Episode 85: Four family languages and the researcher who brings them all together with Annabelle Humanes

Episode 85

On this episode of Bilingual Avenue, I interview Annabelle Humanes,  a former researcher in language acquisition and language teacher in a previous decade, who decided to give it up to follow her husband around Europe and spend more time with her children. She now describes herself as a 30-something displaced mum raising two multilingual little world citizens and blogging at thepiripirilexicon.com.

Episode #87 Quick Guide:

Annabelle discusses with us:

  • Her family’s diverse background and all the different cultures that make up her family life;
  • How she started learning at a young age with her father and appreciation she has always had for languages;
  • How this quadrilingual family manages German, French, Portuguese and English on a daily basis;
  • How well her daughter has passively learned their “secret” language;
  • How natural it feels to have four languages in their daily life;
  • Why having a family and cultural connection served as the primary motivation to pass on their heritage languages to their children;
  • The research she conducted with bilingual children specifically on word learning from one years to three year olds.
  • Her findings including the following:
    • Bilingual kids fall within monolingual norms for their language development and the exposure to two or more languages does not give you a language delay when it comes to learning words;
    • Parents who responded positively when their child responded in the “wrong language” and then just modeled the word in the “right language” resulted in a huge boost in the child’s vocabulary.
  • Her research around language education and her findings including:
    • Younger children are very motivated to learn a language but they do not necessarily learn words quicker than the older children;
    • Older children (eleven year olds) were just as good if not better for word learning except they did not express the same level of motivation.
  • How the earlier you learn the better your pronunciation may be but reinforced that this is not true for all aspects of learning;
  • Her suggestions on how you can get your hands on academic research about bilingual children:
  • Her thoughts on codeswitching/mixing languages and how it should not particularly be an area of concern for parents;
  • Her advice to switch and mix if that is what comes natural to you and is what flows in your community. Children pick up rather quickly on who will understand them when they mix and who will not;
  • Her collection of language learning myths with other bloggers: Myths Busted!
  • Her thoughts on the myth that a child must be exposed to a language for 30% of their wake time in order to successfully learn a language;
  • Her encouragement to not beat yourself up if your child is only getting limited exposure in a language.
  • Her advice to go with the flow with what will work best for your family!

For more information on Annabelle’s research, check out this article from her research team’s lead researcher: http://theconversation.com/is-it-a-case-of-the-younger-the-better-for-children-learning-a-new-language-44751


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