I Am A Mom, Raising Multilingual Children

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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  • Reply melanie December 2, 2013 at 11:39 pm

    now that i read the article ,i see myself saying this ,he doesn’t talk much or have some problem with pronuncing or mixing words as he is multilingual,i’ve never thought about this before so thanks to show it to me i will have to make some effort in the future not to do it

    • Reply European Mama December 3, 2013 at 8:37 am

      Hi Melanie, thanks for commenting. I think it is OK when children don’t talk much or don’t have a clear pronunciation. That happens but multilingualism is never the cause of it. And also, some children are just like that, they are slow talkers and they would be even if they weren’t multilingual. It is OK if the child doesn’t talk much but it is not OK for family members to use it as an excuse.

  • Reply Sarah at Journeys of The Zoo December 3, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    My kids half-siblings didn’t say a word until they were 2.5 years old. They were raised in a household where each parent spoke a different language. All the time.

    My kids were raised in a mostly one language household until two years old and their speaking has progressed “normally”. We added the second language around two years. Not for any reason other then that’s just the way things went.

    Fortunately, my kids are now at the age (4) where they can explain to people (that don’t understand) if they spoke another language. Usually, they just translate and don’t even think a thing about it.

    What a gift to be able to teach your kids multiple languages we’re recently started on their third and I hope that even more will come.

    Kids are like sponges. Unless their is a learning disability, they’ll figure it out.

    Besos, Sarah
    Blogger at Journeys of The Zoo
    Sarah at Journeys of The Zoo recently posted…WIN at the Weekly #Giveaway Linky, WW, 12/10My Profile

    • Reply European Mama December 3, 2013 at 7:17 pm

      Hi Sarah, thank you for commenting. You are right, usually they figure it out by themselves! But becuase children learn fast doesn’t make it easy- the psonge has to be submerged in water, not air in order to absorbe the liquid!

  • Reply Multilingualism Is Not An Excuse! - expatsHaarlem June 24, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    […] This article is previously published on the blog The European Mama. […]

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