For Families

In an increasingly diversified world, more and more children find themselves in an environment where more than one language is used. With life changes that involve moving to different parts of the world, parents can feel overwhelmed by the linguistic demands on them and their children.

What can parents expect of their children? Do parents have anything to contribute to the process of early language development? Does it confuse children to learn two or more languages at once? Do children have to be especially intelligent to be able to cope with more than one language?

On this page you'll find research based answers to such questions and more so that your family can experience harmonious bilingualism.

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Here you can get research-based insights from experts on early multilingualism and multilingualism in general.


Podcasts

Is there a language delay for young bilingual children?

by Dr. Annick De Houwer | A bilingual upbringing is never a reason for a slow language development.

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Hello! This is Annick De Houwer.

For over 40 years I have been doing research into how young bilingual children develop language. It still amazes me that there are many people out there who think that hearing two languages from a very young age slows down the overall language development process. Let me assure you: it does not. Children who grow up bilingual and so hear two languages from an early age develop at least one of their languages at levels you would expect for their age. There is no overall language delay in young bilingual children. You do have to worry, however, if your child is not saying words in any language by the time she or he is one and a half, or if she or he is not stringing together words into little sentences in any language soon after the second birthday. Not speaking at all or not saying sentences can have several causes, but please, let nobody tell you that it is the bilingual setting that is causing that. A bilingual upbringing is never a reason for a slow language development.

Thanks for listening, and stay tuned for more podcasts about early bilingual development from HaBilNet!

Videos

Speak to your children!

Adaptive and stimulating oral interaction between caregivers and young children can create the foundation for successful intergenerational language transmission and harmonious bilingualism.

Well-Being for Bilinguals

Many parents raise their children in a bilingual environment. They may have questions and concerns about how their children will be able to deal with that bilingual setting, and they will want overall well-being for their children and their families. Harmonious Bilingual Development refers to well-being specifically in a bilingual setting. This talk given at Rikkyo University in Tokyo, Japan, on Nov. 7, 2023, explains how such well-being in bilingual development can be fostered.

Dr Winsler on the importance of insisting on speaking a heritage language at home

"The parents have to be strict – and the kids will thank them later, for their bilingualism", says Dr. Adam Winsler in this excerpt from an interview by Friederike Schütte from May 2018. A very common problem in bilingual settings is that children may speak only the majority language. As emphasized by Dr. Winsler, immigrants who want their children to speak their language must create the need to use it. Watch the entire interview here.

Dr. Montanari on the importance of socializing children from the beginning to speak a language

"Parents think it is just enough to speak a language, and the child will pick it up. This is not the case", says Dr. Simona Montanari in this excerpt from an interview by Bianca Mohr from May 2018. Rather, if parents want children to speak their language, they must make it clear to children from day 1 that they should speak the same language as their parent. Watch the entire interview here.

Personal Account by a Mother

A Polish-German Bilingual Family

In this Polish video with German subtitles, Tanja Mlynczak talks about her experiences as part of a Polish-German bilingual family in Germany and some of the challenges involved. She also describes the influence of the 2020 COVID-19 crisis on their bilingual family life. Ms. Mlynczak speaks mostly Polish to her two sons, while Mr. Mlynczak speaks German with them.

Personal Account by a Father

A Polish-German Bilingual Family

In this German video with Polish subtitles, Marco Mlynczak talks about his experiences as part of a Polish-German bilingual family in Germany and some of the challenges involved. He also describes the influence of the 2020 COVID-19 crisis on their bilingual family life. Mr. Mlynczak speaks German with his two sons, while Ms. Mlynczak speaks mostly Polish to them.

Tweetalige kinderen

This is a video in Dutch showing how children can be bilingual from a young age. Made by Annick De Houwer, a researcher specializing in bilingual development in children. Thanks to the Universitaire Instelling Antwerpen for the technical support and to students there for recording material.

New book with advice for parents in bilingual families

An interview with its author, Jürgen Meisel

HaBilNet Director Annick De Houwer interviewed Advisory Board Member Jürgen Meisel about his recent book entitled Bilingual children: A guide for parents.

Les enfants bilingues

This is a video in French showing how children can be bilingual from a young age. Made by Annick De Houwer, a researcher specializing in bilingual development in children. Thanks to the Universitaire Instelling Antwerpen for the technical support and to students there for recording material.

Prof. Dr. Annick De Houwer about Inclusion and Participation

At the 4th IFP-Congress "Inclusion & participation – diversity as a chance and a standard" on 26. und 27. June 2013 in Munich, Germany, lecturers were interviewed. Here, Dr. Annick De Houwer, University of Erfurt, answers some questions (in German).

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