Children and foreign languages/cultures - inform me!
December 11, 2012 2:46 PM Subscribe
If a child is immersed in a particular language on a medium-term basis (say, a year of preschool, or maybe two or three), and becomes fluent in it, but then the exposure is taken away, how much does this language stick? Can the child still understand the basics of the language a decade later? Or does it make the language easier to relearn later in life? ALSO: What does early exposure to a foreign culture do for a child, if anything? Is cultural uprooting and rerooting of this nature disorienting and/or destructive for a child?
posted by UniversityNomad to Writing & Language (31 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
(If the specifics matter, the totally hypothetical situation I was imagining was due to postdoc appointments I was looking at in Europe - completely hypothetical at this point, as I have not finished my doctorate, am not married, and do not have a child. But because of the potential timescale that I'm working on, if I do have children, their preschool years will very possibly coincide with any postdoc(s) that I do, and I started to wonder:
What would happen if I were to take a postdoc on the European continent (probably Germany but with the possibility of Austria, France, or Hungary)? If I and my husband were to speak English at home, but the child(ren) were immersed in French/German/etc. in school, would that be enough for them to become fluent? In one year? Several? If we moved back to an English-speaking country and they had no contact with the language until a middle-school or high-school language classroom, would they remember any of it? If not, would the language be easier for them to learn later? And would their accent be better than someone who hadn't had early exposure?
Also, what does early exposure to a foreign culture do for/to a child? Is it disorienting for a child to be exposed to one culture at home and another from school/peers, and then for the latter one to disappear? What impact would all of this have on a child's sense of personal identity as he/she moves through life? What if all of this included multiple cultures and languages (say, 18 months in Germany and 18 months in France, or something like that)? Would it be very difficult for a preschooler to make friends at school, moving to a new country and not yet knowing the language?
Data, personal experience, research, or speculation welcome!)