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Reply with quote  #1 
I would like to share that my daughter has a central auditory processing disorder.  It does make language learning more challenging, but she has still succeeded in learning mandarin, tibetan, and spanish in addition to english.  There is no reason to "not" do an additional language as the child will have "issues" whether monolingual or multilingual.  And I think that learning more than one language has actually helped my daughter to "exercise" and develop the parts of her brain that affect her ability to "hear", "understand", and generate language.  Her deficits nowadays are very "subtle" and most people do not "know" she has such a disorder.  However, it does show up in her tiring "quickly" when learning another language, thus I keep my children's language lessons to 1 hour at a time only.  She probably would prefer 45 minutes rather than a full hour, but her brother does not have her challenge and they take their lessons "together".   What our tutor has found helpful is to spend the last 15 minutes doing more "gamelike" activities with picture cards and such.

If the problem were "severe", such as autism or retardation, one might "delay" the second language instruction till some language fluency exists in the child's main language, but then it can be added in without harm and often to great success in both languages.  I have noticed that most special needs children tend to achieve similar levels of fluency in both languages over time given enough "exposure" to both.  You are right about the need for regular "exposure" to and use of a language in order to have "fluency".

Reply with quote  #2 

Dear Dhasa,


You are absolutely right about fluency being a skill that builds on practice. There is no secret there. In regards to children with special needs, latest research have actually shown that teaching a second/foreign language to a child with linguistic related issues help that child getting stronger in the first language.

Before such research showed the benefits of bilingualism/multilingualism in linguistically-challenged children (motor, neurologically, auditory, etc.), it was believed that literacy in the first language was necessary before a 2nd language could be introduced. Now, the neurological exercise that your child is getting by learning other languages is strenghtening the synaptic connections relevant to linguistic learning and production. And since several different parts of the brain are involved in the skill of language, learning multiple languages forces the brain to re-wire in order to make sense of all this new stimuli (plus long term potentiation and memory processes).


If you have time, you should read Joseph Ledoux "Synaptic Self", or maybe an easier read would be James Zull "The Art of Changing the Brain: Enriching Teaching by Exploring the Biology of Learning." Zull does not address bilingualism specifically, but some implications are evident. And you having been a teacher, will definitely see them.




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