Many belief that infant’s brains are primarily monolingual,

Many
parents may be
skeptical regarding
their children acquiring
two languages at
the same time.

In part, it
has to do
whether it is
deemed “normal” for
young children to
learn two languages
simultaneously, and
the greater part
has to do
with the belief
that infant’s
brains are primarily
monolingual, therefore
learning two languages
at the same
time will cause
cognitive and/or
language delays. Thus,
concerns of learning
two languages simultaneously
from birth arise.

Many people think
that it stretches
a limited capacity
in which infants
learn language, and
more so will
result to the
infant having difficulty
differentiating between
the languages. This
in line with
the hypotheses called
unitary language system,
in which infants
are essentially treating
two very different
languages as
one so they
are not confused.

Most bilingual families
attempt to prevent
such confusion through
what is referred
to as “one-parent,
one-language” rule
to clearly separate
two languages. While
parents should be,
for the lack
of better word,
given credit for
their efforts, there
is no need
for them to
really do that.

There is no
concrete scientific evidence
to back up
the claim that
young infant’s
brains are equipped
for acquiring only
one language (Genesse 2008).

            A
number of research
disproves the
monolingual brain
theory nor the
assumption that
it causes any
cognitive and/or
language delays. Much
research shows that
young children simultaneously
acquiring languages
achieve the same
language development milestones
as monolinguals. In
other words, bilingual
first language infants
babble, say their
first words, produce
multiword sentences
at the same
rate. In various
studies, including that
of by Maneva
and Genesee (as
cited by Genesse
2015), they found French-English
infants between 10 and
12 months, participate in
babbling with each
parent, who spoke
either in French
or English. A
similar result was
discovered in
a study of
infants learning Spanish
and English as
well as those
of learning sign
and spoken language.

According to Lowry (n.d), though bilingual children may experience speech
delay, “they still begin talking within the normal range” (Lowry, n.d, p. 1). With
this, it can be concluded that no significant
difference seem
to exist between
bilingual and
monolingual infants.

Results of these
studies further show
that children acquiring
two languages develop
their own system
as to how
to differentiate the
languages.

            Another
popular myth about
dual language learning
is that the
younger, the better.

Young children are
widely believed to
be good language
learners. The root
of such thinking
is largely due
to the critical
period theory which
suggest that “language
learning are particularly
‘plastic’ during early
development, usually
thought to be
between birth and
12 to 13 years of
age” (Long, 1990, as
cited by Genesee,
2015, p. 8) thus they adopt
to a second
language easily and
effortlessly. Young
children who are
thought a second
language at a
young age are
generally expected
to have a
proficiency comparable
to that of
a native speaker.

More so, when
they are untutored
and exposed naturally
to the target
language.

Although
this “the younger,
the better” claim
sound somewhat reasonable,
it is more
complex than that.

Several factors must
be considered, including
the amount of
exposure to the
target language. It
is obvious that
early dual language
learners have a
longer exposure than
those who start
later on, and
while evidence exists
in terms of
early DLLs attaining
a greater level
of proficiency than
later DLLs, it
is difficult to
differentiate the
effects of age
from the duration
of exposure, more
so when there
is no set
standard in terms
of how early
is early enough
to gain a
native-like proficiency.

Genesee further points
out that there
is a discrepancy
between language in
social communication and
academia, and this
critical period theory
does not consider
that. Most English
language learners, often
referred to as
ELLs, in the
United States are
not even considered
“native-like” until
the 5th Grade.

Contrary to the
claim that acquiring
a second language
is easy for
young children, it
actually takes 5 to
7 years to fully
reach proficiency in
the academic context.

Other studies show
that, while younger
is often better,
older DLLs may
be more at
the advantage. In
French immersion programs
in Canada, it
was discovered that
“students in 2-year
late immersion comprised
of 80% of instruction
in French in
Grades 7 and 8 sometimes
achieved the same
or almost same
levels of language
proficiency as
students in early
immersions” (Genesse,
2015, p. 9). This, in part,
is because they
already have a
well-developed first
language skills that
will aid in
acquiring a
second one unlike
early DLLs who
have to juggle
acquiring two
languages simultaneously.

In
a similar context,
Cheatman and Ro
(2010), challenges the
idea that dual
language learning causes
language deficiencies. This
especially applies
to young dual language learners who
are introduced to a second language after the first.

Such acquisition is referred to as sequential acquisition (Lowry, n.d). Cheatman
and Ro expressed
their worry that
early childhood educators
believe language learners, specifically English
language learners in this case, have inadequate
communication skills,
thus leading to
lower expectations on
what these children
can achieved as
well as negative
assumptions about
their overall cognitive
abilities. In
order to understand
this is a
false claim, individuals
need to understand
how children acquire
a second language.

English language learners
will eventually begin
to develop interlanguage,
in which they
observed, comprehend, and
use the linguistic
patterns of the
second language based
on their first
(home) language.  In this
way, ELLs slowly
start to gain
competence in
the target language.

Concerns
about home language
loss arise as
young ELLs develop
their skills in
the second language.

It is true that ELLs risk losing their home language when learning English, and
when this occurs they may will not fully experience the benefits of being
bilingual (Magruder, Hayslip, Espinosa & Matera, 2013). However,
researchers argue
that young ELLs
“still have functional
means of communication
because their home
language proficiency does
not decline so
quickly to say
that they cannot
speak any language”
(Genesse, Paradis, Crago,
2004, as cited by
Cheatman & Ro, 2010, p. 20).

With this, it
can be said
that young ELLs
still have some
level of proficiency
in their home
language as well
as English. Much
of this can
be observed when
children practice code-switching
and/or codemixing.

While they can
be used interchangeably,
code-switching occurs
when dual language
learners alternate the
use of two
languages. On
the other hand,
code-mixing is
when DLLs combine,
or mix, two
languages in
the same sentence.

Such practice may
make it seem
like the child
is lacking in
his language abilities,
more so in
communication. Concerns
about incorrect grammar
use in one
or both languages
will also be
called into question.

However according to
several studies of
language pairs codemixing,
including that
of French and
English, French and
German, and English
and Estonian (Sauve
& Genesee, 2000; Meisel,
1994; Vihman, 1998, as cited
by Genesse 2015), grammatical
errors when codemixing
virtually did
not occur. Moreover,
dual language speakers
exhibit their cognitive
abilities when
code-switching and/or
codemixing. This
is much seen
when they adapt
their language based
on their audience,
situation, and
topic. When DLLs
switch languages it
is “to demonstrate
social identity, convey
specific meanings, or
emphasize a
point” (Gumperz, 1982, as
cited by Cheatman
& Ro, 2010).