language development, but may in some cases be towards the tail end (which was exactly the case with Alexander).
Bilingual children lag behind their peers and won’t catch up.
This is a contentious issue, as there is considerable variability within bilingual children. Some children will not show any lag at all.