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Early Bilingualism and Multilingualism

Parents’ and Caregivers’ Attitudes and Observations


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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0. Introduction


0.1 The aim and scope of the book

The idea of writing this book was born when yet another person asked me the question about the optimal age of the first contact with a non-native language. At that time I had read numerous psycholinguistic, neurolinguistic and other publications, so I responded without hesitation that the best time for a child to have contact with two or more languages was at birth. The fact, however, that people kept asking me this question made me realize that what seemed obvious to me was probably not known to a wider public, and especially to those people who could most benefit from such information – to parents and caregivers. Soon after that I discovered a few Internet websites offering more or less accurate descriptions of the results of a research study which pointed to a strong positive correlation between bilingualism and stuttering.2 I was worried about the fact that such results spread with incredible speed due solely to their shocking character and thus could have a strong impact on children’s early education, whilst the vast majority of reliable studies remained unknown to the average family. I began to wonder what the reality was, how many parents decided to raise their children bilingually (or even multilingually) and how difficult it was for them to make this decision – whether it was an extremely hard step to take or an obvious way to raise their children. These considerations induced me to seek contact with...

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