FAQ: Do children get confused learning two languages at once?

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No, children do not get confused about languages. Bilingual children speak at least two languages. Instead of confusing the two, they have to learn what language(s) they can use with each person. They start learning fairly early on (before age 2) but this can be influenced by the language situation at home. If some children go through a period in which they mix languages, this is nothing to be worried about. Eventually all bilinguals end up with at least one native language, possibly two. If parents and/or siblings use both languages in communicating with the child then the child will at first naturally assume that everybody is bilingual and that it can mix both languages when speaking with other people. It might take a little bit for the child to figure out that the daycare teacher only speaks English. But eventually it will happen (rather sooner than later). Keep in mind that no healthy grown-up bilingual mixes up languages when speaking to monolinguals.

FAQ: What is a heritage language?

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A heritage language is a language learned the same way as a native language, but it is thought of as being learned in an incomplete manner. There are different degrees to which someone can be a heritage speaker. This can range from having only passive knowledge (understanding) to very advanced fluency (passive and active).

For example, a person can grow up in a house where his or her parents speak only Ukrainian, but outside the home everybody else speaks English. If the only Ukrainian input this person gets is from his or her parents then, this speaker will most likely become a heritage speaker of Ukrainian.

FAQ: Who is bilingual?

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A bilingual speaks two languages. To what extent the speaker knows both languages may vary. One of the languages is going to be a native language. The proficiency level of the second language can range from knowing very little all the way up to having a second native language. Although technically all these speakers would be bilingual, very often the term “bilingual” is used for speakers that have a native or native-like level of language proficiency in both languages. The term multilingual is used to refer to people who speak two or more languages, being generally reserved for speakers of more than three languages.

Linguistic Link: Bilingual Children Have Better Memories

The British Psychology Society points us to yet another study about the positives of being bilingual. Read here  to find out more about research done at the Univeristy of Granada and the University of York in Canada, which presented on the benefits of raising children to be bilingual, specifically how it can boost one’s memory.

Linguistic Links: Bilingual Benefits for Seniors

According to the Journal of Neuroscience, bilinguals are able to perform tasks at a faster rate compared to monolinguals. The study showed that this was so because bilinguals are used to switching back and forth from one language to another. As a result, older adults at assisted living communities are encouraged to learn a second language to help decrease cognitive decline. You can read about it more at the Sunrise Senior Living Blog.

Linguistic Link: Chuh Kaw Go

It’s all in the vowels. So says linguist Corrine McCarthy from George Mason University. She recently spoke to WBEZ’s Curious City about the Chicago accent. But those vocalic peculiarities, as exhibited to comedic effect by an SNL sketch about Bears super fans, are only just the tip of the linguistic iceberg.

You can read (or listen to) the entire post to learn more about what other dialects are home to Chicago.

To answer the initial question, though, of where our unique accent comes from, UIC’s own Richard Cameron is quoted as saying that a likely possibility is that “the first dialect that gets [to a place] seems to win.” In our case then, it seems that that would be New Englanders in the mid-1800s.