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This luck girl speaks Spanish, Armenian and English at home and is learning French in school. And still someone gave her mom grief.

June 16, 2018

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For those of us not lucky enough to speak a language other than English, we must turn to immersion programs to have our children grow up bilingual. When I hear my daughters chattering away in Mandarin, I feel a wave of relief that all those nights arguing and crying at the dining room table over stroke-order homework were worth it.

This is a poignant essay about the silliness in this nation that we don’t encourage and enthuse over those who are naturally, effortlessly (at least on the part of the kids, the parents work hard at it!) bilingual or in this luck girl’s case, trilingual. And she appears to be in French immersion as well.

I hope it was only that the woman who confronted this mom was working from the old, now-disproved notion that speaking a language at home that isn’t the dominate language of the country somehow harms children.

It’s worth noting that the underlying studies that caused generations of teachers, doctors and experts to believe so were based on false premises. They come from work done in the United Kingdom in the early part of the last century.

Researchers tested children coming from homes where children spoke Welsh and Irish at home and English at school. They found that those students had less well-rounded vocabularies, and drew the conclusion that speaking another language at home harmed their language development.

What they were actually studying was poverty, though they didn’t think about it. Welsh families who still spoke Welsh and Irish families that still spoke Irish tended to come from poorer, less developed parts of the country (and we won’t even get into the history of that…) So the children came from poorer homes, worse schools and generally had fewer opportunities.

They didn’t think to do a similar study with English aristocrats who hired French- and German-speaking nannies for their children so they would speak those languages, which were tied to upper class culture and science.

For decades afterwards, social scientists believed that growing up bilingual was harmful. They were wrong. But it appears not everyone had gotten the update.

From the Los Angeles Times

 

I felt her staring at me on the playground as I called out to my daughter.

She must be someone’s grandmother, I thought. She must be curious, as people often are.

Then she took one step toward me — pink fingernails, dark blond hair — and opened her mouth, e-nun-ci-a-ting each word.

“Speak English,” she commanded. “You’re confusing the poor girl.”

Please read more here.

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