There was no surprising news from the talk, but it’s always nice to be reminded just how lucky we are living in a world where multilingual parenting is appreciated and supported.
I was quite struck by two questions from the audience at the end though.
Question 1: Can children learn a language from DVD/video materials?
The question was raised by a family with a French-speaking dad and a Mandarin-speaking mum (exactly like my own family situation!). Mum said she’s quite frustrated as her daughter had switched to almost entirely English ever since she started pre-school, and she really wanted her daughter to have more Mandarin exposure. So she thought about putting on more Mandarin DVD or video materials. She then went on to explain that she mainly spoke English with her child as that’s what the two parents us between them.
Well, my view was quite simple: speak the language with the child that you wish her to be exposed to, and stick to it! DVD and any video materials can provide great support but will and should never substitute the human interaction for language learning.
Yes DVD and video do certainly help. Dutch speak great English as they grow up watching TV dramas in original English not dubbed in Dutch.
But nothing would substitute the power of the human interaction. Research shows that listening to human speaking stimulate language development in all senses while watching video only (in the same language) without human interaction results only in some degree of passive comprehension, no matter how long the DVD is on.
There is another massive benefit of parents doing the talk: it’s all free and available as long as the parent is there 🙂
I talk about my thoughts on the second question in a separate article.
Question 2: Do I need to wait for my child to be well established in one language before introducing another one?