Enjoyed this article, “How Children Learn a Second Language” by Linda Halgunseth. I grew up with multiple languages and my daughter is now growing up in a bilingual environment. I see how for my almost three-year old daughter, her linguistic adaptability has also framed her way of thinking about her interactions with others.
When she encounters a new person, she tries to guess what language they speak and uses that, but if that doesn’t work, she switches language, and if that doesn’t work, she tries to use signs, or actions, or she tries to approximate the tones and sounds of the recipient’s language while speaking her own language. Knowing and understanding that people speak different languages and knowing different languages seems to give her the faith and belief that she can communicate with anyone, she just needs to find the right language.
I think that it will make a big difference to children’s experience of schooling in the U.S. if knowing more than one language is regarded more widely as a strength rather than a deficit. Kids will try harder to communicate with each other rather than consider someone who doesn’t speak English abnormal.
Yen Yen Woo is Associate Professor of Education, LIU Post in New York and also creator of the bilingual comic book iPad app, Dim Sum Warriors