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Early Bilingualism and Multilingualism

Parents’ and Caregivers’ Attitudes and Observations

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Zofia Chłopek

The author investigates the development of children raised bilingually or multilingually. Parents and caregivers completed a questionnaire, providing information on 36 children growing up with two or more languages. Their responses indicate that bilingual and multilingual children usually develop as well as their monolingual peers, and sometimes even better. Some drawbacks of early bilingualism or multilingualism, such as a slight delay in the onset of speech production or asymmetrical language competences, are compensated for by several benefits of early acquisition of two or more mother tongues and early contacts with two or more cultures.

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2. Parents’ and caregivers’ attitudes towards early bi-/multilingualism – empirical study

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2.1 Research questions

The aim of the present study is to verify the outcomes of the many psycholinguistic and psychological studies which point to the benefits of early bilingualism and multilingualism for a young child’s linguistic and cognitive development. In particular, it has sought answers to the following questions:

1. Does the language development of a bi-/multilingual child proceed similarly to the language development of a monolingual child? Does it depend on the number of the child’s native languages?

2. Is cross-linguistic influence a common phenomenon in early childhood? At what age is it the most intensive? Is it predominantly conscious or unconscious? Does it depend on parents/caregivers’ language mixing habits?

3. Are young bi-/multilingual children characterized by a high level of metalinguistic awareness?

4. Does the cognitive development of a bi-/multilingual child proceed similarly to the cognitive development of a monolingual child?

5. Is cultural transfer possible in early childhood?

6. What are bi-/multilingual children’s attitudes towards bi-/multilingualism? Do they have any language preferences (favourite languages and languages they are not very fond of)?

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