When Chirpy was born I looked around for advises, suggestions from the other mothers who were a little ahead of me by few milestones,I still do. I think it is always better to keep a check on what’s happening around,though not in terms to compare your child’s growth with others’ but just to keep a tab and to be aware of what to expect.
While I was at it, I noticed that one of my friend’s 2 year old can decipher and talk English, Punjabi, Marathi and Hindi. English and Hindi for obvious reasons cause it is commonly used in friends’ and play circle. And my friend is a Maharahstrian married to a Panju so that explains why Marathi and Punjabi both. The multilingual ability of her elder one impresses me and needless to say I’m sure the younger one is going to follow the suit.
After speaking to my friend and checking few websites for info I found out that children have an inborn language acquisition faculty that, during age 18 to 36 months, enables them to develop and productively use large parts of the grammar of the languages they have been exposed to since birth. If they are raised in a multilingual environment, this faculty can be used to acquire more than one language simultaneously.
I’m convinced that children can pick up as many as languages as you expose them to,seeing my own daughter. We talk to Chirpy in 3 languages-Marathi, Hindi and English. But initially when we started talking to her it was but natural in our mother tongue. Then slowly we realized that she is well acquainted with Marathi but does not respond properly to Hindi and English per say. We made a conscious effort to talk to her in these two languages by dividing the job-MIL talks to her in Marathi, Me in English and Husby in Hindi. So that makes her listen to all three at the same time and now I can safely say that she understands these 3 languages well though she has a long way to go!
Today I read an article in DNA Sunday which says talk to your babies in your mother tongue. This article states that over a period of time in order to teach your children other languages to make them competitive the mother tongue is lagging behind and slowly it will diminish.
It also says that teaching kids multiple languages does not impair their intellectual growth. In most cases,the more codes and structures you impart to kids- without confusing them-the sharper they tend to be. Being multilingual can delay age-related mental decline, gives you better ear for languages and better communication skills.
But there are families that insist on talking to babies only in mother tongue cause other languages can be picked up later. I disagree. Every language is important and must be taught to the child for his/her benefit. I believe in the multilingual teaching method more so now considering the article I mentioned above, my friend’s daughters’ example and now Chirpy too, I think babies are well programmed to receive multiple signals and we must make the most of the opportunity,what say?
P.S. Of course there are different medical cases too like the one I’ve come across in which the baby have had some impairment in hearing and speech skills by birth. As per doctors she could only learn one language and hence her parents chose English,which is obvious & wise,I guess!