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Multilingualism Is Not An Excuse!


So often, I found myself saying or thinking: “She doesn’t do this or that, she’s multilingual”. When asked whether K. already says something, I sometimes have to reply: “No”. And I am very tempted to add: “She’s multilingual, you know”.

Often, I catch my mother in law explaining to friends: “She’s multilingual, that’s why she doesn’t talk that much”.  Or: “She said this in Polish; this is why you can’t understand her”. While I tend to do the same, I stop myself. I stop saying that. This is not fair to anybody. Not fair to me, not fair to my daughter. Multilingualism is not an excuse!

It is a challenge and multilingual children tend to develop differently, they are in not behind monolinguals, even though it might seem that way. For example, I worry a lot about K’s pronunciation. While her vocabulary is fine for her age (I think), people only now start to understand her. She’s making progress, though.

But even then I catch myself thinking: “She can’t pronounce the sounds correctly, she’s multilingual”. Again, it is no excuse! There are only 2 possibilities: Either her speech develops at its own pace, or something is wrong with her speech, and she might need therapy. But neither alternative is due to multilingualism.

It is so easy to explain every problem with multilingualism. If a child starts taking later, of course he does, he’s bilingual! Bad pronunciation? Multilingualism is the cause! Sometimes, children need additional support in one or all of their languages, but this is fine, given the fact that every child is different.

But blaming everything on multilingualism is not fair for everybody involved. It is not good for the child-parent relationship. We should be proud of our multilingual children, not ashamed of them!

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