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I have heard someone ( with bilingual kids) mentioning this  about being bilingual and I am trying to think if it is true or not?
Is it true that bilingual kids never have the same vocabulary in any one language that a monolingual kid will have?

I have been raised with only one language and acquired 2 more on the way, in school and living abroad. I, however, have 2 tri-lingual kids, and so far, I can see, unfortunately, that their vocabulary is not extensively large in any of the 3 languages….

So, what can we do about it, would it be better to focus more one one language and less on the other one?
Daira Moruss

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I think that it is an absolutely false generalization.  Besides being bilingual and raised in a bilingual home (actually minority language only allowed at home), I have written locally professionally and am working on my master’s in linguistics. I mention this only to attest to my vocabulary being fine, perhaps even slightly better than a monolingual speakers. My vocabulary in the minority language is not all that shabby, as I make a consorted effort to read good national newspapers in the minority language daily, and am constantly referencing material or dictionaries at any small misunderstanding, and by doing this active engagement still in my adulthood, it certainly is way to support growth and not stagnation.  I am also thus far successfully raising a bilingual child in the minority language, her father and our environment all supporting and providing the majority language support (she is 4.5) and although she is searching some for words, I know this is a phase. I really disagree. There may be perhaps other factors that are causative of poor or insufficient vocabulary on the part of a or some bilingual children, such as socioeconomic standing, especially if their parents are immigrants, which would also affect their surroundings, the amount of time spent with living, intelligent people, not televisions, or food-stamp babysitters.  The input the children are receiving from their language sources would have to be looked at; their age and the quantity of the language input in the varying languages, and the language sources themselves all should be considered.   

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I have always regretted my response to you, as I think it may have been written in some haste.  I think there is a lot to be said about language experience; for people raised bilingually with a minority language(s) in a place where the majority language dominates, there is a lack of firsthand language experience in the minority language, in my opinion, I admit. There are certain experiences that geography provides us.  So, merely being surrounded day in and out by a certain language and culture with its particular technology, its government, its way of communicating, its social stratification,  often cannot be merely “translated” into an entirely different language/culture/reality.  Even TV is something that trains us… as our ears take in the information and process it, even unintentionally. The minority language is not supported in this way, and so there is some sort of comparative loss or not gain.  The minority language experience then is more synthetic (man-made) and controlled; whereas, the majority language is only natural in the environment where obviously the majority language dominates, and it is uncontrolled. This has some effect too.  In contrast, there are plenty of people monolingual or otherwise, who are living in a place where their language is the majority language, and these people too can have a narrower linguistic experience. Education? is the answer? Making attempts to spend time in places where the minority language dominates, Spanish in Spain, French in France…? Keeping current with news, technology, politics etc. with minority language sources? These are just some of my thoughts in this direction. Happy summer greetings!     


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