Lots has been written and said about bilingual kids. The understanding of what teaching a child multiple languages from the start has been studied ad naseum. This is wonderful, because it dispels the myth that raising a child in a bilingual household is detrimental. It refutes the idea that multiple languages will “confuse” children.
In fact, kids are like sponges. They are constantly learning. This is something I knew in a know it sort of way before Little Elephant’s birth, but I am continually witnessing and finally coming to understand as she grows. She, at 16 months, has the capacity to absorb and understand so much of her surroundings in ways that I, at 32, cannot fathom.
Bilingual children are often a bit later in starting to speak, but the differences are made up by school age. Not only are the differences made up for, but these kids are moving along at a steady speed in two languages, the same speed that monolingual kids move in just one.
Also, research has shown that there are other differences. For example, being bilingual can slow Alzheimer. Also, if a person has a stroke and loses one language, they may be able to fully retain the other language. Also, research has shown that bilingual children have a drastically more nuanced understanding of grammar.
Little Elephant is well on her way to being a polyglot. In Kazakhstan, we encouraged people to speak to her in Russian (and Kazakh). Here, our nanny speaks to her primarily in Albanian. Dada speaks to her in (mostly) Spanish. I speak to her is a combination of English and Spanish. The outside world speaks to her in a combination of English and Albanian. We read books in English, Spanish, and Russian.
While most of her first words have been English, her vocabulary has started to explode and includes:
English: Mama, Dada, Harley (dog’s name), baaaaal (ball), mik (milk), blellbuln (belly button)
Spanish: agua, enana (de nada), mama, gracias
Albanian: puts (këpucë), babi