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Author Topic: Mixing languages - multilingual children - when do they stop doing that?  (Read 4241 times)
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IrisGranstedt
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« on: August 18, 2012, 09:44:43 AM »

Hi

My 18 month old is learning 3/4 languages (the 4th one is a variation of the other one) and he has been doing well recently and picking up new words. He's also mixing words from different languages in phrases.

I read from other threads and other people's experience is that this is completely normal. What is interesting is that when do they stop doing that? Would love to hear your experience!

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mybabyian
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« Reply #1 on: August 18, 2012, 03:31:12 PM »

My  son mixed 2 languages when he could speak 2 word phrases but pretty much when he started speaking full sentences he stopped.  I think he said two word phrases for a couple of months and then all of a sudden he was speaking in 11 word sentences which I think is a little unusual. 

He may be applying Spanish grammar rules to English though still.  This morning he said " No that's mommy's coffee; that's Ian's cheerios."  He meant, "That's not mommy's coffee; those are Ian's cheerios." The way he said it would have been correct grammar in Spanish.  I am not sure if it is the Spanish influence that made him say it like that.  Kids his age are still figuring out grammar even if they only speak one language.

To me it is very exciting to watch him learn.  And the way he can switch between the two languages depending who he is talking to is amazing too.  Everything I have read says don't correct them just model the appropriate language when they say something wrong.  So that is what I do and it seems to be working.

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Boca Beth
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« Reply #2 on: August 19, 2012, 01:44:20 AM »

Love your reply in not correcting the child when he makes a mistake and instead modeling the correct way to say it when the opportunity arises.

As a teacher of young children (preschool through elementary school) for more than 15 years I can tell you that the 'mixing' can continue for years.  Every child develops at different rates in all areas of learning, and language learning is no exception. 

Mixing happens with some adults even!  So be patient, smile, and encourage.  He will sort it all out in his brain as time continues on.

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DannyandAmy
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« Reply #3 on: August 21, 2012, 05:49:41 PM »

I agree that the 'mixing' can continue for many years, but also keep in mind a parent's need to STOP the behavior when the time is ready.

Multilingual children (often also multicultural children) who speak the same languageS tend stick together because of the many things besides language that they share. When a GROUP (including a family) can understand and speak more than one language, the 'mixing' of languages tends to be excusable, especially when words simply don't translate. There is a tendency to speak the word or words that is more easily accessible (in the brain) even within a sentence of another language. For older children, it becomes even worse when it is considered somewhat 'cool' to be speaking 'mixed,' as it entitles you a position in that group. (This was the case in my growing up.) The child, so used to substituting words from other languages instead of sticking to the same language, then actually becomes handicapped when speaking to a person that can only speak one language. This can be a very serious handicap. No language is developed properly, leaving the child with not a single language that he/she can proporly speak at all!

Therefore, once you have that sense that your children are ready to start separating their languages completely--parents you'll know this when the time comes--urge your children to stricly stay in ONE language for that sentence/paragraph/incident. Although very natural for multilingual children and very expected (even beneficial) to mix languages sometimes, there comes a time when it is important that we teach them that mixing languages is wrong. (They won't like it--it's harder to stay speaking in one language only--but they will thank you later!)

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IrisGranstedt
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« Reply #4 on: August 23, 2012, 08:47:59 AM »

Thanks for all the advice!

I think it's very true that if children are used to mixing languages than they may not be able to speak a single language well at all. Where I grew up it was also considered 'cool' to mix languages and that definitely made it very hard to stick to one language after a while.

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