You Failed Your Kids by Speaking Only English


babyAm I the only one who feels, every time some new study shows that learning a second language is good for kids, that I have already woefully and irreversibly failed my children? (And it happened before they even hit their toddler years!)

One recent study even revealed that babies who live in a household in which only one language is spoken slip behind those who are routinely exposed to two or more languages their first year of life: They are less "open" to and have more difficulty understanding other languages. Maybe, like, forever.

Children raised in multilingual households have also been shown to have bigger vocabularies, better problem-solving and multitasking skills, be "more cognitively flexible," and have superior "executive function" skills.

In other words, if you, like me, speak only English to your kids and have a spouse who speaks only English to your kids, and extended family who speak only English to your kids, and hire a babysitter who speaks only English to your kids, your kids are doomed to live a life of mediocrity before they are even out of diapers.

And don't think playing a few Spanish, French, or Mandarin tapes or DVDs will help you out of this parental bind: Studies also show that kids need face-to-face, in-person exposure to other languages to get the cognitive boost.

Honestly, don't mothers of toddlers have enough to feel guilty about without having to repent for not speaking another language -- or for not having the foresight to marry some dapper fellow from another country (or the funds to hire a Spanish-speaking nanny)?

Do studies like this make you feel bad? Do they make you want to rush out and hire a French tutor for your 4-month-old?


Image via paprutzi/Flickr

in the news, language, learning, toddler development


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Melis... Melissa042807

Oh good grief. Let's give moms one more thing to feel inadequate about. 

Jespren Jespren

Oh for heaven's sakes, the vast majority of babies throughout time have only heard one language spoken at home. Except among the ultrarich multilingualism is a pretty new concept. Of course toddlers who grow up with 2 languages have bigger vocabularies, double in fact! but that doesn't mean a single language kid is 'mediocre', or is at a vocubulary disadvantage. Knowing that house and casa both mean the same thing is a big step from knowing that 'verily' and 'truely' mean the same thing or knowing the definition of 'mutiny' at 5 instead of 15. Are children naturally good at picking up multiple languages? Yes, and give them that if you can. But making sure they read, read, read is far more beneficial to their overall language skills.

RanaA... RanaAurora

Honestly, I really feel like I am really behind by not being at LEAST bilingual. And yes, I feel terrible that not only do I not know multiple languages, but that my kids don't. I will remedy it, but being fluent in at LEAST one other language is definitely a life goal of mine, and has been as long as I can remember.

Rachel Johnson

As much as I love other cultures, my son was born in America, and I am American. Therefore, I can't just start blurting out different languages in hopes he will be ahead someday. My son was read books with spanish words in them, but my poor pronouciation probably failed him worse than not playing Rosetta Stone tapes all day. lol

Rachel Johnson

P.S. Jespren, I couldn't agree with you more. My 2 year old has very good vocabulary from me reading to him. We have actually moved on from just reading childrens picture books to reading childrens chapter books. :)

LikeA... LikeAVirgin

My dad is Hispanic and my mom is white so I got to learn Spanish and English growing up. Other than getting paid a little bit extra at work for being bilingual, I have not found any real reason for parents to stress about how many languages their kids know lol.

MrsCa... MrsCareBear

I want my children to learn other languages, but its not something I beat myself up about.

Kayla... KaylaMillar

I dont really feel bad about it. 

hutch... hutchfam2007

I guess dora doesnt count... even though my 2.5yo can say and knows what hola and verde mean!!! lol. she also gets upset when I tell her "lets go" without including vamanos. lol. I really do not believe that this matters in the long run what-so-ever...

BeLLa... BeLLasNewMoMmy

Well i dont know if it really helps learning 2 lenguages. I do speak both and i did great in school but i would like to think it is because im smart and not because im bilingual.

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