As a mother it’s hard to not worry about anything and everything with regards to your child’s development. My now two and a half year old son achieved every milestone a few months later and the mom in me was worried each time. I know of individual differences, I know space is all he needs, I know I shouldn’t worry. Well! But I am a mom. To be honest I’d keep away from the milestone charts and developmental books and all of these “but he’s supposed to be” generalizations. However, I was often reminded of what my son “can’t do yet”.
In this post I am speaking of one delay that I worried about the most and was pointed out by almost every friend and acquaintance. My son did not speak any word except Mumma, until he was almost two years of age.
I was aware of the thumbrule – A child who’s speech is delayed (if he hasn’t spoken a word until 18 months) should be screened for physical and psychological issues.
But my son would blabber endlessly and I was sure I did not want to intervene too early.
Was Using Multiple Languages Confusing him ?
I speak to my son in English, my husband and other members of the family communicate in Hindi and the elders prefer our mother tongue Punjabi. The obvious reason most of us assumed for the delay in speech was using more than one language.
Now, according to research a child is able to separate languages from birth. Even though, It used to be suggested that bilingual children were a little slower in learning to speak than monolingual children. ( What my own paediatrician said the same). This is not supported by research.
But without deliberately trying to use only one language we continued to use different languages with him.
Are Bilingualism/Multilingualism and Intelligence Connected ?
One would presume that being able to grasp two or more language at once can be done only by highly intellectual people.
But how can we distinguish a child to be intelligent or not at a stage when we are laying the foundation of a wholely developed individual ?
Which language did my son finally speak ?
After he turned two he was able to speak words in both English and Hindi. He comprehends every complex statement I speak in either English, Hindi or Punjabi. He is able to form sentences in English and Hindi.
So even though you must have heard that sticking to one language is a good idea When a child is learning to speak. It is with personal experience I argue that exposing a young child to a second language early in his development is a good idea!
Incase you are doubtful or skeptical of using different languages with your baby, here are some reasons why you should DO it!
– Learning two languages early in life makes it easier to acquire more later on. So if you want your child to converse in many languages in his adult life, start with teaching him second language now.
– Research suggests that exposure to two languages may actually give toddlers a cognitive advantage in the areas of self-control or executive functioning over young children who use only one language.
– In a social situation a child with better self-control would be able to tailor his behaviour to a specific context
– A child who is exposed to different languages is likely to be capable of thinking in two (or more) different languages. This promotes higher levels of abstract thought, which is important in learning
– As toddlers and preschoolers multilingual children are able to switch between languages, helping them develop a more flexible approach to problem solving.
Children’s brains are primed for the necessary language skill developments in a way that adults’ aren’t. So the best time to learn is now.
Having said that being bilingual or not is definitely not a parameter to judge a child on his success or capabilities.
Just that we as parents want to give that little extra to our kids to enrich their experiences and to equip them for a better Today and tomorrow. Being multilingual could be one of those tools that help a child develop to his full capabilities.
Also in Indian households use of different languages is a common phenomena. But because there are a lot of misconceptions floating around about bilingualism and multilingualism in kids, we moms worry and are afraid of exposing a child to do two or more languages.
But I say it’s not such a bad idea!