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.
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.
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.
Altering the names of places from their native language into a form that is more natural to speakers of another language is nothing new. However, Linguism, in a post reflecting on an article by the Independent, discusses different anglicizations of nations around the world. Of particular interest is when to use definite articles with particular countries, i.e. Ukraine vs. the Ukraine. Check out what they have to say on the issue or just take a glance at this map that details of the intricacies of the phenomenon in Spanish:
In Puerto Rico, where both Spanish and English are now co-official languages, the new school year has begun and with it comes the start of the commonwealth’s new bilingual education program. Starting yesterday, math and science in 32 different pilot schools will switch to being taught in English. Visit Hispanically Speaking News to find out why the switch is underway and why not everyone is in favor of the change.
NPR has an interesting report on the growing trend of producing bilingual Spanish/English television programs here in the US. Although they may be following in the footsteps of the successful bilingual children’s cartoon Dora the Explorer, this new trend is not just for children. Importantly, nor is it just for bilinguals, as they mention the programs are subtitled in both Spanish and English for those less dominant in one language or the other. Listen to the story and check it out for yourself.
With the DEA’s recent call for linguists who specialize in Ebonics, Gabriel Arana presents a basic reminder on how AAVE is not based on lexical differences alone. For instance, in terms of syntax there is a difference in expressing state of being:
(1) James happy.
(2) James be happy.
In (1), the omission of the verb ‘to be’ expresses that James is happy right now, whereas in (2), its inclusion signifies that James usually a happy person. As one commenter points out, this is the same distinction between the Spanish verbs ‘estar’ and ‘ser’, a split common in many other languages as well.