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Children in a multilingual and multicultural society

Kazakhstan is a multilingual society. That is why it is important to pinpoint the consequences of multilingual and multicultural impacts on the development of the growing generation in present conditions. I would like to depict some advantages of raising children in a multilingual society which can illustrate a real situation happening now.

To begin with pros of a multilingual society which is brightly described in the website of the Multilingual Children’s Association (USA), I should highlight children’s flexibility and adaptability in different environments which are created naturally and unconsciously in early childhood. In comparison with a monolingual society, children are more self-confident in expressing their ideas in public. Multilingual children appreciate different cultures and have better career perspectives in the future.

Similarly, M. Paradowski from the Institute of Applied Linguistics (GB) asserts that multilingual children and adults frequently think more flexibly than monolinguals. They develop richer vocabulary simultaneously in both languages over the years. “They have a better ear for listening and sharper memories”. Thus, he concludes that speaking foreign languages improves the use of the native language.    

In addition to the culture point, children raised in a multilingual society might easily omit the situations of culture clash. “You can understand and appreciate cultural difference and nuances.” (Kruschewsky, 2015). G. Kruschewsky explains that cultures are different and all of them have their peculiar issues which are sometimes hard to perceive. If children are raised in the society in which they socialize with different cultures from early childhood, they have less cultural barriers which usually prevent communication.    

Another important issue of a multilingual society is that it should be maintained not only in the family, but also in the society itself. The National center for multilingual education (Norway) made an informational booklet “Children in multilingual families” which addresses the parents’ issues of children’s multilingual development. It is also designed for the educators at kindergartens, school and family health centers. Since the booklet highlights the importance of languages which is closely connected with identity, socialization and culture. “When kindergartens and schools have a positive attitude towards multilingualism, this reinforces children’s multilingualism.” (p. 2).    

I would be more than happy if you share your ideas or personal experience about advantages of being raised in a multilingual society.  

References 

The Pros and Cons of Raising a Multilingual Child. (2004). In Multilingual Children’s Association. Retrieved January 30, 2017, from http://www.multilingualchildren.org/getting_started/pro_con.html    

Paradowski, M.B. (n.d.). The benefits of multilingualism. Retrieved January 31, 2017, from

http://www.multilingualliving.com/2010/05/01/the-benefits-of-multilingualism/

National Center for multicultural education. (n.d.). Children in multicultural families. Retrieved February 1, 2017, from  http://parents.ecml.at/Portals/3/Documents/pdf1934.pdf

Kruschewsky, G. (2015, August 12). Multilingual benefits that you only get if you speak another language. Retrieved February 2, 2017, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/02/multilingual-benefits_n_5399980.html

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8 thoughts on “Children in a multilingual and multicultural society

  1. Dear asselt, this is a very interesting blog that lists many advantages of raising children in the multilingual society. Sharing my personal experience, today many of my nephews and nieces are attending to bilingual kindergartens. Yet most of people I know in the spiritual capital of our country have some “blind” belief that their children should never attend to multilingual kindergartens or pre-school centers. They simply believe that their children’s mind would be “mixed” and they will not be able to “carry” two languages. Consequently they are also against putting load of English to their children’s shoulders. At least until the age of 10 or 11 when the primary school ends. Are they right?

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    1. Yasawi, thank you, I appreciate your interest in the topic. I agree some parents tend to think that three languages in early childhood overwhelms children’s development. To tell the truth, I am one of them. Being a teacher of English myself, I do not teach English to my four-year-old daughter at home purposefully. I see that she is acquiring the Russian language now, and I suppose it is good if she started learning English with her fellows in the kindergarten as a subject first. For the moment, sometimes it might happen that we sing English songs and I explain the meaning of some cartoons to her.
      However, as you mentioned learning at the age of 10 or 11, I would rather consider it to be late age to acquire the third language for the present generation. Since, the educational policy and language requirements differs from those of the 1990s. I would rather support the psychologist C. Ford’s statement in this respect (the link to the article will be provided below). She indicates the age of three to be a perfect for learning languages. “The brain, like any muscle, functions better with exercise. Learning a language involves memorising rules and vocabulary, which helps strengthen that mental muscle.” (Ford, 2014 October 10, para. 5). This proves why six-year-old boy, A. Beileryan from Moscow, speaks six languages and performs Shakespear’s Hamlet in M. Galkin’s program. It might be because his parents mostly support Dr. Ford’s point of view more than those with ‘blind’ belief. Of course, it depends on the child personal development and his potential to learn languages.

      The links:

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationopinion/11151726/Children-should-start-learning-languages-at-age-three.html

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  2. Dear Assel,
    Thank you for sharing information about popular and thought provoking topic that exists in many countries. I believe a number of advantages take place in being raised in a multilingual society. One of the most benefit is that an individual has a great opportunity to access the information in many languages, particularly in English. The competence in English opens the door for the great amount of information worldwide, which is highly important for scholars. Being a researcher, my father feels pity that he does not know English and looks on me with admiring envy. So I do not think there might be any disadvantages of being plurilingual.

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    1. Bayan, it is good of you to share your opinion and your personal experience. The language knowledge is certainly an advantage in our globalized world. I can understand your fathers’ regret as my parents feel the same, therefore it explains why they directed us to study English and other languages at secondary school.
      Nonetheless, there are different opinions and studies about disadvantages in learning more than two languages in childhood. They are children’s speaking late, mixing languages, the influence to writing and reading, etc. (Multilingual Children’s Association, 2004). One more important factor is the parents’ involvement in the child education since it demands a lot of time and effort.

      I share some links about disadvantages of multilingualism if you are interested so far:
      http://www.multilingualchildren.org/getting_started/pro_con.html
      https://eltalpykla.vdu.lt/bitstream/handle/1/167/ISBN9786094670442.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
      https://ru.scribd.com/doc/33050122/Multilingualism

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  3. Assel, thank you fror your post. I would like to share my personal experience of being a multilingual child. Having Kazakh language as a dominant language in my family, I went to the school with Russian medium of instruction and was placed in the class with a profile learning of English. Looking back I remember that I used to code-mix a lot, especially in primary school, since I did not have any full repertoire of Russian and Kazakh. Code-mixing was considered as an issue by my parents and they were concerned by the fact that I could not express myself in one language without adding words in another. My parents took under control my speech and were correcting me every time when I mixed codes until I was able to speak pure Russian and Kazakh without mixing them. I do not know what could happen if my parents were not so diligent and attentive in my upbringing and education. Do you think that such issues can occur in other families with multilingual children?

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    1. Aidana, definitely, I am more than sure that a language code-mixing is a frequent process in a multilingual and multicultural society. Since people consciously or unconsciously switch from one language to another to communicate. As for children development, it is quite clear that they tend to switch during learning languages. However, they might cope with it when they learn how to separate one language from another, consequently speak purely one at a time. As well as you do owing to your personal skills and parents’ support. Thank you for sharing your point of view and experience.

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  4. Assel, this is great work. (5/5) Thanks for sharing your well-structured overview of some benefits of multilingualism and multiculturalism. It prompted some interesting comments from your peers too!

    Liked by 1 person

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