When it comes to raising children, most families face similar challenges: how can they provide a safe and beneficial environment for their children, which is the best/ right choice of nursery or school, and how can they pass on the healthiest principles so that their children grow up confident and open minded?

In addition to these, families where parents have different nationalities should answer some questions related to the cultural aspects they want to pass on to their child.

 Choosing a child’s native language can be seen as an impossible task for parents coming from different cultures, but early years specialists assure us that very young children can easily learn 2 different languages at the same time, if the whole process is supported by all adults involved in their learning, and parents each assume their own cultural identity.

Fiona Dutu, Head Teacher of Acorns Nursery, shares her personal and professional experience on this topic with us. Fiona raised her own child in a bilingual family and she works every day with children under 5 years old who simultaneously learn 3 languages. “We wouldn’t dream of putting a child in the situation of having to choose between parents and there is no need for them to choose between the 2 languages spoken by parents. A child can begin to learn to tune into a second language even before uttering their first words”.

If a child of 3 years old mixes English words in his daily conversations, the popular opinion is that he can’t differentiate between 2 languages, and that this confusion will deepen with time. However, this is just a phase. Later, the child will be able to answer different questions using the language in which they were addressed to him, and later he will be able to have long conversations, choosing by himself the vocabulary that he uses, according to whom he is speaking or the place where he is.

Parents who raise their children in a multicultural environment are often afraid that they will have gaps and delays in their language development or conversational skills. However, studies show that bilingual children don’t have unnatural delays in conversations (compared to expectations for their age) when both languages are used. Even 3 year olds can adapt their own language so they can be understood by their listener.

“Furthermore, learning 2 foreign languages during the early years develops children’s cognitive skills in the long term. The permanent attention needed in order to switch between 2 languages leads to cognitive abilities that are very important for a child’s future. Researchers have proved that a child who speaks 2 or more foreign languages, always trying to use the chosen language of his listener becomes a successful adult, appreciated at work due his/her ability to switch extremely quickly between tasks and to solve them efficiently” explains Fiona Dutu.

Thereby, given the appropriate support, children born in bilingual families become native speakers of both languages and develop amazing abilities and skills, while adults who learn additional languages rarely manage to use them fluently.