According to scientific research and as mentioned by B. Zurer Pearson (Raising a Bilingual Child), there are two most important factors that support multilingualism in children:

  1. language exposure
  2. motivation to learning a language

This is also evident from actual case studies of real parent stories.

Exposure to language can be done in many ways. The most natural method is to talk to a child in a given language – the more varied, the more fun the better. The exposition can be enriched and increased by reading books, watching cartoons, playing in a given language – everything that a child likes. It is very effective to expose the language to significant, important people, ie. when children have contact with other people important to them: such as their grandma, aunt, uncle, cousin (or emotionally associated people) who speak a given language. Direct, interactive contact with a person who is important, pleasant and desirable to a child cannot be overestimated. As research (B. Zurer Pearson) indicates, the number of people with whom the child has contact with and who speak in a given language correlates with the richness of vocabulary rather than the time of exposure to a given language! For example, when a child listens to several speakers of a given language, eg. once a week, their vocabulary range is more enriched far more than in conversations with just a parent.

It happens that a family that raises a child in a given language does not have grandmothers, cousins, etc. and only one of the parents speaks (or not) the language we want to cultivate. What you can do: you can hire a nanny, an au pair, you can look for other families where adults and children speak a given language. Such meetings, when the child hears that other adults or other children actively use the language, are extremely stimulating, because they show the child that this language is used by more people and they also build the motivation to use it.

Motivation to learn a language: It is a factor that can decide whether a child will want to devote his time to contact with a given language and learning it. A small child up to about 3 years will be curious and eager to learn any language that is exposed to. Then, around the age of 3-4, he can start choosing the language that is closest to him (the easiest one) and may refuse to speak in the “weaker” language. However, having become 7-10 years old, children can still easily start and certainly continue learning the next language. As parents and adults, we should look after the child’s “learning” to be positive: preferably with fun, pleasant activities, with nice and important people. Older children may refuse to work on a minority language as it will see it as less prestigious (see Zuber Pearson) but we adults can show the child different benefits. We can show them that many other who people speak in a given language, can watch a cartoon in a language with understanding, they can communicate with their grandmother, friend, play a game etc.

Dear Parents, do not make the mistake of excessively emphasising the importance of language learning. It is better to let go and look for other ways to spend time than something against which the child will have resistance. Seek such opportunities, circumstances that will please your child and yourself; avoid stress!

Multilingual Family Clubs combine these two issues: exposure to language, building motivation and adding a socio-cultural context of a given language. The child has the opportunity to immerse itself in a given language, play in a positive atmosphere with adults or children speaking a given language. Thanks to this, the motivation to learn a language will be built, its vocabulary will be expanded, grammatical structures will be enriched, etc.

ALEKSANDRA MYKOWSKA ?  Mama dwóch dziewczynek. Psycholog, trener, ukończyła MBA> Obecnie zajmuje się prowadzenim Klubu Multi. Jest prezesem Fundacji Understanding.

Mom of two girls. Psychologist, trainer, graduated from the MBA. Currently she is running the Multi Club. Preseident of the Understanding Foundation.