It is not rare for bilingual parents to wonder if their bilingual children are getting confused when more than one language is in the mix.
I am happy to share that your bilingual child is most likely NOT confused.
Children from early on start assigning language. The brain can do fascinating thing when it comes to language learning.
But you may still see some behavior or word choices from your children that may make you think that your child is confused. Let’s break down what you may be seeing.
Code switching takes place when a multilingual person essentially switches back and forth between two or more languages.
People often refer to this “phenomena” by saying that they speak Spanglish, Frenglish, Runglish.
Code switching is not a sign of confusion. It actually requires high linguistic ability.
The person has to be able to switch back and forth without really giving it much thought in order to code switch.
I code switch with my siblings every single time I speak to them. The only exception is when my kids are around because we always want to expose them to more Spanish.
We do not want them to hear us speak English!
The few times I have done it my older one has asked me straight out: “Why are you speaking English to each other?”
We have built in some accountability with her to bring us back to Spanish in a way.
If you see that your child is code switching and you know that they do KNOW how to say the words, encourage them to stick to it.
Gently remind them that with you they speak the target language.
You can also try some of these other strategies depending on your parenting style.
Borrowing takes place when you are engaging in a conversation and you “loan” words from another language.
This is not a sign of confusion either. Borrowing usually happens when the individual does not know the word in the language they are speaking and they “borrow” from another language.
Most of us do this more than we realize.
Do you ever use the word “hashtag” or “website” when speaking your target language, for example?
If you do, you are borrowing from English!
When our kids do it, it is likely because they do not know the word in your target language. Your kids are borrowing from the language that they do know.
Borrowing can actually give us a window into the vocabulary our kids can learn in our target language.
Use it as an opportunity and build on it.
The key is not to get frustrated but instead figure out how you are going to teach your kids that language.
So do not worry about confusion. Keep going on that journey with the end in mind and tune out the noise.