Monday, July 16, 2012

Bilingualism in Adults and Children

Learning languages is something that fascinates me. I love learning the language of a country. Wherever I travel, have travelled, or will travel I always try and learn a few words. At least Hello, please and thank you.

However as I have got older learning languages becomes more difficult, I can speak and understand Dutch not fluently but enough to be understood. I think one of things about learning language is that you shouldn't be worried about whatpeople think, or am I saying it wrong. Children don't tend to worry about this when learning a language.

It is also harder for me to seperate languages now. My French was fluent when living in France, however if I try and speak now, Dutch comes out!!!

According to Dr. Laura-Ann Petitto, director of research on bilingual education at the American Society for Neuroscience; when children are exposed early on to two different languages, "They grow as if they have two people residing in their monolingual brain. "
The younger the child, the easier it is to learn a second language. Children may be able to understand words and hear subtle differences in sounds that for adults would go unnoticed.
Babies are always listening to sounds. The paths in their brains become stronger to recognize that specific language. When a child reaches 12 years old , the brain gets rid of those paths that are not needed.

Adults have more difficulty learning a new language because their brains no longer contain the connections needed to learn other languages. It is also more difficult due to the experience with our native language, which distorts perception. We see things through our native language and that affects the way we see foreign languages. Very much like me and my Dutch sentence structure. It is very difficult to undo this learning. Because a child has no preconceptions, a child is not aware that they are learning a language. They are just learning to speak regardless of the language being taught. Like you and me when we were children and we started talking, we knew we were learning English or whatever was our first language. A child does not make comparisons between one language or another. We all had to learn a language as children and that is the language we speak now. If you had learned another language then you would speak it with the same confidence and fluency as the other.

The best age for language learning in children is, from birth to age 7. New research shows how easily their minds can easily assimilate bilingual status, something which scientists hope to begin to discover, to eventually help to facilitate language learning in adults.

This week Funky Monkey and I will be reading some bilingual books from Diglot books.  This are great books in two languages, excellent for supporting bilingualism and also the Dutch to English dictionary is sure to help with my Dutch!!!

Come back next week and see what we thought about Diglot books and we have a super English to Dutch dictionary to give away!

For more tips on Bilingualism see the guest post from MumsMall 


  1. We have a bilingual learning situation here as DD started a Hebrew speaking nursery when she was 21 months. Two years later she understands both languages but her speaking is not as advanced (eveni In English) as a monolingual child of her age. This could just be her as other children in her nursery from English speaking homes are more advanced in both languages. I'm just saying this as I've had to learn to be patient for the greater good of her being bilingual.
    Btw - another finding from the academic research says that a bilingual child should find it easier to learn subsequent languages. Makes sense really.

    1. I have learnt to be patient too, DD speaks more in Dutch than she does in English but that is becuase everything around here is in Dutch. I (and UK TV)are the only access she has to constant English. It does worry me at times but then when I hear her speaking to my parents in English I know she can do it.

  2. My wife is Dutch and I'm English so in a strange way I'm looking forward to raising a bilingual child. I think they will over take me though :p

    1. It is lovely to raise a bilingual child, and yes its Dutch will probably overtake yours!


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