Bilingualism doesn’t happen overnight, so at some point, you may hear your child mix up words from both languages. The good news? It’s normal and harmless! You might worry that it means he can’t tell the languages apart, but actually, it’s the brain’s way of exploring and sorting them out. Why does language mixing happen? Here are a few quick facts!
A, B, C, D, E, F…G! Your child’s brain is truly like a sponge, absorbing sounds and making sense of this new thing called language. The younger your child, the more he needs to explore the meanings of sounds and words…mixing is just part of the process!
How do you say… If your child is already fluent in his native tongue before learning a second language, mixing is sure to happen. Just think of the times you can’t remember a word…it’s natural to replace it with one you know best! As your child’s vocabulary grows, the mixing disappears!
But Mommy does it, too! It’s a fact: Children mimic the sounds they hear in their environment. So if you or anyone else at home mixes languages, your kid may do it, too!
Mixing languages? C’est cool! And then there’s mixing on purpose! Older kids (and adults!) sometimes mix to use a word that sounds better or more popular in one language, or to emphasize a meaning or name in the more appropriate language. Grandma may always be Mamie!
Language mixing is a natural thing to do when becoming bilingual, but you can take little steps to help your child sort out the two. You can set times or rules for speaking one language over the other, such as speaking your mother tongue at dinnertime and the second language during scheduled practice times. Make it a fun game to see who can speak without mixing! Above all, don’t stress or criticize your child when mixing happens: Make him comfortable and confident in his language journey with support, guidance, and an encouraging attitude! Allez, let’s go!