I’ve made an interesting bilingual discovery with my own children that was confirmed by an expert in child bilingualism. Norma, one of my girls’ amazing preschool teachers, has been helping me out while my husband is away. She is a native Spanish speaker, and I have encouraged her to speak Spanish with the girls. Before she started with us last week, the girls have already impressed me with the many Spanish songs they have learned during “Spanish Time” at their school. I was eager for them to pick up some more Spanish from her. I have also recently started speaking to them in Spanish some, now that they have shown an interest. They no longer angrily reject my speaking any other language but English, which is a fairly new phenomenon. They still laugh hysterically if I say any word in Arabic and refuse to answer me. It makes no sense in their minds why I would ever try to speak it, as that is clearly their father’s language.
Norma commented to me last week that she was amazed and surprised by how quickly the girls have been absorbing Spanish. I replied that it was natural because they are so young. But she corrected me. “None of the other kids have learned it as quickly and many don’t take an interest in it at all.” While of course every parent likes to think this means that their child is obviously just that much smarter, that is, in fact, not the explanation. I suspected their ability to pick up a third language so rapidly was because they are already being raised bilingual.
My suspicion was confirmed by a psychologist and expert in child bilingualism, whom I met at a three-year-old’s birthday party over the weekend. We were chatting about child bilingualism and I shared with her the story of the girls picking up Spanish so rapidly. She affirmed that because they are already bilingual, picking up a third language comes even easier.
I just hired a French babysitter this past weekend. Let’s see how they do with French now! If only I had a child’s brain for languages. It’s amazing how effortless languages are for children. All the more reason why I want them raised in a multilingual environment.