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Monday, 25 February 2013

Can we take this multilingualism thing too far?

Just yesterday, I watched this video. It shows a mom whose 5-year old daughter supposedly speaks 7 languages. On top of that, she plays 6 instruments and knows 2 types of dance and sports. Now, to be frank I am always in awe of moms who are able to achieve this kind of thing with their children. Who are so committed to doing the best for their children that they basically sacrifice everything.

That’s the reason I wasn’t so critical of the Tiger Mom who raised their children to be musical progenies. See, I am far, far too lazy to do this kind of thing! I want to sit down and read a book, not force my children to several hours of practice (do you know how many books I could read in that time????). And while I would still raise my children to be bilingual if I were in Poland, I wouldn’t do it like that. As I say, too lazy.

So, in this video, we see a mom who has the time, and the resources to introduce her daughter to several languages, instruments, dances and sports. She knows about the benefits of multilingualism and is passionate about it. She knows that it’s a good idea to start early, and that children are perfectly capable of learning several languages.

Now, I’m asking myself: is she not taking it too far? First of all, I notice the obsession of turning our children into geniuses, and we’re so afraid that if we don’t start them early on learning maths/learning languages/playing instruments/sports they may not reach their full potential. This is the theory. But our children are little human beings with their own preferences, talents and weaknesses- pretty much just like us. While it is true that our young children are capable of learning at the speed of light, it doesn’t necessarily make them geniuses.

Then, there is parent involvement. We like to believe that we have control over our children’s lives and development. And, to a certain extent, we do. But our influence is not as big as we like to think. And while it takes a lot of work to raise multilingual children, success is not guaranteed, regardless of the amount of work.

And, there is the fact that children need to do nothing for a while. They need to play idly by themselves; they need some unstructured play time. They need to spend quiet time with their parents, they need to be silly, instead of having courses, tutors and teachers. Does this girl have this time to herself to do nothing? I hope she does! Also, the article says that the father works 16 hours a day to cover all the tutors- how about father-daughter time?

Also, it seems to be that this girl is rather talented, hence her readiness to comply with this schedule. Also, her family has the resources to pay for classes and manage the time. What about parents who can’t afford this? Wouldn’t their children be at a disadvantage? Also, it seems to me that sometimes parents are too overzealous with managing their children’s education- and who knows what characteristics and languages will be sought after when she grows up?

And, last but not least, there is the question: why? Mabou’s family is already multilingual- with English, French and Creole as family languages. By this, they’re already laying a solid foundation for the girl’s language development. Why more languages when they are not family languages? Can’t they wait?

These are my thoughts on this video. What are yours?

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