Languages Magazine

The Ups and Downs of Bilingualism

By Tlb
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As I was browsing on the Internet, I happen to look through a particular article concerning a mother with her three-year-old son. They’re actually using German, as her primary language, and English, from her Irish husband as the child’s languages. They’ve been staying in Ireland for a long time that sharpens the child’s skills in English. And every time they go to Germany, the child is capable of communicating its language as well.

This is a great and enthusiastic idea for a young child to speak fluently with both English and German in his early age, right? Well, there was a sort of dilemma here that pertains with the child being a bilingual.

Quoting what the concerned mother detailed, her husband was away for a week and her son was clearly upset of the father’s absence. The child’s speaking pattern eventually changed and he doesn’t speak German to her any longer. Her son keeps on telling that he is not able to speak German. Naturally, the mother feels a bit lost if the issue has something to do with the father’s absence or just because English is indeed an easier language to learn compared to German. It’s not that she shuns her child to learn English language. She just doesn’t want her son to turn away from his mother tongue, which is German.

Have you undergone the same predicament with someone you acquainted with? Dr John Sharry has something to say about that.

Generally speaking, the child being bilingual is the result of both couples consistently using the German and English language inside their house. Isn’t it amazing how he can cope up to change languages when he talks to her parents? He doesn’t even have to stutter or think of the correct words to speak. The child’s usage of both English and German language is done as natural as it is being done. Well, that’s the power of a human’s mind. When a language is really practiced constantly, even if they’re different, a person can learn it without too many hassles.

As for the mother’s concern, the child’s respond to speak more of English than of German has something to do with some factors. Perhaps the child misses his father so much and speaking English more can be a sort of reminder to him. Or, there might be some pressures in his community that challenges him to speak English more. Whatever the reasons may be, everything he learned about the German language will never be erased. It’s already a part from him.

If you happen to encounter the same or similar situations like this one, don’t get too anxious with it. Your child who happens to learn both languages will really show an advantage in one of the languages more, especially when you are staying in a country where the language is natively spoken. If your children learn German language more than English because you are staying in Germany, that is normal. This is just the natural ups and downs of bilingualism.

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