Kids and Language

As a mother of 2 small children I am continually astounded by their language development- the words they pick up and the way they manage to play with multiple languages already. As we're currently living in Vienna they are having to master German on top of English… so here are some of my ponderings on the linguistic theme.


November 2014

Multiple languages in infants

baby langHow many languages does your baby speak? What?? What!! What a crazy question!! As if kids didn’t have enough pressure on them from what is becoming a progressively early age… now we have to teach them another language pre birth!!

But actually that’s not what this is about- this is positive news (especially if you’re an adopted child, or have adopted any children internationally)!! Research has shown that children can retain languages that they haven’t ever really heard, just through pre- birth exposure. Recent research with adopted children has shown that the child is able to maintain a knowledge of the birth- mother tongue, even when it has never been used by their adoptive parents. This is amazing news- presented by the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital – The Neuro and McGill University’s Department of Psychology.

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Speaking vs. Communicating

How important is learning a language to you? It all depends on your country of origin- English speakers generally are less than enthusiastic about learning foreign languages as we know that we are lucky enough to be able to count on English to get by in most places. People coming from countries where the language is less wide-spread need to learn another language, and generally are very capable of speaking two or three languages. An international study a few years ago showed that children from nations such as Poland, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Latvia and Lithuania are more likely to be taught a number of foreign languages than their peers in the UK.

Some people are obsessed with learning a foreign tongue.  I know I am- living here in Vienna I daily have to come to terms with the fact that I don’t speak German well- or at least not to a level where I feel comfortable and can manage most social interaction. Obviously this is needs based; a situation which many people have and will never find themselves in.

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