raising multilingual children

Raising Multilingual Children In The Indian Context

The average Indian parent is raising a child who is at the very least bi-lingual. If you are a couple living in a non-native Indian city or town, the chances are that your kid is probably exposed to 3 languages or more!  Hence for raising multilingual children, it is natural for parents to be confused about what their approach should be. There are a lot of myths surrounding the topic of bi-lingual or tri-lingual children.

Here are some Pointers/Tips for Indian Parents who are Raising Multilingual Children:
Relax! You are not alone in this!

There are lakhs of parents in India alone like other parents who are going through the same in the process of raising multilingual children. Children’s ability to absorb concepts at a young age is simply phenomenal. They also learn to distinguish different languages quite early on.

For example, if you are a Hindi speaking couple living in Bangalore and you have a 3-year-old son who goes to Play School and plays with other kids in the neighbourhood, he already understands that there are three different languages that are being used by different people in different contexts. The child might learn the languages at different speeds and that is perfectly normal.

Myths Busted!

There has been no documented evidence that exposure to multiple languages leads to problems like Confusion or Speech Delays. This kind of reasoning stems from an incorrect understanding of what a ‘language’ truly is. People often confuse speech with language. Speech is just one part of the language. Language is much larger in its scope. Concepts underlying languages have a reasonably high degree of similarity. For example, the concept of past tense and future tense is quite similar across languages. Or for that matter, the concept of singular or plural.

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There are a lot of Advantages of Raising Multilingual Children!

Scientific evidence shows that kids who can speak multiple languages tend to have:

  • Higher cognitive abilities
  • Better ability to learn new words
  • Better listening skills and
  • Enhanced ability to connect with others.

So go ahead and teach your child multiple languages! Watch this video how MS Dhoni is speaking in 6 different languages with his daughter!!

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Structure and Consistency are Important!

Do not ignore the importance of Structure & Consistency:

In this context ‘Structure’ is broadly the methodology wherein you introduce different aspects of the language in a systematic manner which is both age-appropriate and scientific and results in good learning outcomes.

Consistency refers to repeated reinforcement that is crucial for the concepts to take root in the child’s mind. These two are essential for a Child to learn a language properly.

In the Indian scenario, structure and consistency come very naturally to parents with regards to our mother tongue. Because of our familiarity with our mother tongue, we naturally have an innate understanding of how to break down the concepts to teach our child.

More importantly, because we use the language very frequently in front our kid, the sheer consistency of usage overcomes most challenges related to structure and serve as strong reinforcement. However, most Indian parents do not have the same luxury when it comes to a language like English. This leads to challenges related to teaching it.

  • India is uniquely, a multilingual society and this brings about its own challenges in raising children.
  • Myths such as exposure to multiple languages lead to speech delays in children, tend to confuse the parents.
  • Scientific evidence shows that exposure to multiple languages leads to higher cognitive abilities.
  • Structure and Consistency are the two key elements that determine effective language development in your child
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Do you find it challenging to teach more than one language to your child?

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