Tel/Fax: 080-3207-6191

Karen D. Bopp PhD S-LP(C).

Dr. Karen Bopp is a certified Speech-Language Pathologist and a Post Doctoral Fellow in Special Education at the University of British Columbia, Canada. She has worked with children for over 16 years and is also the mother of preschool twin girls.
Her areas of expertise, (when she is not chasing after her twins), include early intervention for children with autism, speech and language development in the preschool years, positive behavior support, augmentative and alternative communication, and training for families and professionals.

Some of the most common questions I receive from families in Tokyo are about bilingual language development. Questions such as: “Will learning two languages result in a language delay?“ or “Should our family just focus on one language at a time?” seem to come up quite frequently.

I want to start off by noting that teaching children to speak two or more languages is a wonderful gift that parents can give. It can provide children with many advantages in life and can help them better connect with their distinct family cultures and create a sense of belonging.

Below are some common misconceptions about learning two or more languages and in the next issue of Tokyo Families I will provide some suggestions on how to best promote your child’s bilingual language development.

MISCONCEPTION #1: Learning two or more languages in childhood can result in speech and/or language delays.

FALSE: No studies to date have shown any link between growing up in a bilingual environment and language delays. The majority of children who have rich and regular (daily/weekly) exposure to two or more languages from parents, grandparents, nannies, or other caregivers are found to have the same language development milestones as children learning only one language. Research has shown that when children learn vocabulary and concepts in one language, these skills can transfer to another language. In fact, many professionals believe that abruptly stopping the use of a child’s home or first language in favour of the “dominant” language in the community can result in emotional or psychological difficulties for both the parents and the child.

MISCONCEPTION #2: Children learning two languages never fully master either language.

FALSE: Even if bilingual children have less overall exposure to each language compared to monolingual children, they still can acquire complete proficiency in both languages.

MISCONCEPTION #3: Children learning two languages are often confused and cannot separate the languages because they use them both at the same time.

FALSE: This is called “code-switching” and is a normal aspect of second language acquisition. It simply means that young children borrow vocabulary, or older children borrow phrases, from one language and insert them into another. Research shows that bilingual adults often do this in order to convey emphasis or establish a cultural identity.

MISCONCEPTION #4: It is better to teach a second language after a child has had a good start on the first.

FALSE: In many bilingual homes, one language can appear “more important” (i.e., used more) to children than the other language. If parents hold off on introducing the second language, their children may think that this language is not as important and thus, is not worth the effort. This said, it is never too late to introduce your child to a new language - just remember to expose them to a variety of language opportunities so that they have a real need to use the language.

MISCONCEPTION #5: By exposing young children to two languages they will learn them “just like that.”

FALSE: Although every child is different, the majority of children require sustained, rich, and varied experiences (e.g., reading books, listening to music, playing games, talking about their day, etc.) in both languages for good bilingual development.

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Breastfeading: Mothers Mik
Child Support Services
Child’s Play
Cooking With Kids
F.Prac: Acne
F.Prac: Antibiotics
F.Prac: Breast Cancer Awareness
F.Prac: Flu Vaccine
F.Prac: Letter to the Expert
F.Prec: Asthma
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Jet Lag
Kindergarten Entry
Making New Friends
Molluscum Contagiosum
Mother Knows Best: It’s My Baby
Music Therapy
Paperwork Procedures
Positive Guidance (part 3)
Positive Guidance (part 2)
Relo: Activities for teens
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Soothers (p1)
Soothers (p2)
Speech: Baby Signs
Speech: Bilingual Kids (p1)
Speech: Bilingual Kids (p2)
Speech: Creative Stupidity
Speech: Language Development
Speech: Speech & Language
Speech:...not "talking" yet?
Stanger Danger
Stress in children
Tooth Decay