Understanding the bilingual child:
A bilingual child has a multicultural identity. He is bicultural i.e. he has access to two worlds. Because he grows up with two languages, he values both languages equally, language A and B are just as important. It is often very hard for a bilingual individual to say which language –out of A or B- is their native language. In a way, bilingualism is their native language. To say that A is more important than B, would be to underestimate one language.
Language isn’t only a tool used to communicate; it is also an important symbol, which shows that you belong to a particular group. It is part of your identity. When a child enters school he needs to fit in with everyone else. This is why children will try to adapt to the country they live in and sometimes refuse to speak the language spoken at home.
Reactions of some professionals can jeopardise the linguistic development of a bilingual child. Indeed, some professionals (teachers, speech therapists etc.) might encourage a bilingual child with speech delay to give up his/her language in order to maximise the use of the language spoken at school. These professionals don’t see any benefits in the fact that the child already has a language. On the contrary the child is seen as having a “linguistic handicap”. However, research has shown that switching to just one language could have negative consequences on the linguistic development of the child. An individual is emotionally attached to a language, this attachment can be cultural, linguistic, social etc. Trying to eliminate a language means removing a part of oneself. To avoid speech impairment, it is important to keep a structured setting in order to help the child in his bilingual development.