There is a deep-rooted superstition among some Italian doctors and teachers that raising a child bilingual causes the child problems, such as slower overall language development, and academic problems later in school. Fortunately, I never fell for that line, as I had done my homework about bilingualism while still pregnant (above). And it doesn’t stand up to common sense and experience – in many parts of the world, including many parts of Italy, it is very common for children to grow up speaking a local dialect or language in addition to their country’s official tongue(s). Swiss children, depending what part of Switzerland they live in, routinely speak at least two major languages – sometimes languages as unrelated to each other as French and German – and learn another one or two at school.
But I know of some multi-national families in Italy who were browbeaten into raising their children to speak only Italian at least until school age, missing the perfect opportunity for the kids to become bilingual easily and naturally. These kids as a result could not communicate with half of their blood relations, and had one parent who could not speak to them in his/her own language. How terribly sad.
Fortunately, a new study shows that being bilingual, far from being a disadvantage, is good for your brain. Now we have ammunition against stupid interference from “authorities”: