Professor Rochelle S. Newman, chair of the department, and then-graduate students Amelie Bail and Giovanna Morini studied 24 parents and 24 children aged 18 months during a 15-minute play session.
- Every parent in the study switched languages at least once during a play session with their child; more than 80 percent of parents did so in the middle of a sentence.
- An average of 4 percent of parents’ individual sentences included more than one language.
- The children of parents who switched languages more often than average, or had more mixed-language sentences did not have poorer language skills.
- The researchers found no indication that the mixing of languages by the parents resulted in poorer language learning by the children.
The study was conducted in part to address parental concerns.
“A lot of parents worry that using more than one language in the same sentence might cause confusion for a young child. So it is reassuring to know that children whose parents mixed their languages more often didn’t show any poorer language skills,” Newman said.