Monday, November 17, 2008


I've been doing some reading lately on the subject of bilingualism and the effects it has on children. I've come across some interesting articles and thought I'd post the links here in case anyone wanted to read along.

I've never given much thought to the potential challenges of raising bilingual (or multilingual) children. I am multilingual myself and never really encountered anything that I would say was a challenge. If anything, knowing multiple languages has been a huge advantage all through my life.

But apparently, as with many advantageous things in life, there are disadvantages. These disadvantages (most are temporary) can be especially noticeable when a child is learning to read, write and communicate in 2 or more languages at an early age and simultaneously.

Many of our Mongolian family members and friends have expressed concerns about our children having to communicate in 2 languages from the get go. And if I had a dollar for every time someone asked me if our children spoke either English or Mongolian, I'd be a rich momma.

The truth is, my kids have all had their own road to walk when it comes to communicating. We never pressured them to talk in one language or the other, even when we have company. I know by experience that language is directly related to emotions so I believe that they should be able to communicate in the language that best helps them express their emotions. Sometimes Nate will say, "Mom I have to tell you this in Mongolian because it's funnier". We then switch back to English, after we've had a good laugh together.

Abi was always gifted with the ability to express herself. She takes her time and forms her thoughts so perfectly that I sometimes forget she's only 4. But then again, she's been using sentences since she was 1 year old.

For all my kids, English is their primary and strongest language. This is a good thing, since they won't have to struggle to learn it when they are older. English is a tough language to learn later on.

For each child, language presents it's own challenges. Nate has a lisp so his Mongolian is hard to decipher at times. But his comprehension and reading are fine. I'm not worried.

Abi, who has near-to-perfect English sentence structure, is thrown off by the Mongolian sentence structure because it's almost the complete opposite of English. But one day she'll catch on and the pros will outwegh the cons for her just as they did for me.

As for Kenny, age 2.5, again English is his primary way to communicate. For him, speaking Mongolian is saying the sentence in English and adding hiisen to the end. Hiisen means "did", or "made" in Mongolian. But he'll catch on, too.

Some people have criticized us, saying that we should only use one language until the children get older. Hetee says they're going to eat their words when our kids are 12 years old and making 10 bucks an hour translating.

From what I've been reading AND from my own experiences, the pros far outweigh the cons for bilingual individuals. If you are considering raising your children so they are bilingual I say "GO FOR IT!" But make it a priority. Don't just assume they will absorb a language. You must encourage them and set a good example. I find languages fascinating and share this openly with my children. At home we speak in English, Mongolian, Spanish, Russian (my favorite!), and the little French I know. Hetee and I both want to learn French fluently. It's never too late!

There's a pretty well-rounded article here. Here's another one, too.

That's all I'll leave you with for now. Happy pondering and reading!


Anonymous said...

He olvidado mucho Espanol. But I wish I would have spoken it more to Man. Keep it up! Many doors will be opened up for your kids. I love y'all. Leah

Marnie said...

Oh, if only we could teach them to be bilingual...sigh. We only know English. But I am studing Latin with all of my children in hopes that it will help them study other languages later on. I think it is wonderful that you can teach your children so many languages. My own personal opinion is that it will only help them! I think that it will open so many opportunities for them. Just think of all the ways that the Lord can use them by being able to communicate with more that one people group!

Thomas said...

Great blog, great post! When I visit I'll see how their Mongolian is doing hehe

Sansar said...

have been viewing your blog for sometime and it's getting really uncomfortable to do so without dropping a comment. I am a father of two boys myself. And I am also a Mongolian. I have to admit I am not at all into Christianity or any religion for that matter. However, I'd like to say I read your blog with delight as I, like you, try to be the best father as I can be to my sons. And I truly appreciate you for sharing your life's tribulations and happiness with us in straightforward and open manner. I look forward for more