Thursday, January 24, 2013

2012 Language News Update - Addendum 1

The two parts of the 2012 Language News Update earlier this month missed out on two important studies done recently, both in the area of children and language acquisition.

The first study (I'll report on the second study in a few more days) concerns children of bilingual parents and language mixing. A researcher from Concordia University found that the vast majority of bilingual parents actually mix languages when talking with their children. As might be expected, this language mixing poses problems in the short term for vocabulary acquisition. But the general benefits of bilingual rearing are not undone, and the short-term effects may not be too serious.

In my own experience, I have gone to great pains not to mix languages at all when speaking to my children. I mix all the time with my wife, and she mixes somewhat with the children, but my reasoning has been the following: I speak French to them, which will be the language they hear the least (or at least the least frequently in natural language environments) given that they will grow up in the U.S. (English) and have some family that knows only Spanish. Of the three languages we want to raise them in then, French is the one that is likely to be the weakest, so I want to be extremely consistent with it myself. But perhaps a little mixing wouldn't hurt? It's true that on the very rare occasion I have made a translation or myself used an English or Japanese outburst that just fit the moment ("All right!" or "やった!" or "Oh, man" or "しまった。").

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