The debate continues: are you doing your kids a favour by encouraging them to be bilingual – or even trilingual – or are you risking what Victorians used to call *brain fever* (I think you can see where my sympathies lie!)
Of course, all kids are different, and respond to the idea of bilingualism in different ways. I often hear people say that their child picks and chooses when to speak the target language. Often the child will only in the right context.
For instance, a child who knows that her Dad speaks her native language may ignore the bilingual experiment with him. But change the context, and off she goes, nattering like a native: maybe in the other country, maybe with a grandparent or other relative, or maybe even with a doll she associates with the other country.
Other kids are born communicators from the first oo and ah. I know a boy whose parents immigrated from France to Australia. At four years old he came back to France for a visit. Somehow he knew we’re native English speakers (although he’d always spoken French with us), and asked in English for a glass of water. He was thirsty. I told him in English that he knew where the glasses were, and to help himself. Only thing was, the cupboard was too high for him to reach. So, instead of saying “I can’t reach”, or grunting on tiptoe, he said, “I can’t actually reach them.” Not a phrase he would have picked up from his parents. From where, then? This child loves language, loves communicating, and instinctively made the target language his own – from day one. I love it!
What to do? You don’t want to push too hard, you don’t want your child left behind, and you don’t want your partner or your parents or in-laws left behind either. Any thoughts?