Episode 37: Addressing common misconceptions about multilinguals


Episode 37

On this episode of Bilingual Avenue, I interview Madalena Cruz-Ferreira, a multilingual scholar, educator and parent. She is Portuguese, married to a Swede, and they have three trilingual children, raised (mostly) in Singapore. She holds a PhD in Linguistics from the University of Manchester, in the United Kingdom, and she has researched child and adult multilingualism in the home, in school and in clinic for the past 40 years.

Episode #37 Quick Guide

On this episode, Madalena discusses with us:

  • Her language and cultural journey from childhood through adulthood;
  • What led her to the field of linguistics;
  • The languages she actively speaks including Portuguese, French, Swedish, and English as well as other languages she has studied and actively spoken in the past: German, Spanish, Italian, Norwegian, and Danish;
  • Her book Three is a Crowd?: Acquiring Portuguese in a Trilingual Environment (Child Language and Child Development) documenting her children’s language journey since birth;
  • How she and her husband decided to learn each other’s heritage language;
  • How their original language policy of One Person, One Language had to be changed because it made more sense to incorporate English as the “homework” language;
  • The importance of being flexible when raising multilingual children;
  • How the specific need to use a given language should drive the materials used to teach the language;
  • Her book called Multilinguals are …? which addresses many misconceptions about multilingual individuals;
  • Four of the misconceptions included in her book:
    • Multilinguals can learn languages easily, but only in childhood;
    • Multilinguals don’t have many languages, they have many half-languages;
    • Mulitlingualism should be encouraged but only in languages that matter;
    • Multilinguals are multilinguals because they are gifted for languages;
  • Her blog Being Multilingual and what type of information parents may gain from reading through the blog;
  • Her advice to multilingual parents:
    • Do what comes natural to you when it comes to raising a multilingual child… speak to your child the language that came natural to you when you first held your newborn child;
    • Be flexible and be prepared for surprises!

Links to Madalena’s Resources:


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