“Bilingualism is an ability to speak two languages, the ability to communicate by means of the first one and also the second one”. (Prucha, Dictionary of Education).
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An intersting article about bilingualism
Bilingualism does not mean only the ability to speak perfectly in more than one language, it also means the ability to absorb a different culture, traditions and customs, and to identify oneself with another nation through a language. In this context, the concept of bilingualism is paramount for Czechs living abroad, not only from the point of view of integration into a foreign society, but much more in safeguarding and transferring their own identity.
The natural bilingualism, or the fact, that the child learns both languages at the same time (simultaneously) from his parents and acquires, in fact, two native languages, is a determining factor for development of bicultural society.
Bilingual upbringing today is promoted throughout the world for the reason that research studies have shown, that children, who had it, are overall better linguistically equipped than children, who grow up in monolingual families. Some of the many advantages of bilingual children are:
better ability to learn other languages
better ability to think creatively
better ability to create imaginatively (Jaburek 1998, p. 8)
faster separation of meaning from form
easier communication with wider circle of people
better sensitivity and tolerance to different ways of thinking
The child has the best ability to master the language, in both the structural, and acoustic way, starting straight from birth until 8-12 years of age. This period cannot be, in view of the linguistic ability, repeated. In this context, the best and most effective for the child, is natural bilingualism, the natural bilingual environment.
At the same time bilingual upbringing requires following certain rules.
The most basic are:
Principle “one person – one language”
To ensure better concentration of the child and to prevent mutual confusion of the languages, each parent should speak to him strictly in one language only, in the language they themselves were brought up.
So called “family” language
If both of the parents speak both languages, they should agree on so called “family” language, i.e. the language used when sitting at the table or when playing together, in situations in which every participant should be able to understand and no one would be eliminated.
In order for a child to master two languages at the same time, he needs to hear and use them roughly to the same degree. If a child has, for example, a Greek mother, who is with him at home all day and speaks to him in Greek, but he sees his German father only on the weekend, he has to cultivate the “fathers” language also within the week, e.g. with his peers in a child playgroup.
Experiences of families bringing up their children bilingually can be found here.
L’Enfant aux deux langues, C. Hagège, Odile Jacob, 1996, 2005