The Mixing of Languages

What to do when the child mixes the different languages?

Some language specialists do not see any inherent problem when a child mixes the languages in his environment, instead they see a richness of style and vocabulary.  The problem arises when a child consciously mixes the two languages to compensate for an inadequacy in vocabulary, grammar, or both.  Also, if a child is not conscious of his failure it can also highlight that he does not have an adequate command of the language and it’s structure.

This intermingling presents a greater problem for the mono-linguistic society but more specifically for the school system.

It is therefore recommended by language specialists to avoid this practice and intermingle the languages as little as possible. There are of course, situations when a child is unable to express himself clearly in one language, for instance, in an emergency or in an emotional situation.

With regard to this problem, there are alternatives:

  • Accept the intermingling of languages as an exception since one does not want to create barriers in communication. It is most desirable that a child expresses his feelings, perceptions and can discuss his problems openly.
  • Correct a child by repetition using the correct form. This is an indirect method for subsequent  improvement.
  • Repeat what the child says with some deviation and ask if that was what he intended to say.  This provides him the opportunity to hear what he wants to say in a corrected form, using the correct words, which will reinforce his language abilities.
  • Amplify his social network (language classes, games at home, visits with relatives) in which the child only needs to speak only one language. This gives him the opportunity to not only practice what he already knows  but to experience the language with others outside the home.
  • Strengthen the knowledge of languages by the use of various materials and sources: computer programs and/or language tutors.

Tip: Flexibility in application of the rule is necessary at times, but the parent must also convey to the child that they are only exceptions so that they do not supersede the rule.

Further in Typical Problems: Passive Attitudes

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