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Raising Children with Two or More Languages?He has the savon on his tete comme un chapeau.? ?Je veux le cheese.? These are just some of the mixed sentences I heard my children say during the first few years of their language development. Like one in five families, my kids are growing up bilingual. It was never in my parenting plan to raise my children bilingual. It just happened that I married a Frenchman and chose to live in france. Even after I had my first daughter, I never gave her language development much thought. In the house, my husband and I spoke mostly english having gotten into the habit of ?english? when we first met. We spoke french only when in the presence of non-english speaking people. It was inevitable that our children?s first words would be in english. The idea of raising bilingual children left me with numerous questions. Will my children have difficulties learning to read and write? What is their native or maternal language? Will they learn to decipher between the two languages and stop mixing them? And now that they are on the path to bilingualism, how can I continue to maintain their interest and development in both languages? Up until about the age of 5, my children spoke both english and french as if the two languages were one, often mixing the languages in one sentence depending on the language in which the word was learned. For example, my daughter would say, ?I want..? but the noun was a word she only knew in french. She would just fill in the blank not even realizing that she was using two different languages. This is called code-switching. Christina Bosemark founder of the Multilingual Children?s Association and author of Omniglot.com, says that mixing languages is very common for children learning multiple languages and this tendency should fade away as the child builds vocabulary in each language around the age of five. This is the age at which my children began to realize that they were speaking two different languages. As soon as they started to attend school at the age of 3, french became their ?more important? language relegating english to the ?less important? category, a common occurrence among bilingual children say Antonella Sorace and Bob Ladd of the Linguistic Society of America. Each of my children is learning the language differently. While the oldest, at 9, is perfectly bilingual with a slightly larger vocabulary in french and the ability to read both languages, my second daughter will only speak english when necessary. She has a limited vocabulary in english and she almost always mixes the two languages even at well over 6 years old. My third daughter is also, at 4 years old, willingly bilingual but still tends to mix the two. Why all these differences within the same family? I noticed that my second daughter?s advantage in french might be due to the fact that her older sister, and her usual playmate, began her schooling thus developing a stronger french vocabulary, at the time when my second daughter was learning to speak. Their play language has always been mostly french. It is highly common for siblings to be more proficient in the ?more important? language and feel less need to learn the ?less important? language. So which one is their maternal language? In fact, both languages can be called the mother tongue as they are both being learned simultaneously from well before puberty. Another common concern for parents raising or considering raising their children bilingual is a delay is learning. It is possible that a child learning two or more language from birth learn to speak slightly later that a monolingual child, but that delay is only temporary. According to cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Ellen Bialystik, a professor of psychology at York University in Toronto, ?If you have two languages and you use them regularly, the way the brain?s networks work is that every time you speak, both languages pop up and the executive control system has to sort through everything and attend to what?s relevant in the moment. Therefore the bilinguals use that system more, and it?s that regular use that makes that system more efficient.? The most important way to continue on the path to bilingualism is exposure. Children must be exposed to the ?second? language at least 30% of their waking time for it to become natural. While this may seem like a difficult task for parents, there are numerous ways to achieve this goal. One-parent-one-language is the most common approach for household with parents with different native languages. Another is one language at home, one outside of the home. Any way you choose, if you have to opportunity to give the gift of bilingualism to your children, don?t give up. Dr. Bialystik says that her research is one of the reasons multicultural parents should insist on their children learning both languages. ?Bilingualism is good for you. It makes brains stronger. It is brain exercise.?