According to an article I came across today in the New York Times, quarantine has brought linguistic benefits to many bilingual homes.
Parents who raise their children with two or more languages often find that if one of their languages is not spoken, or not widely spoken, outside their home, their children will develop a preference for the dominant language of their community. This commonly happens after the children start school and discover that all, or most, of their classmates speak the dominant language. They may speak the non-dominant language, or at least understand it, but rarely use it.
Apparently in places where children have been spending a lot of time at home with their parents due to quarantine and lock downs, they have started speaking the non-dominant language(s) more.
For example, in Nigeria, where children are taught in English at school, but speak many other languages at home and elsewhere, they are now speaking more local languages, such as Luganda.
If you have a bilingual or multilingual household, have you noticed any differences in language use recently?
One thought on “Linguistic Quarantine”
I read a story a long time ago, maybe in a book called The Loom of Language. As the story went, a two-story home had three generations living in it, with grandparents living on the second floor, and the parents and young children lived on the first floor. Well, the parents spoke English but the grandparents spoke German, so whenever the children went up to the second floor to visit, they would speak German, since that is what their grandparents spoke. Evidently, the children thought it was normal to speak the “upstairs language” or the “downstairs” language. They just absorbed what they heard with no trouble at all, since they had a clear concept of which language was used in which circumstances.