My friend Alexandra Buytendijk, who has two young girls who are being brought up trilingually (English, Dutch, and German), attended a recent workshop in Utrecht on growing up bilingual. She learned that babies pay more attention to speech than any other sound. Babies learn fairly early to identify phonetic patterns – within a few months in fact. It’s only after patterns have been learned that babies learn words. These greedy little learning devices seem able to absorb whatever we feed them aurally: English, Dutch. . .and it appears they appreciate quality as much as quantity!
What wonderful news for all of us who have instinctively been reading to babies and children all these years!
In promoting Betty & Cat, I’m always amazed when someone says, “but it’s not translated!” – (I must say it doesn’t happen often, but still…) Growing up bilingual myself, it never worried me when I came across a word I didn’t know – I instinctively knew that learning was a process and that “all would eventually be revealed.” (For years, when I said The Lord’s Prayer, I thought that the sentence “and lead us not into temptation” was a request to keep us from some unpleasant place called “Totemptation” – no one had explained the meaning of the word “temptation” – and I enjoyed the sound of the word on my ears.
And so, kudos to the crèche in Amsterdam Zuid-Oost who saw the value of Betty & Cat immediately and started reading it to their (very) young charges right away. No complaints from them!
For more information on the workshop or on the organization that presented it, go to www.growingupbilingual.org