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To a monolingual, being bilingual or multilingual seems magical. More than one language in one head – no one can live at that speed! As a result, some unusual misconceptions have grown around linguistic phenomena that, globally, is far more common than speaking a single language.
Marilyin Vihman has significant experience in bilingualism both personally and academically. In this episode, recorded in her office at the University of York, we look at some of the myths about bilingual development and which are outright wrong and which lean closer to the truth than others.
The myths we bust – or, in some cases, bruise – are:
- Bilinguals are two monolinguals in one head
- Bilinguals start to speak later than monolinguals
- Babies soak up languages like sponges
- Some languages are more primitive than others, so are easier to learn
- English is widely spoken (as a second language) because it has less grammar
- Parents pass on mistakes and non-native accents to their children
- There’s one right way to raise a bilingual child
(Adapted from Pearson (2008))