Mixing languages: pro and contra. Смешивать языки: за и против

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It is widely known that one and two year old children from bilingual families often mix languages when they learn to speak. More over, their mothers and fathers do this as well. But how does it influence language acquisition? Psychology Professor of Krista Byers-Heinlein from the Concordia University (Canada) tried to answer this question.

Until now researchers did not know how often parents mix languages while speaking, why and how do they do it, how it influences vocabulary size of their children. To learn more, Krista Byers-Heinlein recruited 181 bilingual mothers and fathers who had small bilingual or trilingual toddlers and asked in which situations they mix languages.

Mixing languages — challenge for bilingual children

90 per cent of participants said that they were mixing languages while speaking to their children. They also gave reasons for that. Mothers and fathers borrowed words from the other language when there was no adequate one, when they were not sure of a word, and when the word was hard to pronounce. Moreover parents often borrowed words from one language when teaching new words to their children. Thus, Krista Byers-Heinlein came to the conclusion that bilingual parents use language mixing as a strategy to make sure their children learn words equally in both languages.

But this strategy is very hard and challenging for children. «High rates of language mixing make it harder for children to categorize words they hear. That could lead to slower word learning and smaller vocabularies. It also seems that it's more difficult to learn a word from a mixed-language sentence than from a single-language sentence," — says Krista Byers-Heinlein.

There are advantages at the end of the day

But this challenging and hard strategy brings advantages. «Even if exposure to language mixing is initially challenging for vocabulary acquisition, it likely has benefits over the long term. Studies comparing monolingual and bilingual infants have shown that bilinguals are more adept at switching between strategies and are more able to learn two rules at the same time. Infants exposed to frequent language mixing could develop specific strategies for coping with this type of input. That could lead to cognitive advantages that would outweigh any initial difficulties brought about by language mixing," — she explains.

Krista Byers-Heinlein studies now other bilingual communities to find more proofs for her findings.  

Comments:

Dina: я думала, тут будет речь о том, стоит ли смешивать языки, или каждый родитель должен говорить с ребёнком на своём языке… а об этом как раз ничего не сказано :)

Tetyana: Дин, тут речь как раз о тех родителях, которые уже смешивают и том, как это влияет на ребенка. Сделать вывод — смешивать или нет — это уже дело читателя. Каждый принимает решение для себя.

Dina: такие дети тут сравниваются с одноязычными детьми… а не с теми детьми, с которыми разноязычные родители говорят каждый на своём языке. вот я о чём.

Tetyana: Проблема в том, что в этой области еще вообще очень мало что изучено. Для того, чтобы сделать такое сравнение, необходимо годами наблюдать за разными семьями. И кстати, ты считаешь это возможным, чтобы каждый родитель вот прям только на одном языке и говорил в многоязычной семье? Проводили исследования тут в Люксембурге в португальских семьях, которые клялись, что дома говорят исключительно по-португальски. Когда стали записывать на аудио, как они говорят дома, оказалось, что все время они смешивают португальский и французский.

Digi: я слышал что это плохо для детей. что-то про развитие интеллекта нехорошее

Tetyana: Про интеллект, все как раз наоборот:)

Aleksei: по крайней мере, что касается абстрактного мышления и фантазии.