There are a lot of myths about learning multiple languages that have been inaccurately presented to people as fact. I have seen many of these myths plague people’s education all of my life. Today, I would like to talk about one in particular through my own experience:
“Myth: Parents who speak a language other than English to their children will hurt their children’s chances for academic success in this country”*
When we moved to the states I was placed in an ESL (English as a Second Language) class to help learn English. I remember there were quite a few of us from all over Mexico. Once I was moved to a regular class, some of the same students that were in the program with me were immersed in English at school and at home. I also met other students of Mexican descent who were practicing full immersion in English in their homes, too.
Their parents believed what the school taught them. In order for their kids to be successful in school, they had to do everything in English. So, unknowing that they had been told a myth and not a fact, the parents obliged. They cut off all Spanish from their kids’ lives. I’m sure it’s not something they wanted to do, but they were told this would help their kids so they did it for their kids. I have heard some of those same kids (now grown) say they wished they would have kept Spanish in their lives.
My parents never bought into this myth. They knew that being bilingual would be an advantage. Also, they are proud Mexicans and no one was ever going to take that away. Being able to communicate with family in Mexico meant everything because family IS everything. I again thank them for sticking with their beliefs.
It is now believed that students who learn more than one language are able to process information better, work out problems more effectively and, because they know there is more than one right way to do or say something, are better able to understand different topics. I’m not saying that all bilingual or multilingual children are smarter than monolingual children at all. What I do believe is that children who understand that the world doesn’t center around one language and one culture but is multifaceted become multifaceted individuals themselves. And who wouldn’t want that for their children?
What myths have you been faced with in your lives?
*Common Myths About Bilingualism: http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/540/bilingtl/myths.html
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