If you bring your children up speaking more than one language, what is the most common reaction that you hear from other people? For me, it has always been, “Oh, how marvellous! Children are little sponges, aren’t they? They pick up languages so easily”. As a mother of an 11 year old and a 13 year old, it now takes all my strength to resist saying, “No. Children aren’t sponges, and bilingualism isn’t that easy”. Since I’m much too polite to say it, I’ll write about it, in the hope that it makes some people stop and think before enraging someone like me.
The third in our series on bilingualism by Millie Slavidou deals with bilingualism and special needs. If you missed the first two parts, you can find them here – 7 Reasons to Bring up Your Kids Bilingual and Supporting Bilingualism in Tweens and Teens.
Parents of children with special needs frequently find they need to grow a thick skin to deal with all the ignorance and comments directed at them, and this is especially true in a bilingual family. As a mother of a child with special needs myself, bringing him up in a bilingual family has been a challenge. I have been accused of deliberately trying to sabotage his development through speaking my own language to him!